The awkward high five — a horror story

And how to prevent them

by Jonas Ellison


I get really uncomfortable in groups. I’ll start by saying that.

Alex and I go to a local spiritual center. We volunteer one Sunday a month to hang out with the youth group during service. Yesterday was that service. We were assigned to the 9–12 year-olds.

This is the age where the hormones start raging, but social maturity hasn’t quite developed. It’s a weird, unfortunate, and beautifully awkward phase that we all must go through.

But we made it. We lived. No (major) injuries were acquired (besides this one kid hitting another kid on the head with a bell) and no tears were shed (besides the kid who got hit on the head with a bell, and those were small tears — nothing to be too concerned with — no blood was shed).

After class, the ritual is to round up the kids into a single-file line and flood into the sanctuary where we lead them on stage and stand in front of the congregation as the music plays and everyone oogles, points, and claps for the kids.

It’s a sweet gesture and the kids love it (Rory, in particular). I, however, do not. The stage is not a comfortable place for me. With a couple hundred eyes looking in my direction, I kind of want to just shrivel up and die.

After the music stops, we follow the reverend down the center aisle into the foyer before the rest of the congregation.

As we proceed down the center aisle, we’re often met with high-fives from the congregants.

This is another awkward situation for me. I find it hard enough to time and execute a solid high-five with one person let alone a dozen.

So as we high-fived our way down the center aisle, the guy I followed was met with the raised palm of a man whom I didn’t know in the congregation. They smacked it up for a solid high-five and even an post-high-five embrace.

I was next.

This is where the awkwardness reached its peak. The guy in the congregation still had his hand up like he wanted a high-five, but just before I got to him, he turned his gaze to the other direction. I knew this was going to be weird.

The problem is, I’d already committed. I wasn’t going to be left hanging, so I did what I could to recover every ounce of self-worth I had left. My ego was already badly beaten by the youths. Now, it was holding on for dear life. I did what came to me and forcefully grabbed his hand for a high-five/grasp/shake.

The man was shaken and startled. He looked at me like, What the f*k is this guy doing grabbing my hand? I didn’t want to give HIM a high-five.

This deflated my ego, completely. I was as good as dead. I immediately went into surrender/survival mode. I continued the rest of the way avoiding eye-contact with every other congregant as I made my way out into the foyer.


It’s now that I’d like to set a social rule. As much as I blamed myself for forcing my hand on this poor guy, I realize this awkward moment wasn’t entirely my fault.

I think the social rule should be this -

In a group high-fiving scenario, don’t discriminate.

If you’ve given four people a high-five, don’t leave out the fifth person. It makes it even more awkward than it already is.

You don’t have the luxury of favoritism in this setting. If you just want to give one person a high-five, do it afterwards in the foyer or the parking lot or even in the privacy of your own home afterwards during lunch.

We’re all in this social situation together, let’s just trudge through it and high-five it out.

All together now.


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