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Thursday, December 10, 2009

handshake or hug

When I was little, our family had a very specific rule about social gatherings. "Handshake or hug" my mother would say. Meaning, I, in my early shydom, had the choice of either handshaking or hugging a distant relative I was terrified of.

One of them locked me in the pantry with him for several minutes one Christmas morning and told me about his encounters with angels. Real ones.

Yeah. So, the handshake/hug choice always seemed wrong and weird and uncomfortable either way I tried. If I went in for the cold, but professional handshake at the ripe age of ten, that would seem so cheesy, and formal for one so young. On the other hand (pun intended), if I were to go in for a hug, that would also make me seem overly affectionate. I didn't feel comfortable sharing an intimate bear-hug with relatives I only saw on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I can't really tell you that I have an answer for the handshake-hug debacle. Honestly, at the moment I probably just did whatever felt right...That usually involved escaping to the bathroom to avoid the initial greeting all together, and hoping that people would forget that they hadn't already hugged or handshaked me.

Today, I was bombarded with that same, panicked, "Where's the bathroom" emotion. Only this time it was regarding saying goodbye. Who knew that the same principal I have struggeled with for years at formal family functions also applies with final goodbyes in your college classes?

Upon exiting my last play writing class today, I was confronted with the awkward "so-this-is-it" goodbye to my classmates. There were about a dozen of us in this class and we had, through the semester, like many do in college, established a class-specific camaraderie.

Class-specific camaraderie: Friendships that flourish during the semester, but are inevitably snuffed when the specific class is over, ending all things you have in common with this class-specific comrade.

How do you say goodbye to these people? You're basically acknowledging that you will never see them again, and most likely avoid talking to them in later semesters? It's not mean, it's just the circle of life. It's always a difficult situation.

Luckily, one of my (now former) classmates, Ian, relieved us from this dilemma. He pumped his fist in the air and screamed "BREAKFAST CLUB!" as he walked away from us.

He was right. It was a brilliant analogy, comparing our class to the Breakfast Club. All of us students at the same school, with completely different lives, brought together by dentent-er - scriptwriting class.

Perhaps there was hope for us afterall. Maybe this class was different. Maybe we were different. It didn't have to end that way. I looked for the "bad boy" in the class for a little smooch action, but he had already left. My chances of being Molly Reinwald died along with the class. I hummed, "Don't You Forget About Me" all the way back to my apartment.


Of course, the class-specific camaraderie also applies to your professors. How do you say goodbye to a man or woman who has helped/edited stories/listened to you cry in his/her office (hypothetically speaking, of course). Even though they drive us crazy, it's still, like, the end of an era when you pick up your bookbag and exit their room for the last time.

Handshake or hug?
Dr. Wendelken, self-proclaimed Oprah (JMU edition) said goodbye to his SMAD 322, Newspaper Production class by handing out assorted chocolates and clementines.

By far, the most tender goodbye was from a classmate in my English 393, creative fiction writing class. She looked at a few of us and said, "I better be reading your novels in a few years, and they better be dedicated to this class."

Done and done!


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