Ms. Meniscus,

My problem isn’t so much with touching, although my fibromyalgia doesn’t appreciate bear hugs. My problem is with a society, especially men, who think the stronger the handshake the more viral the man. All in all, that’s great, but for someone with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it nearly makes a person want to cry! How do we get the news out there that “it doesn’t make you a Manly Man if you crush someone’s fingers to dust” upon saying hello. Is there some medical alert bracelet that says “please shake lightly”?

Grandma Green Eyes

Dear Green Eyes,

Oh Grandma, these days you can not only can get medical alert bracelets personalized with any message you want — you can even have your message told in gold and gemstone (if you feel like dishing out a thousand or so for a fine jewelry medical charm bracelet).

But I ask you, gemstones or not, will the sort of man who crushes Grandma’s fingers in a handshake while completely oblivious to her pain, notice a message on her bracelet? I think not.

So, what are your options? You can make contact with your lovely green eyes and simply say, “Sorry, I don’t shake hands,” and if he presses you as to why, politely say, “Because it hurts.”  (Unless of course you want to rattle him. Then try saying, “Because I never liked you).

Or, you might want to try the old left hand trick. This was first brought to Ms. Meniscus’ attention in a wonderful article in The Rheumatologist by Iris Zink, “Please Don’t Shake My Hand.” Essentially, if handshaking is painful for you, offer the other person your left hand. For some reason it will confuse them and they won’t grip nearly as hard.

Since you are also concerned with societal reasons for the big grippers, Ms. Zink’s article may be of particular interest to you. Besides offering up handshaking solutions for those with RA, she provides a brief history of the handshake and explains why we do it:

What can be done about men who truly believe the stronger the handshake, the more viral the man? Educate, my dear Grandma. Spread the word. And we can start here.

— M

Have a question for Ms. Meniscus? Contact her below