The “Soul Punch” — Punch In the Face

March 20, 2009

I’ve had it.  No more soul punches.  I’m marking this day down.  I’ve given the last fist pound of my life.   For the (fortunate yet) uninitiated, the “soul punch” or the “fist pound” is the latest hand-to-hand colloquial greeting people (friends?) give to each other when saying hello, goodbye, or whenever there is an awkward pause during a discussion between two adult males.  Speaking of discussions between two adult males, when did we men lose the ability to talk to each other without awkward pauses and barbaric gestures (read:  soul punches) filling the time?  Think about it fellas.  When was the last time you were this uncomfortable talking to another person?  You remember.  You were 16, and you had to get it together to convince someone to go to the Junior Prom with you.  Your heart was beating out of your chest as you asked her to go out on your first date to the Ponderosa Steakhouse.  That’s right.  Because nothing says classy like an all-you-can-eat buffet where kids under 12 eat free.  That  was uncomfortable.  But this is worse, because — now — its a different kind of discomfort.  Back then, you didn’t know what to say to your prospective date.  Now, I know everything I want to say to the other guy, but I don’t want to scare him off.  I want to ask him the same thing Kramer asked George before the K-man headed off to California to shop his treatment for The KeysDo you yearn?  I also want to ask the other guy random thoughts from adulthood, like:  Do you recognize the guy in the mirror?  And Do you also think that if — if — you just had the right directioning as a kid, you’d be a professional athlete right now?  Instead, worn down by the weight of adulthood and domesticity, we just sit there staring at each other . . . and, eventually, one of us reaches out to give the other a soul punch/ fist pound to mark the end of our uncomfortable encounter.  

What’s so bad about the soul punch/ fist pound?  First, I’m pretty sure it was invented by a germ-a-phobe (or a small group of germ-a-phobes) in Southern California (read:  Howie Mandell) who started using the soul punch as a relatively germ-free alternative to the handshake.  Also, a hairy knuckle to hairy knuckle connection is — let’s face it — a little creepy and not very satisfying.  But there is an even greater reason to join me in boycotting the soul punch.  Because — even if it was originally intended to replace the handshake, it has devolved into a repalcement for the more elegant and more comical high-five.   And that’s where the soul punch went wrong.  You can’t replace an icon.  The high-five is the perfect hand-to-hand connection between mammals on all levels.  Don’t believe me?  Try a little experiment on your own.  When something goes well tomorrow, you’ll have two choices:  the soul punch or the high-five.  Take turns trying one or the other.  I guarantee the high-five is more fulfilling, more gratifying, and more of a true “Yes!!!” feeling than the soul punch.  See, to perform the soul punch properly it has to be very slow and deliberate with both participants slo-mo’ing the entire thing as if, once their hands connect, they’ll become charter members of the SuperFriends and will — at that moment — acquire the ability to turn into useful crime-stopping animals (my apologies for the obscure SuperFriends reference).  The high-five, on the other hand, is all spontaneity, sass, verve and . . . life.  When a high five is right, it is right.  Think about the best high five you’ve ever connected on.  You remember:  it felt like lightning bolts were jumping off your connected fingertips toward Heaven . . . and when those lighting bolts reached Heaven . . . the clouds parted . . . and Jesus himself appered in the form of Queen’s Freddie Mercury . . . singing “We Are The Champions.”  THAT’S what a great high-five feels like.  Plus, the high-five has so permeated the very fabric of our culture that we get to witness great high-five flubs every day: on the Price Is Right, at the local Arena Football Game, and during heated political campaigns.  That’s right:  all across America people are wiffing on their high-fives, creating hybrid two-hand to one-hand connections, and falsely interpreting a high-five offer as a one-handed hug.  And that’s what makes the high-five great.  Because it consistently proves that spontaneous human interaction is both compelling and hilarious.  So — come on, boycott the soul punch and keep it real with the high five.  And to ensure you give the high five its proper due, make it a “two-handed to two-handed” high-five with your high-five buddy.  That’s what we call a “double-double” . . . and it makes the Howie Mandell soul punch look like a cabbage patch doll picnic.



  1. Hmmm…I understand your logic, but I will say that, if confronted with no other option than a limp handshake, I much prefer the rock (i.e. “pound the rock”).

    I like handshakes, very found of them. But the limp handshake is an absolutely terrifying proposition for me. Don’t know why, just feels wrong and slimy.

    My $.02.

  2. Excellent point. “Pounding the rock” (love the phrase by the way) is certainly higher up on the hand-to-hand food chain than the limp handshake — which has to be the absolute worst. When someone gives me a limp handshake, they may be saying “Hello, nice to meet you”, but what I hear them say is “I’m sorry you have to make my acquaintance. I’m someone who should be completely ignored. In fact, you should dismiss my very existence the moment you let go off my dead, lifeless hand.” No question — with handshakes, it’s gotta be like taking the basketball to the basket: go strong or don’t go at all.

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