Saturday 15 December 2018

A fist-bump farce - striking a blow for embarrassing uncles everywhere

He may not be down with the kids, but Donal Lynch just invented a new greeting, and, in doing so, struck a blow for embarrassing uncles everywhere

1976 horror movie Carrie
1976 horror movie Carrie
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

Sometimes, how thoroughly, completely, irrevocably past it you are just creeps up on you. Until recently, I sort of thought I could sort of fool a lot of people into thinking I was still sort of young and with-it.

Sure, I had a Bride of Frankenstein-like streak of grey slowly appearing through my hair, but I believed my barber's tactful assurances that young guys would "kill" for something like that, and since I was basically still going through puberty until age 27, and had kept my life scrupulously free of children, duty and pension, it made sense that the real, red-nosed, pot-bellied middle age would be delayed somewhat.

Editors, some of whom might be only a couple of years older than I, would ask me for pieces on topics such as 'what millennials really want'. I generally hadn't the heart to say that by the time the millennium hit, I was halfway through college.

The millennials themselves were never so easily fooled, however. They can always sense when you're an old fart where it counts - on the inside. The telltale signs tend to seep through in conversation. You automatically refer to your man boobs as "dirty pillows" because you think everyone has seen the 1976 horror movie Carrie.

You've never heard of The xx, and when you do hear them, you've no idea what the fuss is. You refer to all smoked drugs as "hash", even when it's weed or something else. And you're just ever so subtly not up to speed on social-media etiquette.

I was standing, dripping in sweat, in a Dublin city-centre gym recently, when a young guy, who was sharing a piece of equipment with me, struck up a conversation. Was I on Snapchat, he asked eventually. "No (because I'm not 12)". Instagram? "No (because I'm not a vain girl)". "What about Facebook?" I enquired, picturing how impressed he would be at my picture of me with Michael Stipe. But he'd never heard of Michael Stipe, and the mention of Facebook made him look at me as if I had just offered him a Werther's Original and a go on my knee. He began backing away slowly.

The coup de grace came as he said goodbye and held out his hand to do the fist bump. I peered down for a moment, wondering what class of handshake was this, and decided that the most appropriate thing to do would be to sort of grab ... his fist.

He looked up at me in slow-motion horror, and it was too late to explain that it was just my middle-aged brain mistaking his youthful coolness for a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. I wanted to scream: "I get it now! Let's try again, we can make a selfie of it. I love The xx!" But there was no recovering.

Snowflake redemption

Anyway, screw him, I thought to myself later. I may be old, but at least I'm under no illusions about how pale I am. And I never try to pass myself off as younger than I am.

There is now a whole class of rig-out that would put me in mutton-as-lamb territory. Like those trousers that only go above the ankle, which I refer to as pedal pushers, because of my familiarity with the 1970s. Or bomber jackets. Or Lycra 'jeggings' worn under shorts. Or huge bouffant hair cut in tight around the side. If you're old enough to remember it the first time around, you're too old for it now.

As I pondered all this and looked out the window, a little notification popped up on my computer. My gym snowflake had found his way on to fogey-book and friended me after all. Maybe I was wrong to feel old and doubt myself, I thought. Maybe he's telling his friends right now about the cool new move I invented.

The fist grab will now become a thing practiced everywhere from the basketball court to the awards stage. And the coots like me shall inherit the earth - one embarrassing-uncle moment at a time.

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