What Happened to the High Five?

Do you remember the high five? That most jubilant of traditions whereby a human, celebrating some sort of success, would take their open hand and slap it against the open hand of another human, creating a sound and also a collision of fulfillment and rapture.

Perhaps you don’t, because in recent memory the high five has been replaced by the touching of closed fists known as the fist bump, or soul dap, or pound, or a half dozen other aliases.

That itself makes me frustrated with the gesture. What is your problem fist bump? Why must you have all of these aliases? Be yourself. You don’t see the high five masquerading around town as the “raised finger star formation” or the “open palmed slap” or the “elevated pancake joint hand gesture.”

No, it is the high five, it has always been the high five, and it will always be the high five. It knows who it is, and that is comforting to me.

Whereas this fist bump creature has probably always been around, it is relatively new in the mass consumption realm. If I had to place blame, I would trace it back to the first time fear of mass pandemics hit the U.S.

I don’t remember if it was Bird Flu or Badger Pneumonia that set off the hand washing craze (which, is just about the saddest thing in the world that hand washing would hit an all time low to return as a “craze”) a couple of years ago, but when that happened people became absolutely mad about germs.

Individuals would wear one glove on the train to hold the rail; they wouldn’t shake hands with business partners, and would Purel their hands if they accidentally touched anything. Hey, I was one of them. I don’t like being sick either!

But it was around that time that I noticed a wealth of fist bumps going around. Guys fist bumping guys, girls fist bumping guys, and children fist bumping dogs. It was spiraling out of control. The reason it bothered me so much is because I derived no satisfaction from it.

A high five is only as good as the force put into it. A weak high five can feel more like a futuristic hand scan than a celebratory act. And I know you can go too far and end up with a hand that feels like it was slapped with a broken piece of Chinese Bamboo. But generally it’s a gratifying experience. I can give a robust high five to guys and girls alike.

Not so much with a fist bump. Giving a forcible fist bump is a great way to end up with a set of broken knuckles. Now I don’t mind hitting fists at a moderate strength ration with one of my male friends, but I can’t go punching the fists of women. I mean I think its best to avoid any type of woman punching, even if it is consensual. That’s just good life advice.

But still on its best day, a zesty fist bump is only as good as say… lukewarm creamed corn.

You want to believe it did the trick, but really deep down, you know it just didn’t.

If this fist bump were so key to our society we should be teaching it to children. But we don’t teach it to them do we? No of course not, because tiny children don’t really know how to make fists.

There is a reason that the only thing adults know what to say to children under 5 is

“Hey give me a high five.”

It’s never:

“Hello toddler, might we engage in a soul dap?”

I like the high five because the instructions are in the title.

Your hand goes high and you hold up five. Oh Ok, I get it. Done, no problem.

That’s probably also why I like “All You Can Eat” Buffets, “Diving Boards” and “Row Boats.” For all of those things, the instruction is right in the title. How can you go wrong?

Fist bump is pretty clear, but soul dap? I don’t even know where my soul is, and I’m not even sure how to dap. It sounds like tap, but maybe, a secretive tap? And give me a pound could really seriously confuse some British folks. I’m trying to increase international cooperation here, not obfuscate it!

But I think the real attraction of the fist bump is that it allows one to “play it cool” as it were. There is a fair amount of commitment on one’s part when you throw your naked paw into the air anticipating reciprocity.

There is always the chance that nobody will touch palms with you and just leave you out to dry. Like being the only one in a bathing suit at a pool party, or walking across a bar to talk to a girl who doesn’t speak English.

I’m not speaking from experience on either of those, I just, well, OK let’s move on.

But like I said there is an element of risk to initiating a high five. You could just end up leaving your bare palm in the air like you’re trying to ask an uninterested Miss Flanagan for the bathroom pass.

Sometimes we fist bump at work. It’s very appropriate because closing a “How To Ticket” doesn’t really elicit high five type of joy within me. A subtle fist bump works for me there.

But in the moments that matter, if I birdie a hole in golf (which I don’t) or I guess the answer correctly (which I never do) I want to feel the excitement resonate in my palm.

Otherwise I will spend the rest of my life equating “How To Tickets” with things that actually are awesome.

Like diving boards.