As a young woman, my dad came along with me when I went to buy a car, to graciously co-sign for me on the car of my dreams: a shiny, blue Sunbird coupe, customized with hot pink pinstripes, a pop-up sunroof (with hot pink pinstripes) and fat, plastic double wipers (also, naturally, hot pink). My dad was not a fan of the car—he thought I was paying way too much and probably thought the pink was just ridiculous… which it was—but still, he came along to support me.
We were in the office and the salesman stepped out to get paperwork with the floor manager, who first stepped in to introduce himself, shake our hands. As they stepped out, my dad stood there in that way that he had—this hands in his pockets, jingling the 50-cent pieces he always carried, a wry “take no prisoners” sort of grin on his face. He caught my eye and gave me a meaningful look, raised one eyebrow and said, “never trust a man whose hands are softer than yours.”
I looked down at my hands; stained with industrial ink, calloused from the course of my life as a factory worker. I had an anti-manicure. My hands were tough, strong out of necessity for the work they had to perform, just like my dad’s.
As I sat in my steel-toe boots thinking about the men in their wing tip shoes, I thought about what my dad had said. Did he mean don’t trust these suited men with buffed fingernails and insincere delivery?
A few months later as I left my home state and that factory job to make my way in the world, I took that advice with me. I realized my dad was referring to a weak handshake, not necessarily a manicured hand. To me, a strong handshake indicates engagement, interest, confidence; a weak handshake indicates just the opposite. A strong handshake isn’t just a firm grip; it’s all about body language; how are you engaging or being engaged? What are you trying to convey?
My dad and I had a complicated relationship. I don’t think we always understood each other, but with this small bit of advice, my dad provided me with a big life lesson that I will never forget.