Moments after I was born, Dr. Felsenbaum greeted me with a slap on my heinie. Naturally, I was too young to understand the significance of the gesture and took immediate offense to being manhandled straight out of the womb. As it turns out, it wouldn’t be the last time someone slapped me on my backside.
That whack on the bum was my first introduction to a long list of quaint American greeting traditions and was meant to get me started crying and breathing. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I would have preferred a hearty handshake followed by a request to exhale. If he’d asked, I would have been happy to comply – especially if he offered me a cigarette. But, like it or not, that’s how my life began.
When I was in junior high school, we greeted all our friends with a unique variety of insults designed to generate attention – starting by pulling their underwear up to their shoulder blades. I remember being smacked on the back of my head so hard my retainer shot across the room. Slapping our girlfriends on the heinie was preferred over a hearty handshake and was considered a sign of affection. Everyone got away with it, but there’s no way I’d consider giving my supervisor a flat or a wedgie, today.