Barry Saunders

The first lady won’t hold your hand? We’ve all been there, prez – Saunders

Face it, fellas. Most of us will never know what it’s like to be president or to have the band play “Shaft” – oops, that’s my presidential theme song – “Hail to the Chief” every time we enter a room. We’ll never know what it’s like to have generals saluting us or to have our every whim satisfied as soon as we speak it.

Some of us know what it feels like to be the president, though, in the sense that we’ve reached for a hand that doesn’t reach back.

The only difference is, the world isn’t there when we shoot an air ball in the hand-holding game of love.

What some see as the public refusal of First Lady Melania Trump to hold the president’s hand on a couple of high-profile occasions this week – especially during their visit to Israel – has sets tongues a wagging and pundits a punditing.

Most of those pundits have obviously never forgotten to put that extra load in the dryer after being told to 17 times, or gotten busted snarling at Sweet Thang’s beloved dog Mitzi when you thought she was in the other room. In such situations, a hand is not the only thing you won’t be holding.

As someone who always looks on the bright side of life – hence, my nickname, Mr. Sunshine – I saw nothing but positive energy in the Trumps’ Tel Aviv runway exchange about which so many are talking and trying to find something negative. I saw an affectionate president who wanted his betrothed to share in the acclaim he was receiving, so he reached out to hold her hand or to merely touch the hem of her garment. I also saw a selfless wife who seemed to be thinking, “Oh, no, darling. This is your moment to bask in the adulation of the multitudes.”

Those of us accustomed to seeing the Obamas, the Bushes, the Clintons – OK, maybe not the Clintons – holding hands were jarred by the sight of the apparent presidential rebuff.

Damon Rappleyea, program director in the Marriage and Therapy Center at East Carolina University, said “there may also be a cultural component” to the awkwardness that some people think they see between the first couple. “She is from another country, and frankly, this is not something we’ve seen in American politics,” Rappleyea said. “I don’t think we’ve actually had a first lady whose country of origin is ... someplace else.”

There may, alas, be countries where swatting of the partner’s hand is an act of affection.

Rappleyea, who is also an associate professor and a licensed marriage and family therapist, said holding hands – or refusing to – “is one of the most common complaints I hear in therapy,” along with other concerns about how much affection is enough, how much is too much, how long should you hold hands.

Speaking of which: by a show of hands, how many of you consider yourselves hand-holders?

See! Not everyone.

That doesn’t mean that something’s amiss, according to Rappleyea and other love doctors – also known as marriage counselors – to whom I spoke on this issue. For some, even such tepid public displays of affection as hand-holding are too much and warrant a 15-yard excessive celebration flag.

If there were something wrong, the president could simply break out his rendition of The Floaters’ 1977 hit, “Float On”:

My name is Donald, and I’m a Gemini, and I love putting my name on the sides of buildings and airplanes and anything else with an impermeable surface. If you like this too, I’ve got just one thing to say to you:

Take my hand

Walk with me, baby, in the holy land.

Let me show you how sweet it could be

Holding hands in Tel Aviv.

One reason so many men express such distaste for the ubiquitous Steve Harvey is because he went full Edward Snowden on us and started baring what he said were trade secrets on being men, telling women why we do what we do and what they should do. (Psst, just between you and me, most of that jive this self-appointed love guru spouted in his best-selling books was nonsense.)

Now, though, I’m about to do what he did, reveal a a sacredly held man-secret. Sure, ladies, sometimes we’ll reach out for your hand because we’re feeling extra tender when “Love Ballad” by L.T.D. comes on the radio, or when that whiff of vanilla extract you dabbed behind your ear hits our nostrils just right.

Other times when we reach out to grab your hand, though, we’re simply trying to make sure you’re not holding a weapon or anything with which you can crown us for saying or doing something stupid.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9

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