Who should greet first - this is a family dilemma!

Who greets first?
At first glance this question may seem like a no-brainer... if there is an absence of strong opinions on the issue.


Greeting Ritual Contenders: Sasha and Brett enjoying time out at Muizenberg Putt-Putt course

We have a Greeting Ritual crisis at home. There are two views and the supporter of each one is fanatic. On the one hand, we have Brett who believes that his sister, Sasha, should greet him first when he arrives home. Conversely, Sasha asserts that Brett should be the one to greet first because he should acknowledge her presence. The other family members just greet; there are no strings attached. But not so for the eldest and the youngest siblings in our household; they refuse to surrender unless under duress. 
We need an umpire or a judge to rule
Invariably I become the umpire, the mediator or negotiator to keep the peace when the mudslinging between the two parties borders on mayhem.  The other day when things threatened to explode, I donned my Judge Judy hat and ruled in Brett’s favour: yes, Sasha can greet when she sees Brett because he is the eldest. Brett is satisfied with this public support and Sasha sinks lower into the couch, Wattpad e-novel stuck almost to her nose and then passive resistance went into top gear for the rest of the evening. Little do we know that a jury will be called to help solve this dilemma.
More views on the greeting custom
Fast forward to this morning, a chilly Saturday. I am comfortably spring cleaning my bedroom while Sasha – in my bed - is browsing through the July issue of the Your Family magazine. While she is paging through the magazine, deciding which recipe she would like to try, she shifts the conversation to The Greeting.
The Greeting dilemma for the Young people
Effortlessly, Sasha starts giving me a heads up on the Greeting Ritual discussion that she and her friends had at school. During their talks, the chief issue was not who greeted first. Apparently after a brief discussion, the unanimous decision was that when you join up with a group, you greet first. They had a more serious challenge: when you greet, who is the “hello” directed at and what hand gesture is appropriate. Do you say “hello” to the whole group and do a hand wave, similar to the royal wave ,or do you say “hello” accompanied with an elaborate Mexican wave and then go and greet each one? Gracious, what a complex custom the greeting has become! I roar with laughter because all these complexities are demonstrated with gestures, voice changes and other dramatics to ensure I understand all the nuances and the difficult decisions the Greeter and the Greeted have to make.
The greeting habits of parents come under scrutiny
Then, in the same breath, Sasha says that she and all her friends are stumped with the odd talks parents have with people whom the meet and greet at the shops or on the road. According to the youngsters, all parents are the same: after saying “hello”, we ask the same stuff, the same dumb questions to the teenagers who are with the parents.  As soon as we have greeted, we turn to the teenager and always say: “My, you have grown since I last saw you” or “My, you got fat or thin since I saw you the last time with your mom.” 
Then the actress in my daughter takes centre stage.
“ So there we stand, awkward, smiling and saying nothing. They are asking things they know. So do we say: Yes, Aunty. That is life; you are first young and then you grow old. And, you got fat or you got thin. Or do we also say: My, Aunty, you’ve gone old since I saw you the last time or you have more wrinkles in your face since I saw you too?”
Sasha’s impersonation was hilarious and the satire worked. I was also laughing at myself and my fellow peers because we do exactly that as she described. Hearing ourselves through the eyes of a young person does make our pleasantries sound hollow and awkward.
We need “the 411 on life” more than our young people
Our young people are amazing Crap Detectors. They may be the digital generation but they are watching us closely. Ironically, we may be the ones who need to develop our creative and critical thinking skills to catch up with the younger generation. I suspect it is another ritual – that of having respect for adults even if they are modelling antiquated habits or behaviours – that shuts up our youth even when we can learn from them too.

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