Return to hugging

Even though the CDC has said that it is now fine for vaccinated people to gather together without masks, it does feel a little strange for those us who closely followed the guidelines during the height of the pandemic (avoiding indoor settings outside out homes, wearing masks, keeping physical distancing, washing hands frequently, and even using hand sanitizer) to feel completely comfortable relaxing all or even some of those habits.

When my daughter and son-in-law came the previous weekend for a few days, we did not wear masks inside the house (all of us are of course vaccinated) and we did not keep our distance but we did not hug. Partly that is because we are not a big hugging family. As for myself, I am not a compulsive hugger though not averse to them either. I almost never initiate the hug but wait for the other person to initiate it and then respond.

But there are people for whom hugging is important and during the pandemic I would often hear people (they were all women, incidentally) who would lament the fact that they could not hug their family members and friends. Then yesterday I attended a barbecue hosted by a very active member of a local skeptics group, all of whom are strong supporters of vaccinations and had. been vaccinated. There were about twenty of us in the backyard. I had only met three of them in physical space before the pandemic and of the rest, I had got to know about eight only online from a weekly trivia quiz night that the barbecue host organized to keep people connected during this time.

It is clear that some of them missed the hugging. A lot. The first person who came up to me when I arrived asked “Hug?” and when I said yes she gave me a big hug and then several others, even those whom I had only got to know online, greeted me like a long lost friend and gave me multiple hugs. It did feel good.

For the rest of the afternoon, we sat around and talked of this and that. Two topics were noticeably absent: the pandemic and Trump. This was not by design but likely because they just did not seem to be at the forefront of people’s minds.

It was all very pleasant.

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