“Stay Away From Me”: Not Everyone Is Excited About Hugs Making A Comeback

COVID-19 has made some of us wary of greetings that involve touch./Buzzfeed Illustration

By Estelle Tang | Buzzfeed

Earlier in the pandemic, a friend reached out to hug me. I froze, unsure whether I wanted it. But by the time I had finished the thought, it was too late to do anything about it; I had been hugged. I was more shaken by the simple gesture than I expected; after months of isolating, hand sanitizing, and COVID testing, physical contact was a bridge I hadn’t been ready to cross.

That didn’t exactly prepare me for the deluge that was to come this spring. Not long after the CDC reported that over 150 million Americans had received at least one vaccination shot and positivity rates in my city of New York had dipped below 2%, I was hugged several times in just a week. People from different parts of my life descended upon me with open arms, clearly delighted to be able to squeeze another human being. Had I missed a memo? When had we decided that it was OK to hug again? It wasn’t that long ago that we were scowling at the maskless and joking about having sex through a sheet, was it?

It was impossible to be angry at them. The risk to my health was small — we’d all been vaccinated — and after more than a year of social deprivation, friendly embraces were not totally unwelcome. But I was puzzled at how quickly hugs had returned as a regular greeting, as if we hadn’t all painstakingly negotiated what we were comfortable with doing and what we had to do to ensure everyone was safe. Touch of any kind had been verboten — now, I guess, it’s coming back.


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June 2021