Politics of the Greeting

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

Politics of Fascism. Politics of the Environment. Nuclear Politics. Politics of American Foreign Policy. The Politics of International Law and Cooperation.

These are only a small sampling of the classes in which Yalies choose to wrestle with the greatest political issues of our time. We write elaborate final papers on complicated foreign policy issues and evaluate the most effective responses to war, climate change, and systemic injustice.

Let us, however, explore a scenario to which the average student is much less eager to respond. A classmate you briefly conversed with last Saturday night walks towards you from the YUAG. As you pass Jonathan Edwards College, you realize that, despite remaining in their line of sight for the next 30 seconds, you must now choose a five-second window in which to glance upwards, say hello as if you have just now noticed them, and then stare at something which has otherwise completely captured your attention (presumably your cell phone).

How do you ensure that you both look up at the exact same moment? What strategy do you employ if the classmate waves at you from a distance, leaving you to gaze desperately at each other for the next 25 seconds? Does your relationship require a wave? A tight-lipped smile?

Welcome to the unspoken and uncharted Politics of the Greeting.

The Bro Nod: 

A question of angles, timing, and direction. Its casual jerkiness looms as a faint threat to women everywhere. How do so many fraternity brothers manipulate their trapezius with such practiced ease? The subtle forward jut of the chin hints at a suppressed animalism, occasionally mellowed by a carefully rehearsed eyebrow raise.

Greetings Involving Headphones: 

Presenting a modern-day tragedy: As Romeo emerges from the Schwarzman Center, he takes out one AirPod, only to find that Juliet has opted to wave and remain in a blissful, noise-canceled paradise. Does he replace his AirPod? Pretend to search for earwax in its crevices? Shake it as if it has malfunctioned? In any case, Romeo’s dignity has died on Beinecke Plaza. 

 The Side Hug: 

Its paradox lies in its possibilities. The initiator of the side hug is either reluctant to make eye contact or over-eager to rub the small of your back. Or, given the size of the room and angle of approach, the side hug serves merely as the only viable option. 

When attempted between people of vastly different heights, this greeting becomes perilous (that is your lower thigh / that is my left breast). To be avoided at all costs. 

In a Rush: 

In an ideal world, we could explain the entirety of our dicey situation to the person we meet in passing. “I have a 9 a.m. at the top of Science Hill, and it is 8:53, and the heel of one boot is slightly shorter than the other, so my normal walking speed has been compromised, but can we catch up later!” usually exceeds the conventional time in which one person hurries by another. The words would echo over your shoulder; to a passerby, it would seem as if you were talking to yourself. We thus consider two scenarios:

a)  Rush by with a simple “hello,” leaving the friend to wonder if you see the relationship as unworthy of further conversation. The friend has done something wrong; pleasantry has superseded intimacy, the relationship has been irreversibly pushed further down the greeting hierarchy.

b)  Stop and engage in the expected chit-chat, sacrificing promptness and becoming vulnerable to the dreaded Never-Ending Impromptu Gathering in which other friends—upon observing the chit-chat—join the conversation. Eventually, you drop the 9 a.m. 

Someone You Have Kissed: 

This encounter often presents itself as a public trial-by-maturity. As you notice each other walking from opposite ends of Cross Campus, you compose your face in a casual yet suggestive expression and imagine witty but appropriate one-liners. Are these few words too dismissive? Too eager? Perhaps you did not see the other person (the high school sophomore in a nearby tour group has elected to wear a surprisingly eye-catching T-shirt). Or, perhaps the two of you make out on Cross Campus. With tongue.

Paralyzed by choice, you fist-bump. Afterward, you stare pensively at the Women’s Table. 

The Unnecessarily Long and Increasingly Invasive Pleasantry: 

Do you ever fully recall how past conversations have ended? At this moment, you do not. The How-Are-You has verged precariously close to the How-Is-Your-Family and stumbled briefly into the dreaded But-How-Are-You-Really. The How-Is-School has veered into the Please-List-Every-Course-In-Which-You-Are-Enrolled which organically prompts the What-Will-You-Take-Next-Semester and But-Are-You-Happy-No-Really-Happy-With-Your-Major. 

You end the conversation with a Let’s-Catch-Up. When you meet for lunch, you find that you have already covered everything that you could have possibly discussed. 

Politics of the Greeting has no prerequisites. The grade is 100% participation-based (but CourseTable will tell you to watch out for the curve).

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