Congratulations, You Successfully Completed a High-Five.

High Fives as we enter
Flickr: Hector Alejandro
I don't know about you, but I love high-5's. I don't know when I first started loving them, probably when I felt included by 'big people' when I was a little kid. I fondly remember being about 6 years old and being allowed to stay up a little late with teens and young adults on camp. I'm pretty sure high-5's were involved. Or maybe that's just me rewriting my memory to fill it with what I'd like to have happened! In my teen years, I didn't have much physical contact with my brothers, aside from rough ticking and poking! But sometime during my time at uni I started high-fiving a fair bit. Yep, I've started giving out a lot more high-5's, to friends whenever they land a good joke or well-timed friendly jab, to congratulate the students I tutor when they get a problem correct or to my siblings when I want to show a little more affection than just a quick wave when I arrive home. Move recently, I've been trying to come up with a new high-five with a close friend of mine. We both like high-fives, but we've agreed our high-five has got to be different from the very standard hi-5 or the down low. And it got me thinking, why do we Aussies high-five? What high-five variants are out there? And why are there so many haters?

Why do we Aussies high-five? Whether it's to congratulate a friend or colleague, celebrate a victory or a job well done, or greet a friend, the high-five is still alive and kicking in the land Down Under. Sometimes Aussies high-five just to say hello. Perhaps mainly in Christian contexts, guys and girls tend to give each other high-fives as preferred, neutral alternative to a handshake or hug. High-fiving in popular culture and indeed in everyday life is very commonly done when Person A i) agrees with Person B and ii) wants to conspicuously show their approval with Person B's remark. There's something satisfying about a well-earned high-five. Physical contact seals the deal; the crisp 'smack' (or 'whack', depending on the person!) is such a fitting way to culminate a job well done. I high-five my math and English students to encourage them in their learning, even when it can be hard slog for them. Aside from showing congratulation and approval, the two-person hand clap can also say, "I love you/I like you/I appreciate you/I'm on your team." It can also be used to include someone who doesn't feel particularly involved in whatever's going on. It's amazing how significant a simple physical touch like a high-five can be.

How is giving a high-five different from shaking a person's hand? Well, back in the day, apparently as far back as 4th century BC in Grecian art, giving a handshake was recognised as a gesture of peace. I believe it was also commonly used in the Middle Ages to show your fellow gentleman that you weren't going to stab him in the back with your special 'hidden-dagger-in-the-hand' trick. Nowadays, one would like to think that we are not worried that our companion will stab us in the back if we don't first check for hidden weapons! The standard handshake has been used for a long time as a formal greeting, so the high-five quite possibly became popular in Western culture as a move to a more relaxed equivalent. High-fives allow you to inject your own creativity and personality into how you do it. (Of course, this is definitely true of handshakes, too! There are countless variations of handshakes that are as diverse as there are cultures in the world.) High-fives are fun and this certainly one of its shining traits.

It seems that the high-five provides a way for adults to relate to kids. Kids love high-fives and haven't (yet) learned to be embarrassed about it! I personally love the game, "High-five up high! On the side! Other side! Down low- too slow!" But some kids are too quick for me, slamming down a five before I even have a chance to react! Seeing the massive smiles on kids faces afterward is gold. I find that often with kids about 12 and under there is a quick disarming effect with this simple tap. Once kids get older, they often become more conscious about how they appear to their peers and so become unwilling to do things in public that could be seen as silly or ridiculous or childish. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint!), I've no such qualms.

You thought that there was only one type of high-five? Think again. You can give high-fives as a run-up high-5, a little jump and slightly higher high-5, a double tap high-5, a self tap high-5, a Todd Five (add a click after the high-5), the virtual high-5 (for long distance relationships LOL), or a high-ten! And the list goes on. The limit is how much you're willing to look silly for the greater good. Enjoy your freedom, responsibly ;)





The high-five: you either love it or hate it. According to Tripp and Tyler playful take on things, high-fiving can be one of the most stressful things you can do in life. But fear not. They've got you covered.



I think the hate that the simple high-five gets is mostly due to the embarrassment factor when this seemingly simple way of greeting another high-fiver goes all messy. When high-five turns into a high-two, which is the equivalent to when a person just grabs the ends of your fingers when attempting to shake your hand, it's just not the same thing. It's a painful experience, both for your pinky and ring fingers as well as for your pride. But when when a high-five goes well -- when the decisive "Thwack!" of your hand connecting with fellow high-fiver's hand happens-- the euphoria is just priceless. But maybe the haters out there just think the high-5 is just too lame or childish. I understand, but that's no excuse haha. Do it for your inner child. You've got to stay young at heart. But hey, maybe haters have just had deprived childhoods and haven't received any successful high-fives? Maybe those failed high-fives scarred them for life? ;) As for me, when I give/receive a poorly done high-5, I immediately acknowledge, 'That wasn't a proper high-5," and then I proceed to reattempt until I get it right! Just recognise that I/we failed and then move on! We'll redo it until we get it right, unless of course we fail for the 5th time! In that case, we can always laugh and  give ourselves self high-fives? Fail-proof, right?


On a serious note, I suspect when we fail at our high-fives, it reminds us the painful reality that we fail at life. And that's awkward if you're not willing to face that reality head-on. But if it's reality, it's better to face up to it than pretend that we have it all together (including our high-fives!).

To wrap up, if you haven't got into the humble high-five, can I recommend you give your good friend or coworker a high-five the next time you have something to celebrate? It's worth a try. High-fives are pretty fun and they can relieve stress, help someone else fit in or relax. It's true, you can't get around the fact that there is an inherent risk with high-fiving: you might miss. But what's the worst case scenario? You have to repeat it and right a wrong! Simple. Crisis averted. Just like in life, you just gotta accept failing at high-fives. On the up-side, when you actually do successfully complete a high-five you'll be laughing.



2 comments:

onproverbs said...

I always fail in anything hand-gesture related with my boss. He always goes for the thumb-clasp, and I go for the high-five. So awkward and funny in after-sight. So many hyphens, too!

Mrbonchapeau said...

Wow. The thumb-clasp technique. Hehe, I must admit I'm not a fan. Stay strong and one day he, too, will be won over by the superiority the high-five.

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