2020: A year where the fist-bump became mainstream greeting

The moment called for a handshake. Or would have, under what used to be considered normal circumstances.

As in, before 2020.

Here’s the scene, from Dec. 21: Tabe Mase, the director of employee health services and a nurse practitioner at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, had just inserted a needle — one delivering the COVID-19 vaccine — into the left arm of President-elect Joe Biden. After Biden said a few words about the magnitude of the moment, Mase extended her right arm to begin bidding him farewell.

Not for a handshake. For a fist bump — the official greeting of 2020, and probably beyond.

“It certainly would have been a handshake if it was 2019,” Mase said several days after the fist bump seen live around the world. “But we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re trying to figure out ways to keep our patients safe and keep that human connection. … That fist bump was, ‘I see you, I hear you, I’m connecting with you, but I’m keeping you safe.’”

Safety is the primary reason why the status of the fist bump elevated big-time this year. The handshake was simply a causality of the coronavirus. Once a customary greeting, it has become beyond frowned upon. No less of an authority than Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, flatly called for the end of shaking hands believing it not only would be a deterrent against spreading coronavirus, but even other viruses such as influenza.

So, now we bump, not shake. Some — Fauci among them — seem to prefer the elbow bump, maybe even a brush of forearms.

But let’s face it: They lack the coolness of the fist bump. It’s been here for years – just look to athletes’ celebrations – but never more popular than now.

Barack and Michelle Obama famously fist-bumped when he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in June 2008, making the move very cool in some circles, causing outrage in others. A Fox News analyst suggested at the time the then soon-to-be First Lady offering the fist bump to her husband was akin to a “terrorist’s fist jab.”

“Let me tell you, I’m not that hip. I got this from the young staff,” Michelle Obama said that year on ABC’s “The View.” “That’s the new high-five.”

Now, it’s the new handshake.

Santa Claus fist-bumped kids this year in lieu of trips to his lap. Heads of state from around the world — Japan, China, Malaysia, Canada, Kenya, France, Greece, Cyprus and many more — openly fist-bumped in 2020. Even in the demonstrations that dominated much of the year in the U.S., as racial tensions and cries to end social inequality reached new heights following the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police, cops and protesters sometimes would tap their fists as a sign of compromise or even peace.


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