The Big Clap – did you do it? Wasn’t it great? I nearly forgot, but I heard them getting going, and came out from the kitchen into the front room, opened my window two floors up and leaned out into the darkness to clap. I find every standing ovation moving, but this one even more so. There were no performers delivering a deep bow on stage, no smell of greasepaint, spotlights or nod to the orchestra pit, instead, the recipients of the claps were off in the wings, costumed in scrubs, sweat and tears, for who knows how long. Bravo! We clapped and cheered and banged pots and an old lady across the way rattled on her window with a wooden spoon. And, as I retreated to the kitchen to smear shea butter hand cream on my smarting palms, I thought to myself: is clapping the new handshake?
Ah, yes, the handshake, remember that? The handshake is now so 2019: back when we sat close to strangers in crowded bars; when we held onto railings while walking up flights of steps; when we embraced and shook each other by the hand. And a handshake could tell so much, loaded as it was with information as to character, temperament, intent. There was the disappointing wet-fish handshake: timorous, holding back, lacking promise. The bone-crushing handshake: over-pressing the flesh in the hope you’ll think they’re trustworthy. The won’t-let-go handshake: the one where your free arm is grabbed by their free arm, usually at the elbow, in an ‘I’m too sweet to be wholesome’ gesture. Please tell me you did it too, back then – please tell me you judged the shake? Well I’m here to tell you that 2020 is all about judging the clap, for in the absence of a handshake, how are we going to form those initial impressions of others? Those intuitions we so dearly love to hang our hats on?
I’ve been watching, and I have started to categorise them. The first one I spotted was the: I’d-really-rather-not-be-clapping clap. Practised by the introvert, this person is loath to draw attention to themselves but – knowing that not clapping would draw even more attention to themselves – they go for the bargain basement clap: hands down at their navel, palms padded lightly together, thus producing a noise that could barely be heard in an empty room. Couldn’t be more different to the look-at-me clap. The upstager, whose celebration of the performance out-performs the performance itself. Often delivered above the head with bicep wielding enthusiasm, this is a clapper to beware of, for he (or she) is likely to knock your head off if it gets in the way of his gusto, and he’s likely to perforate your eardrums as this clap is rarely delivered without a belly roar. Both of them, however, are a step up from the imperious clap. The didn’t-you-do-well clap is delivered with arms outstretched as though being cleaned of dust. It’s a series of small, quick claps, the beating wings of hummingbirds, but less sincere. My favourite of all, the clap I aspire to, is the dramatic, diva-tastic, my-heart-is-bursting-through-my-hands clap. Hands cupped, held close to one’s chest, and played like maracas with a fervour that fills your whole being. A full, round noise is clapped both into your body and outwards to the world, so that you and everything around you is ringing with praise, joy and adoration until your palms, blazing red, can clap no more.
8pm: be there and bring your best clap.