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The Casual Wave

As you may have gathered from my many references to sweet tea and biscuits, I live in the South.  There are many wonderful and warm things about southern hospitality, but there’s one that I just can’t quite seem to manage.  The casual wave.

This is not a skill you think about teaching your children.  After all, when was the last time you met a two-year-old who couldn’t wave bye-bye?  Everyone knows how to wave.  But, you see, this is not a regular wave.  This is the casual wave.  This is what we do around here.  If you don’t wave at people, you’re just being downright rude.  You don’t have to know them.  As a matter of fact, if you do know them, you’re kind of expected to stop where ever you are, be it in the aisle at Walmart, in the door of the doctor’s office, or driving down the middle of the road, and have a conversation.  If you don’t know them, then the casual wave is in order.  It’s our friendly southern way of saying hello, how’s it going to all and sundry.  Oh, never fear, we’re not all that nice.  We’re waving to your front, but probably blessing your heart to your back.


So, anyway, this is how it’s done.






Not like this.  This is kind of how I do it.  With less bacon.






I guess I need to take this moment to thank my parents for filling me up full of Yankee genetics that cause me to become a complete dork when I try to wave.  Not saying that Yankees are dorky wavers.  Just me.  I am a dorky waver.

It took me years to master the timing.  I’m not exactly what you would call hyperaware of my surroundings.  Or aware at all.  It took a lot of practice to notice that there was a person around, then to get my hand in the air fast enough to acknowledge them.  Once I managed to get my hand in the air, I never really figured out what to do with it.  Too limp and you’re waving a dead arm.  Too firm and you look like you’re doing an offensive and outdated Native American impression.  Should I point, like Isaac from the Love Boat?  Am I supposed to salute or something?  No, no, don’t put THAT finger up!!

Sigh.  It’s exhausting.  This is way more effort than I wanted to put into a casual and insincere greeting to a stranger walking down my street.  I’ve given up on the casual wave and I’ve adopted the nod.  It’s subtle and it doesn’t require me to flail or question my basic abilities.  If I’m feeling really friendly, you might get an eyebrow raise with the nod.  You might get the eyebrow raise without the nod, actually, because I raise my eyebrows a lot to hide the fact that that wrinkle is actually ALWAYS on my forehead.

I have a vague suspicion that there’s something kind of off-putting about the nod.  It just doesn’t feel as friendly as the wave.  But look, I have to live within my limitations.  My hands have a mind of their own, and, now that I think about it, I often have something in my hands when I would normally wave.  I can just see it now, I’d fling my cell phone, my drink, my kid right out the car window in my frenzy to wave.  So for the safety of my children, electronics and sanity, I think I’ll just stick with the nod.

  1. Janyaa
    June 23, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    I lived in Hawaii for a year, and the locals have the chaka, which is the thumb and pinky out and the three middle fingers folded down. If you do it too perfectly, you look like a dumb tourist. Same if you do it too quickly, too eagerly or too long. Needless to say, I’m not sure I ever truly mastered it!

    *wave* *flail*

    • June 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      I don’t know why hand gestures cause me such anxiety. I know now that I can never go to Hawaii. I don’t think I can handle the chaka pressure. I guess I am just not a casual person and can’t pull off the cool gestures.

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