In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Donald Trump describes “the simple act of shaking hands” as “one of the curses of American society.” This is his burden, his blight. “The more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get. I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible,” he writes.
As a world leader, he rises to the occasion time and again, sucking up his disdain for the intimate act of touching another person’s hands and diving right in. Diving right in aggressively even! Did you see what he did to President Emmanuel Macron or Prime Minister Shinzo Abe or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Neil Gorsuch? He really did it! He really shook their hands! Maybe the so-called “Trump Pump” is not just a relic of 80s self-help books for men. It’s Trump overcompensating for his fear, lifting each of his sausages, dried and rough from over-washing as they are, every time. He takes a running jump into it and then powers through, powerfully.
But what if his hands are literally tied because he’s in a friendship circle with the Philippines’ formidable Rodrigo Duterte? All of his training, his compensation, his correctives—all of it—are out the window because he has to do the traditional two-handshake cross-handshake at the ASEAN @ 50 conference in Manila on Monday. He flops his hand around and then, finally grasping Duterte’s hand while still holding the other man’s hand, grimaces in success. And you know what? He managed. He did it. It wasn’t the worst of his very bad shakes.
So he’s growing, I suppose. He really is. Sometimes going away to sleep-away camp halfway around the world—getting unstuck from your routine, mom and dad in your ear all the time, et cetera—is all you need to really make progress on yourself.
And you know what else you get? Lifelong friendships. Like he tweeted from Dallas later on Monday:
“LYLAS,” Trump to Duterte, maybe. Shake you next summer.
This story originally appeared on Vanity Fair.
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