Two weeks ago, I finally felt us turn the COVID corner. It wasn’t an evening out on the town, a look at the improving daily numbers, or an announcement about reduced crowd restrictions. Instead, it came in the form of a hug.
After close to one year of waves from afar, and conversations via Zoom, I was finally able to give my 90+ year-old mother-in-law a hug (albeit wearing a mask) in front of her apartment complex, where she had recently received her second dose of the vaccine. Just one year ago, this would have seemed like a simple, unremarkable act. But, in the moment, it was one of the happiest feelings I’ve experienced in a while. And, I’m sure many reading this post have had (or look forward to) similar experiences.
Being a hugger, one of the things I’ve missed most during the last year is the physical embrace of others. In my view, the act demonstrates that we are more than just family, friends or colleagues – but that we truly care for and are there for one another. The inability to even shake hands or do an elbow bump (the pre-pandemic safety precaution, if you recall) has taken its toll. So, I’ll just say it: “I need some hugs.” And, with the roll-out of vaccines, I am optimistic that more are in my near future.
All that said, I know that this is going to be a slow roll. And, not everyone is or will be comfortable with physical connection. So, in preparation for the days and months ahead, I thought it may be helpful to share some tips for “making the move.”
- Ask first. Even though I always view it is a sign of caring and affection, I also recognize that some people just don’t like hugs. Before you go in for the embrace, ask if it’s OK.
- Start Slow. Let’s not over-do it. There are some people you didn’t see much before the pandemic, and you wouldn’t have hugged them when you did. Consider starting with the hand shake and, as you get to know them better, you can work up to the hug.
- Keep it quick. Unless you are at some kind of event that merits a longer embrace (i.e., funeral, wedding, etc.), keep it quick. The “it’s great to see you” hug is generally a quick in and out. Don’t over-stay your welcome. (NOTE: In the case of my mother-on-law, I admittedly held on a bit longer then usual, but I’m fairly certain it was welcomed.)
- Be an equal opportunity hugger. It can be a bit awkward when there are a few people in the group, and you only hug a select 1 or 2. It could send a signal that you don’t care as much about those you’ve “left behind.” In those cases, consider your options: Hug them all. Hug a select few, while acknowledging the “hug shun” to others. Hug no one.
- Know your limits. This is “the hug,” not the kiss. There are times when a kiss (on the cheek) is appropriate, but it’s often a different level of affection, reserved for family and close friends (unless of course, you are in a different country, where the multi-cheek kiss” is more of the norm.)
After writing this, I’m feeling like it could have been a better Seinfeld episode than a blog. I can envision Kramer giving everyone hugs, while Jerry is offended by “the hug” (from anyone other than Elaine). And George is upset because no one wants to hug him. Probably too late to submit the idea. 🙂 In any case, I hope you found this post entertaining and even a bit educational as you begin re-entry into a more normal (and more physical) post-pandemic world.
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