I’m hearing that when this deadly virus is a thing in our rearview mirrors, some of the lingering behavior adopted during the crisis will remain. Like no hugging.
I’ve heard that we’ll never hug hello or goodbye again. That distresses me because I’m a huggy person. I hug my family and friends, and I even hug strangers under certain circumstances. During the time of social distancing and sheltering-in-place, human contact in the form of hugs is one of the things I’ve missed the most.
I’ve missed the smell of being that close to another person, feeling their warmth and friendliness through a shared embrace. I miss the feel reminiscent of childhood comforting, of someone’s arms around me, saying all will be well.
When it’s okay to be in crowded spaces in public, when school children can return to class, when mass transit can operate within our communities, and when we can shop without face masks or without ordering expensive groceries delivered to our door steps, we probably will hesitate, think twice, and step back before hugging someone, perhaps even before shaking their hand.
Elbow bumps, toe taps, Vulcan split-finger hand waves, peace signs, and Namaste bows will likely continue to be the way we greet people and the way we say goodbye.
And when I want to convey stronger feeling, in a situation where I might lean in and hug you, I’ll train my face to show you how I’m overcome with emotion and closeness, all without touching you. When I want to comfort you or when I’m needing physical affection or reassurance, I’ll say, “Oh, I’m hugging you right now,” even though I don’t move an inch.
We’ll teach our kids the new habit of not hugging, just like we taught them the method of side hugs. We’ll have lots of conversations about the detrimental effects of no longer embracing each other in friendship. We’ll think of those babies generations ago that were left in cribs neglected without touch and how that adversely affected their development.
We’ll look for the positives in no longer sharing a hug in friendship and weigh them against the negatives of not having that closeness. We’ll each decide for ourselves who and how much we’ll be physically close to another.
Our family, particularly the children, will be the main recipients of our embraces, which will be more intense. Pets too will receive more affection; our faces smashed in their fur, feeling the warmth of another living thing that is part of our family and safe to let down barriers with.
We’ll joke about this change of not hugging. We’ll analyze the effects, both good and bad. But not hugging will become incorporated into our lives. It’ll be yet another thing: “Remember when?”