President Donald Trump's visit to the U.K. has been a roller coaster of wild news. So far, he's already casually threatened to blow up trade relations, made a xenophobic statement about immigrants, and asserted he's more popular than Abraham Lincoln with zero basis for his statement.
And then, there's the fact that he and Prime Minister Theresa May keep holding hands. He took May's hand on Friday as they walked down the stairs at Chequers, her country house, to hold a press conference.
On Thursday, she held on to his fingers — which is a pretty strange way to hold hands — as they walked up the steps of Blenheim Palace on their way to a state dinner. She also seemed to be laughing at something he was saying.
In an interview with Vogue, May explained the White House interaction. "I think he was actually being a gentleman," she said. "We were about to walk down a ramp, and he said it might be a bit awkward."
For a pair of world leaders on the national stage, this is unusual behaviour. Trump has also held hands with French president Emmanuel Macron an inordinate amount. Patti Wood, body language expert and author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, said the difference was that Macron seemed like he was enjoying the gesture.
Theresa May? Not so much, according to Wood. "It's a really unusual handhold," she told Refinery29 about the White House episode. "To me, it shows that she's trying, with decorum, not to interlace their hands, to keep them from entwining. But she's doing everything nonverbally to show that she's not happy with it."
Something similar happened as they walked up the steps of Blenheim Palace, Wood said. "A handhold like this, it shows that they're not totally joined and in sync. And the laughter, with the way she's holding her head down, could indicate anxiety or nervousness."
She noted that she believes Trump's hand-holding with May is strategic. "Trump uses non-verbal communication to indicate his power quite often," she said. "He's leading her in the hand-holding, which makes him look more powerful and alpha."
It's possible that it's part of a deliberate move to walk back his comments on May "wrecking" Brexit in a recent interview with the Sun — something he dismissed as "fake news," even though he was recorded saying it.