I’m Sorry, We Don’t Do High-Fives

Due to a series of twists and turns in my early twenties, I found myself residing in sunny San Diego. For five years, I regularly watched the sunset over the Pacific, kept the windows of my pumpin’ ’85 Nissan Sentra rolled down in the middle of winter, and fell deeply, wholeheartedly in love with sushi. But living in paradise comes with a cost. And my trade-off was enduring the annoying, steady stream of high-fives.

The high-five has a brief, understudied, but witty history. I won’t go into details here, but if you’ve got too much time on your hands, as I apparently do, check out this or this for your high-five education.

I’m not an athlete, and I was never in a club with a secret handshake. I never grew up in a family that said “Dude, that was totally AWEsome!” after a proud moment. We simply weren’t the high-fivin’ kind. But certainly even I could understand a victory high-five after a half-court shot that wins the game. Or a good-natured high-five when a friend shares some great news. 

Yet I had embedded myself into the land where a hand is lifted no matter what the celebration. People raised their hands up like a free-for-all. For good, not great, news. For the decision to purchase another beer. “Dude…!” Anytime I said something funny. “Dude….!” And I stood out as a fairly funny person in those parts. So I don’t think I got through an entire conversation in that town without having to slap a hand, if not several times. Some of my acquaintances should have just propped up their hand in an automatic high-five position, because it was as constant as a laugh track in a bad sitcom.

Yes, I grew weary of the high-five. I am guilty of leaving people hanging. My friends who knew me well, knew not to high-five me and enjoyed watching my looks of discomfort if cornered by a particularly eager high-fiver. I even reached a point where I risked being a flat-out bitch by either ignoring the palm that faced me, waiting for my smack, or by waving it away and muttering, “Ugh…no high fives”.  

Alas, parenthood finds me revisiting my old ghosts and I must comply with the social pressure to high-five again. Through other adult and peer influences, my son is receiving and expecting props after sports-related and other victories. I know the high-five, or derivative thereof, is the cultural norm, particularly for the male species. (Unless you live in San Diego, where it’s frequency is shared lovingly between the genders). Learning to high-five is a rite of passage for little dudes everywhere. What kind of mother would I be sending him off to school without any practice? Or to teach him and his little friends that in this family, we don’t do high-fives, because his mother had some bad experiences in the San Diego bar scene.

It seems there is no escape. So my plan is to bring back the low-five. Whatever happened to the low-five? Its much more subtle, can be done quietly and gracefully, keeping the hands at waist level or even lower, rather than the fanfare of flashing your hand close to or above your head, calling attention to your eager face. Flapping in a breeze of painful embarrassment if left hanging. Don’t leave me hanging….

Yes, if all goes according to my plan, a new generation of fresh victories will be celebrated with the much cooler, calmer low-five. It’s like a whisper….Dude.

4 thoughts on “I’m Sorry, We Don’t Do High-Fives

  1. Incidentally, I found this photo of the high-five on Flickr, taken by someone named “agco”…high fives on the nice shot agco!

  2. I remember one such moment where I tried to give you an eager high-five and you looked at me like I was annoying the hell out of you. You said, “I don’t do high-fives.” And I, was like “oh, sorry. Rarr…” Haha. Good times, good times.

  3. I love this article, Amy. I’ve had the same experience and feel exactly the same way about the “stomach bump.” I’d ward them off with “Whoa. Not now, dude. I just ate.” Even though sometimes I was really hungry.

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