The Clap

No…this is not a blog post on venereal disease. I’m talking about clapping. The act of moving your hands back and forth together in a production of noise. There’s the golf clap, the slow clap, the Friends theme song clap, even the ironic clap. You can clap with gusto and enthusiasm or half-heartedly give an obligatory clap because everyone else is doing it. A non-verbal indicator of praise and satisfaction, there are several varieties of claps, and I’m a fan of most.

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I use the clap in my classroom quite often. After students share anything they’ve written– be it an essay or journal– we clap. Sometimes when several students are sharing similar responses, we save up for one big ‘community clap’ at the end. Sometimes a student will start a clap early, resulting in a whole-class, feel-good chuckle. It’s always amusing to see that one kid with his arms poised, hands a half-foot apart, eagerly awaiting the moment the last sentence is read so he can be the first one to begin the clap.

I remember fondly when people used to clap at the end of movies. While it still happens from time to time (in children’s films mostly) it isn’t often I’ve heard ‘the clap’ at the end of other films. My husband knows, if we’ve just seen a particularly good blockbuster, that I will be that person who tries to start ‘the clap.’ He always watches in a mix of amusement and embarrassment, waiting to see if, like VD, it will spread.

Another place where I get to experience ‘the clap’ is in yoga. At the end of every yoga class, there is ‘the clap.’ Even the yoga teacher will clap, which does cause some confusion. I thought we were clapping for her. But apparently she’s also clapping for us, or maybe she’s clapping for herself too, but that seems a little too narcissistic for a yogi…At any rate, we all clap, and I love that.

Probably one of my favorite claps, is “the airplane just safely landed” clap, especially if there was a lot of turbulence during the flight. It’s as if all the passengers are simultaneously celebrating being alive. How awesome is that? For one moment, every single person on that aircraft shares a moment of thanks. Yet the last time I flew, there were very few people participating in the airplane clap, and I was disappointed. My husband desperately tried to get me to not be the clapper. “Just wait and see if anyone else claps first,” he begged of me. But I am not a lemming, and clap I did.

He tried to argue that one should only clap if the flight was particularly rough. “Landing the plane is their job. You don’t clap just because someone did their job.” But that logic fails when you consider that people clap at the end of a concert, a comedy show, a ballet. Those entertainers were just doing their jobs too, yet we clap for them. Why shouldn’t we clap for our mechanic or our hairdresser? My gynecologist might be a little startled if I started clapping at the commencement of my annual exam, but I don’t doubt for a minute that it wouldn’t spice up her workday to hear a hearty round of applause as she removed her gloves.

After all, a clap is just a way of showing your appreciation, your approval, your acknowledgement of a job well done. And that always feels good. So why don’t we clap more often? Why do we shy away from giving others that recognition?

We clap for our children, especially when they are young. Even before they can speak, they understand a clap means they did something right, and they seek to repeat the behavior that resulted in them getting that praise. We clap when they have gone potty on the toilet. We clap when they successfully build a tower out of blocks. We clap when they perform an impromptu dance in the living room. But as they grow, we clap less and less.

On social media, we have no problem liking someone’s photo or post. When we are behind a screen, we’re more inclined to show our approval (and disapproval); when we are face-to-face, this act becomes harder to do. Yet it’s those face-to-face interactions that leave an impact, that we remember.

How many times have I thought to myself something complimentary about someone else, yet never opened my mouth to communicate it with them?


Standing at a road-side food truck, having just come from a swim and still in my bathing suit, the proprietor said to me, “If I looked like you, I would walk around in a bikini too.” She was a heavy-set woman with nothing to gain from her comment. It took me by surprise, and it offered a much-needed boost to my esteem.

Exercising at the gym, I watched two women prepare for a body-building competition. They wore lucite heels and teeny sparkly bikinis. As they practiced their poses, my eyes fell on their long, tanned legs and strong muscles. As I was leaving, I stopped to tell them, “You girls look great.” I could have just walked out like so many others, but I didn’t. Perhaps my comment fell on deaf ears, or perhaps it gave them the extra confidence to rock that stage. I’ll never know, but I do know that I felt good having told them. Praise works both ways, which is an added bonus of bestowing it.

In a world where there is so much negativity and hatred, I think we all need to spend more time spreading positivity, whether it be verbal or non-verbal in its form.

So the next time you think I really like that woman’s shoes, tell her. The next time your spouse does something you appreciate, let him or her know. The next time your spin class ends, clap your hands. I promise you, it won’t hurt a bit.


6 thoughts on “The Clap

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