Musings from a Reformed Hugger

How Coronavirus has changed the way we say “hello”

I’m a hugger, there is just no getting around it.  When I meet someone I know, my first inclination is to give them a hug.  It’s my way of saying how happy I am to see the person and to convey the message that they are important to me.

But, with the onset of the Coronavirus, all of that has had to change – and quickly.  Sharing a hug, or even a germ-rich handshake during these times is not only off-limits, but socially irresponsible.  Touch has always been a way for us to convey our humanity, our feelings of caring and concern.  Tiffany Field, the founder of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami said in a June, 2018 interview with The Atlantic:

Touch “slows down the heart. It goes to the GI tract and helps digestion.  It helps our emotional expressions – our facial expression and our vocal expressions. It enhances serotonin, the natural antidepressant in our system.”

Unfortunately, due to the highly contagious Coronavirus, turning to the hug or shaking of hands to convey our greeting has become dangerous for you and the ones you meet.

Earlier this week, NPR ran a piece called “Elbow Bumps, Peace Signs and Namaste: How to Say Hi” in this incredibly surreal and fast changing times.  In the piece they talk about the fact that people in the Democratic Republic of Congo began finding inventive ways to acknowledge each other during the Ebola outbreak.  Today, we are seeing these creative ways for people, all over the world, are finding to say “hi”.  Elbow bumps, foot taps or shakes, waving, hand against one’s heart or pressed together with the greeting “namaste”.

Although we have had to alter our behavior, it doesn’t mean that we cannot enjoy trying to master these new forms of greeting, and smile and laugh at the efforts of others.  Use this time to find joy and amusement in trying a new form of saying “hi”, laughing at your own clumsy attempt to try something new.

We are truly in unfamiliar territory these days.  For now, we all need to fight the desire to fall on our old ways of hugging or shaking hands and adapt a new way of saying “hi” without touching.  Keeping your distance is the best way to show you care right now.