Saturday, February 05, 2011

A handshake moment

I went to a reception for playwright David Henry Hwang this week. (He is a prolific writer and wrote M. Butterfly, Aida, Yellow Face and many other plays as well as film scripts.)

The reception for him was one where I was meeting nearly everyone for the first time - as opposed to an event that is filled with people from my regular circle(s). 

Thus I shook many hands.

Near the end of the reception a gentleman extended his hand to me and introduced himself. I took his hand shook it.

Then, a few moments later, he apologized. I had no idea why he was apologizing, so I asked him why. And I learned something.

He said a man isn't supposed to extend his hand to a woman first.  I assured him that didn't bother me at all and that I was not even aware of that rule.

I did think about the rule though. And I remembered moments in the past when I've met men of a certain age who did not extend their hands to me or even properly introduce themselves. 

They offended me. I couldn't imagine a reason why they wouldn't extend a hand to me other than race. 

And that may have been the case. But hearing about this handshake etiquette of men not extending their hands first to women made me think that maybe there were other reasons and other history involved. 

I'm glad this gentleman thrust his hand out and shook mine. I learned l something and will be thinking on that the next time I think a handshake is being withheld. I'll offer mine and hope they take the second chance to connect.

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