Is the hand hover respectful and thoughtful or a sign that the end of days is near?

It appears as if Keanu Reeves has decided that the hand hover - once mocked for being awkward and strange - is now the preferred move when taking photos with fans.

There are dozens of photos of Keanu Reeves executing this move online.

My first thought:

“Have we really reached a point where a person’s hand can’t come in contact with another person’s arm, shoulder, or even waist when taking a photo? This is stupid.”

My second thought:

“This is Keanu Reeves. He probably takes photos with strangers all the time, so maybe he’s thinking better safe than sorry.”

But then my third thought:

“You know… maybe this is the thoughtful and respectful choice. When a fan or a stranger asks to take a photo with you, they are asking to appear in an image with you. Not be touched around the waist or shoulder.”

I am occasionally asked to appear in photos like these, oftentimes after I have performed onstage or while I’m signing books at a literary festival or book event. It’s always an honor to be asked to appear in these photos, but perhaps my willingness to drop my arm around a shoulder or pull someone closer to me isn’t as friendly as I think.

Also, is this a move that only applies when dealing with the opposite sex or should the hand hover be applied in all circumstances?

And what about acquaintances? What if I’ve spent a day or two teaching someone storytelling or consulting on an advertising campaign? What if it’s the parent of one of my students?

These are not necessarily friends, but they are people who I’ve gotten to know well over time. Is the hand hover still appropriate or would it seem impersonal and insulting?

I’m not sure.

I’m thinking about it.

On the one hand, I like the respect that the hand hover affords another person, but at the same time, I’m worried that it’s a sign that we’ve fallen off a cliff into the realm of overly-sanitized personal interactions.

For the record, when it comes to me, go ahead and grab me all you want. People touch me all the time. They don’t even realize that they are touching me as much as they do. It turns out that when you share your life as openly as I do with the world, people feel deeply connected to you even though you’ve never met them.

As a result, they touch you. A lot.

I told this to a group of lawyers in Vermont during a workshop earlier this year, and they laughed. But later that evening at dinner, an attorney named Mike was sitting beside me, chatting with me, and he kept touching me. Patting my shoulders and forearms. Even sitting a little closer than normal. One of his fellow attorneys finally pointed it out to him, and he was shocked.

He hadn’t realized it, either.

So go ahead and drop your arm around my shoulder or yank me closer if we’re taking a photo. I don’t mind at all. No big deal.

Then again, I’m a white American man, so perhaps my perspective on this issue is skewed a bit.

This is a consideration that all white American men would be wise to keep in the forefront of their minds at all times, as Keanu Reeves might be doing every time he’s asked to take a photo with a fan.

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