The End of Casual Hugging(?)

Over on Twitter today, my pal Sharon Stiteler posted this, with regard to the possible return of hugging after the COVID vaccine is widespread. She is not a fan, as the image of the hiding cat representing non-huggers being dragged out of a corner by huggers shows:

John ScalziI reposted it with the additional comment: “To be honest, pretty sure I’m not going back to casual hugging after all this is over. Gonna be work to be added to the ‘hug’ tier from now on.”

I’ll note that in the before times I was a tolerably huggy person; I like hugging friends, and as a notable author who is known to be fairly approachable, I was used to people wanting to give me a hug. This usually wasn’t a problem for me as I have decent tolerance for people in my personal space, and inasmuch as I’m a dude whose major vibe is “middle-aged dad,” no one ever overstepped the hug boundaries (which has not always been the case with other authors I know). Hugs were fine.

But now I feel like we’re in a period of personal boundary reset, and I’m going to be fine with that. So: far fewer hugs in general, and in particular with people I don’t know well. While we’re at it, I’ll be fine with a lot fewer handshakes as well. “Fist bumps and waves” is, I think, going to be my public mode of welcome and acknowledgement. I don’t think I’m going to be going too far out on a limb here with these — I’ll be vaguely surprised if everyone wants to go back to the era of handshakes and hugs.

Having said that, I’m curious: If you were a hugger before, do you expect to be a hugger after all this? And more generally, how do you now greet people, and how do you expect you’ll greet them in the future? Tell me in the comments. I want to know.

— JS

123 Comments on “The End of Casual Hugging(?)”

  1. I’ve never been much of a hugger. I have friends who are huggers and will hug me as a greeting, and I don’t push them away, but I don’t initiate this contact as a greeting with anyone but close family members. (I might give a close friend a hug if she is dealing with difficult emotions and it feels like affection could help/comfort.)

    So I’m with you: probably not going back to hugging after this.

  2. Well, I’m an introverted Brit, so hugging has always been a bit awkward for me. I feel self-conscious even hugging close family. We saw our son off to university for the first time last month, and I gave him a loose hug, so when I do it I really mean it.

    10 years ago someone on my team at work left and I felt so sad to see her go, I gave her hug on her last day – as you can probably tell, it still preys on my mind now whether I crossed a line (I’m a man – I don’t think I was being inappropriate but as these things have been more openly discussed over the years, I don’t think I would do the same if the situation arose in the future). I feel safer and happier if we assume that hugs are out for everyone but family.

  3. I’m not a hugger. Never have been. I also have a fairly large bubble of personal space. I won’t say having everybody stay six feet away from me is a *plus* of the whole global pandemic thing, but if I had to pick one tiny positive thing about it, I’d say I like having everybody stay the heck away from me. The only person I want that close to me is my spouse. Post-Covid, I think I’ll be sticking with fist bumps, elbow bumps, and carrying hand sanitizer with me whenever I go out.

  4. I’m not a big hugger or even toucher myself. Enough so that I remind myself to be touch my kids. I don’t mind hugging friends and other family/relatives, particularly if we haven’t seen each other for a while.

    I met up for an outside lunch with 3 work friends/colleagues this week to celebrate the birthday of one of them. I was surprised how much I wanted to give the birthday celebrant a hug–even as covid-19 cases are spiraling up in our area. We’ve been friends over 20 years though.

  5. I am not a hugger and acquaintances/relatives know that (or figure it out) This no-hugging year has been tolerable, at least in that very limited sense.

    As a non-hugger, I prefer a wave for greeting and departure.

  6. I’m not super tactile, so I don’t anticipate being a hugger after this.

    (I then originally planned to follow this up with a long tangent about how this was going to impact tactile fan interactions in pro wrestling, but after a paragraph I got rid of it)

  7. I am a good hugger. I always ask, first, though.

    I do not like handshakes (I’m female, and while I don’t like cold wimpy shakes, I also don’t like guys who flex at my tiny hand). If they put out one hand in greeting, I clasp it with both my hands. (Er, also I did intense martial arts for a little while, a long time ago, and I like to know where thrusting hands are going and have control of them. La.)

    With my neighbors and passersby, since they can’t see me smile at them I’ve been tipping my head and/or waving.

    There are two people outside my family I’ve hugged in 8 months. One is the executor of my will, one gets the kids if we die. And both times we were masked up and outside. My hug circle has shrunk so much. If I didn’t have kids and a cat to snuggle I would be in much worse mental shape.

    I hope that if there is a vaccine and a normal that doesn’t involve daily masks, I will be able to hug again with abandon.

  8. I miss hugging my friends so much, it sometimes physically hurts. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say I feel like I’m starving. I’m desperately looking forward to having that connection with them again.

    But I imagine I’ll go the head nod route with people outside that circle.

  9. I was a hugger, as were many of my friends. And, with my European friends- a cheek kisser. It I am not planning on going back to that even after a vaccine is in wide use and herd immunity has been achieved.
    A smile and a nod greeting will be my new norm, for all but family and intimate friends.
    Also, I expect that my masks will not go into the rag bag, but will continue to be worn in cold and flu season.

  10. I’ve been struggling with this a lot – I was a very regular hugger (with people I knew) and I miss it a lot. I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I’ve hugged since March and I think I’d still have a finger left over, and that makes me deeply sad. But I don’t think I will ever go back to it although my circle of hug-people will likely expand a little once there’s a vaccine and things have calmed down a lot. I also haven’t seen my family since this all started and likely won’t for a long while – I’d add them into the circle too assuming I knew we were all being sensible.

  11. I teach 5th grade. Hugging for school teachers, particularly male school teachers of girls who are just entering puberty, can put the teacher at a higher degree of legal risk sadly.

    I don’t have any issues with hugging. I’m happy to give a hug to anyone that wants one. A hug is more intimate and usually more rewarding. You can feel more (joy, sadness, even awkwardness). You get more information from the person and more emotion even if that emotion is guarded. I’m OK with hugging and I’m also fine with not hugging.

    When I first became a teacher I was told that I should be careful about hugging kids, especially girls, since I’m a guy. While on the surface that makes some practical sense, it was impractical in reality. Some kids never want a hug. Others will get one even if you don’t want to. One of the many things I love about children is that they are real and genuine. Sometimes it is exactly what the child needs. I decided early on, damn legalities. I’m going to do what is best for the kid. If they want a hug, they get a hug.

    As a teacher who has had many student teachers over the years, I explain to the young teachers what the issues are and let them come to their own decisions. They need to be comfortable with what they choose to do as well.

    I hope that we don’t lose kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity. That includes its physical manifestations like hugging (and shaking hands for that matter). Human contact matters. Ask psychologists and psychiatrists. Look at the studies of primates who were shunned and didn’t receive any contact. It doesn’t turn out well. We all have our tolerances and those too need to be respected, but I think we would lose something valuable as a society if it were to go away altogether.

  12. I didn’t think of myself as a hugger before Covid. I hug my friends, but that’s about it. But as someone living alone, this pandemic has made me acutely aware of the problems of the lack of human touch. It has been ten months since I last touched another human being in more than the most fleeting of contact. It’s affecting my mental health, to be honest. I didn’t expect this. But I am desperate…deeply desperate…for a hug. Which is a weird feeling for an introvert. But there it is. Covid has revealed much about how we aren’t who we thought we were.

  13. I love hugs. I crave them now. I have also dealt with way too many people who see “hi!” as an invitation to do whatever they want. Especially as I use a cane in public and thus normally, I can’t step away in time.
    In that singular tiny aspect, I’m hoping the new norms stick. Of course I’d rather be safer without the cost of friends and family dying/ in ICU / taking months to recover. I’d rather it’d hurt no one at all. But that’s one cultural excuse I’m glad to see disappear.

  14. I’ve always been socially a little awkward, so this is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been thinking about a lot, ever since the start of coronatime.

    Here’s the qualities that our new normal greeting will have, in my opinion:

    It must be a clear ‘moment’. Head nods can happen at any time, or asychronously, so they feel awkward because they don’t always have a point in time. Fist bumps define a moment. Hugs and handshakes and military salutes and formal Japanese bows all define a moment.

    It must be safe. We can’t unring the bell of covid ‘expertise’, so any greeting that involves imperfect pandemic prophylaxis will be uncertain at best, and politicized at worst. There will be way more Jerry Seinfeld germaphobe moments for at least two generations.

    It must be reasonably cool. No ‘namaste’ gestures, Vulcan salutes, or half-remembered martial arts bows. Please note that ‘cool’ is deeply unpredictable, defined by social media consensus (but not TOO much consensus, because irony) and certainly not by middle-aged white guys who have already ruined fist-bumps. Nearly any of the above could actually become cool for no clear reason. What do I know?

  15. I love and miss hugging close friends. I very much dislike hugging as a social obligation (like hugging my spouse’s friends, and girlfriends of my spouse’s friends whom I just met). I’m grateful During This Time that my children are small and cuddly.

    I’ve been living in France for a year, and I liked cheek kissing just cause it was novel and exotic. Now I miss that a little bit, and it will seem like some lost bit of culture if it doesn’t come back.

  16. I won’t hug, kiss, fist-bump or any other kind of contact.

    For goodness sake, people toughen up. No one asks you to be chained to a prison gang breaking rocks in the broiling sun. Just don’t transmit your germs to others.

    If you have to touch something, put your palms together & say ‘Namaste.’ From 2m away, please.

  17. I’m a hugger, but I have always let the other person decide whether or not they want to do it. I don’t initiate except with those who I know are into it. So I wasn’t one who forced hugs on anyone anyway and I go with what the other person wants.

    I don’t know what I am going to do if we ever have a future–may depend on how the vaccination goes, I guess. I am absolutely raging starving hungry without them now. I’ve denied my mom hugs (she’s 70) the one time I saw her in person and I felt like a shit about it. Same with one of my best friends who is over 60. I’ve hugged one person (who I have a crush on) five times since it started, because he is a hugger and I knew he’d do it. I know I shouldn’t because he is definitely not safe and works retail (albeit in a business where people actually DO wear masks and the building he works in is huge/spaced out and probably the only other place I’ve felt safe in that wasn’t my home/car since it happened) and can’t avoid people. But I’m starving.

    And just typing that made me cry just now. Ugh.

  18. From a practical paranoia point of view, people in general, even formerly incorrigible huggers, may decide that casual hugging is not to be resumed, for the following reason. Covid-19 is not going to be the last highly contagious disease to spread among the humans and other mammals. Even when governments actually care to have rapid detection and response plans and resources available to deal with such events, it seems likely that a new disease could affect large numbers of people before official warnings are given and measures taken. A cautious person might take the view that it could happen at any time, and that it makes sense to reduce one’s vulnerability at all times, not simply after being warned about an event. To put it another way, one might simply take the stance that there is always number of contagious and potentially dangerous diseases that are spread by physical contact, aerosols, and airborne transmission, and that one should always take preventive measures, regardless of whether the diseases are officially announced or considered to be widespread.

    But to respond to the actual question, I have not been a casual hugger, but I also have not avoided it. We humans are animals, and our animal selves can sort of draw nourishment from contact with others. In light of what I wrote above, will I return to hugging family members and long-time friends once the pandemic is “over?” Probably.

  19. I was not a hugger to begin with, so not only will I not be hugging, I will eschew handshakes as well. This is the perfect reason. I will greet everyone with a bow keeping my hand over my heart, Afghan style.

  20. I’ll do the elbow thing if people are willing. I was never much of a hugger, but I got used to it, then I got used to asking b/c it can be very invasive, and now I’m used to not doing it. So.

  21. Being a fairly introverted person I didn’t have a lot of interaction that involved casual hugging. Family members and a few close friends were and likely will be it. I expect to be handshaking less once the COVID concerns are past.

  22. I love hugs. I gave and accepted them freely with all like-minded people. I don’t expect those days to come back soon, and I will miss them a lot. I am already missing them a lot.

  23. I certainly won’t mind not hugging so much. It seems an intimate act for casual relationships, aside from the physical health issue.

    On another subject entirely, is your face still non-furry? If so, would you consider changing your blog post photo? I liked the non-furry look and would like to see it more.

  24. I certainly won’t mind not hugging so much. It seems an intimate act for casual relationships, aside from the physical health issue.

    On another subject entirely, is your face still non-furry? If so, would you consider changing your blog post photo? I liked the non-furry look and would like to see it more.

  25. I was a casualish hugger. If someone wanted a hug, I was in. After covid is less of a problem I might return to that, maybe. But I suspect that people who WANT hugs will go down quite a bit.

    That said, as my career has progressed and I’ve gotten further into the “white dude with authority” stereotype, I’ve already been pushing this back quite a bit. Even friendly gestures like this can seem very weird if it’s someone that can potentially affect your career.

  26. Tapping my feet and rolling my eyes until this stupid plague goes away. I hates it! Clients visibly relax when I shake their hands and as a veterinarian, some times they start out very stressed. I also miss hugging my reasonably close friends. I’m in a high risk profession. I am not stupid enough to imagine that all people will watch their pet suffer just because they “might” be contagious. You cannot wash the virus off of fur, and it gets in my eyes constantly. My friends have all been told that I am fatalistic about getting it, it’s just a matter of when.
    As far as hugging (once the risk of contagion is reduced), it is an intimacy, and it should always be set up so that it has to be consensual. There is no harm in offering a hug far enough away that your counterpart can reply with a bow or meet you in between. Even if you cannot think of the other person’s boundaries, having someone dodge your hug is humiliating.

  27. I am a hugger, always have been, but I learned to ask first before offering a hug. Some people are very uncomfortable with hugging and I respect that. I guess I should say I used to be a hugger, not sure if I will feel as free ever again. Time will tell I suppose.

  28. I’ve been using a smile and nod since January or so, with hands clasped in front of my chest or behind my back so that they’re not accessible. Think I’ll stick with this, excepting very close friends and family.

  29. I’m struck by how many of us describe the lack of touch we’re experiencing as “starving”. “Starved for touch” is even an idiom. As a single person living alone and taking reasonable precautions, the lack of physical human contact is horrible. And that’s after being able to hug a few friends (briefly, masked, outside) over the summer. I dread the winter. How can simple human contact depend on an in-depth conversation about who someone else is spending time indoors with?

    As for handshakes, I won’t do fist bumps. Ever. I suppose if everyone switches to elbow bumps I could adjust, but I wouldn’t like it. I’ve tended to go for a nod or a small upper-body bow.

    Quakers have used handshakes to signal the end of worship for a very long time. I don’t know what we’ll do instead, or how long it will take for whatever that is to gain the same resonance. Lots of religious communities use human touch, from handshakes to kissing, in ritualized ways, and we will all need to find safer alternatives.

  30. Oops — forgot to answer the first question. I’ve always been a selective hugger, but if someone asked, I’d usually say yes. I’ve never been a fan of non-consentual hugging, and have ended friendships when my hugging boundaries weren’t respected.

  31. I’m old enough to remember when hugging was something visited upon children by older female relatives–I can still recall the scent of face powder and special-occasion perfume. (This was also the period of birthday gifts of a silver dollar and dutiful and rather stiff thank-you notes.)

    I also recall the kind-of-surprise when (in the mid-1960s) I spent time in Italy and saw men walking arm in arm during la passegiata. Social touching outside the family *and* across gender lines! And not a pool hall in sight! Mass-steria!

    So I watched the rise of social hugging from a bit of a psychic distance, even when it eventually meant receiving one from a woman-not-my-wife. (In most cases I got used to it, though there remains a tiny remnant of puritanical don’t-go-enjoying-this-buster.) And now COVID has reset my basic attitude to its WASPy roots: a nod, a flap of one hand, a howyadoin’.

  32. I’ve been through so many things in my life that everyone says will cause permanent change, and it has turned out that very few of them have lasted. My guess is that two years after this is over (whenever that is,) this will be ‘remember when’ event, and the vast majority of people will be back to their old ways.

    And that won’t be all that bad . . .

  33. Not a hugger or casual kisser. I have no problem keeping my distance and will continue doing so.

  34. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As someone who is Lebanese, for my whole life, my primary mode of greeting for people I know well and am friends with is a hug and/or kiss on the cheek (with the obvious exception for professional settings, where it’s a handshake or a wave). But during this pandemic, all of that has ended. I don’t even hug or kiss my own parents anymore, who are in very high-risk categories and whom I thus see rarely and only at a distance of 6 feet and masked. It has been really, really difficult to make this change, particularly with my extended family members and close friends. That said, when it’s safe to have casual physical contact again, I expect I will also raise the threshold for it. The nice side effect is there will no longer be the expectation that I will have to hug or cheek-kiss someone I don’t want to, so there’s a silver lining.

  35. I’m a very huggy person, and I terribly miss my doses. I fully expect to go back to loads of hugging, however:

    1. Not until this ends (exceptions being my housemates, because we’re all sitting on top of each other anyways)

    2. I have non-hugging friends, they obviously only get hugs if they approach, gotta respect their personal spaces.

    As a side note: While I’m pretty much always open to receiving hugs (in regular circumstances that is) I’m usually not the one to start, because I’m terrible st reading people so I err on the side of not forcing myself onto them

  36. To me hugging is only for relatives and maybe sometimes for close friends.

    I don’t have an aversion to hugging, but I don’t think it’s really socially normal for everyday contact, particularly right now. And our country elected a known pussy-grabber, so we can’t even agree about the acceptability of sexual assault. What that says about us as a society is the real question.

  37. Second question first, I have not touched, skin-to-skin, anybody except my adult son who lives with me, since sometime in March. When I am at work, we don’t even fist bump. I greet people from at least 6 feet, huge smile I hope they can hear in my voice and see around my eyes because I’m masked.

    I think this is less onerous for me than it might be since we weren’t at all huggy growing up. It was very awkward for me in my teens when I lived in Italy because I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Society reverting to my comfort with casual hugs is just fine; loss of hugs from family and dear friends is much more problematic.

  38. I was and will be again a hugger, but I expect I’ll be in a far less huggy environment… and that’s fine. I never assumed hugs before, and I’ll keep not assuming them, but if someone else is also a hugger, damn right I’ll hug them back!

  39. I still expect to be a hugger after this, when it’s safe to be so, again. The pandemic hasn’t changed who I am, but accommodations must be made when circumstances so clearly warrant them.

    As a larger issue, I do find the prospect of us as a society becoming permanently more distant a rather depressing allegory for how our country is unraveling as a community. Hugging itself won’t change that, but still, the idea we may move away from it is very on the nose.

  40. I am an introvert.

    I have always been a huggy person with family and close friends. In rare instances – say, at the funeral of the father of a work colleague – I have been known to offer a hug to someone who is not a close friend. I do not offer to or agree to hug strangers. I would shake hands in a business setting when it is clearly expected, otherwise not.

    Since early March, the only person I have hugged is my spouse who lives in the same house with me. My daughter lives ten miles away; while we have seen each other outdoors and appropriately distanced, I have not hugged her since March. My son lives 130 miles away; normally we’d see him and exchange hugs at least every other month or so, we have not seen him since last December. We have multiple close friends who live within a few miles of us and with whom we exchange hugs every time we see them; we have neither seen nor hugged any of them since last winter.

    And even though I am an introvert, it is so, so hard not to be able to physically touch the people I love. There is something about physical touch, about the experience of feeling the pulse and the breathing of another human being who I dearly love, that is just an integral part of who I am. It has been a very, very hard year. On many levels.

    If/when we ever come through this plague, if a vaccine is both effective and widely available, and if life returns to some semblance of normalcy, I suspect that I will probably return to my pre-plague hugging behavior at least with family. I am honestly not sure how much I will want to exchange hugs with friends to whom I am not related. I do plan to replace handshakes with elbow-bumps if I am in a setting where a handshake seems to be expected.

    I hate that this plague has put so many of us in a position where even if we enjoy and appreciate physical contact with others, it may never be possible again to feel comfortable engaging in that kind of interaction.

  41. I lost my Lovely Man last December, to cancer. I’m really glad he’s not watching all this madness, but Oh! I do miss that contact. He caught me with a big hug more than 30 years ago, and nobody could hold a body like him.. This thread made me cry, and yes, starving is the right word.. I have had precisely one hug since all this covidiocy started, and it was too brief. It was like one drop ofwater in a parched desert..

  42. Another person who is not a hugger. I mean, family, my son, my partner – but that’s it. I did tend to tolerate them if well-meaning people grabbed me, especially when I started taking bellydance lessons, and dancers are VERY huggy folks! After this, no. If it’s humiliating to have your hug dodged, gesture/ask first. My best friend cannot hug; she’s schizophrenic, and if someone touches her, it feels like her skin is burning. That’s not *why* we’re bffs, lol, but it doesn’t hurt. She doesn’t want to go into her medical history with casual friends, so she will grimace and put up with it, because she doesn’t want people to feel hurt. Once she “came out” about her illness to the dance class, I quietly started mentioning to people about how it hurts when people touch her, but it was still a problem when she’d go to dance festivals & such. I feel for people who like to hug, but damn, you don’t have to hug EVERYONE to not feel starved, do you?

    I hate handshakes, too. Most women I know do. As much as I dislike fist bumps, I’d prefer them. I noticed lately that I’ve extended my head nods into into a little half-bow (I nod my head down, not up, I know people do different things). No one’s come at me with their elbow so far, which is a relief, because omg does an elbow bump look stupid (to me). I supposed I’d give them their bump, but for me that would be almost as awkward as a hug.

    Is anyone else going to continue to wear a mask? I used to hold my breath as a kid/teen when others got too close so I wouldn’t breathe in their exhales, but when I went to work in a building with an elevator, I had to get used to breathing around people, lol. Wearing face masks was already a thing in China and Japan: see the last season of “Queer Eye”. I see some of the younger folks on Twitter saying stuff like “I can’t believe I’ve been letting ya’ll breathe on me this whole time!”, so I know I won’t be alone. :)

  43. For me, hugs are for family and friends. It always made me uncomfortable to see people on TV shows hugging people they’d never met before, including in business situations. Just nope. But sometimes….

    This week I had a meeting with the brilliant surgeon who replaced my left knee last January, and who will replace my right knee in December. My life has been MIA for twenty years due to disability and pain, and this man is returning it to me. 3 other surgeons refused to touch the surgery, this one surpassed all expectations. I wanted to give him a hug in thanks, to express my feelings of gratitude in ways words just cannot. (I did use my words, of course, effusively)

    I had to settle for an elbow bump.

    Also, masks are going to be a thing that’s ongoing. I foresee entire industries going toes-up because of masks…lipstick, makeup, tooth whitening, breath mints….

  44. I’m introverted and not very touchy feely; I care a lot about other humans, but it took me a long time to learn to enjoy hugging people. Since March I’ve hugged only one person, and that’s fine. I’ve been trying to remind myself that others are really struggling with this; however, it’s not getting to me, and I’d welcome a world with a bit more personal space by default.

  45. A couple of days before the shutdown this spring, my wife and I were at a restaurant, and a friend of mine came in. We sort of jokingly did the elbow bump thing; in the past we’d have hugged. I miss it, my friends mostly hug each other during normal times, particularly the SF community, and as somebody else said, cheek kiss with the Europeans that I play music with, or with my Puerto Rican former boss before she retired. Haven’t hugged anybody outside of family since the shutdown.

    I hope we can get back to it after a year or two for everybody to get vaccinated.

  46. I have never really been a hugger, and I don’t miss it. I find even the casual “can I give you a hug?” question to be intolerably rude when it comes from people who know damned well I don’t really like hugs. But family and close friends (such as BT above, who for my purposes counts as both) get hugs if they want them, and those I’ll still be okay with. I like meeting people, and getting to know them, but until they’re good friends, I’m okay with no physical contact.

    I’ve also long thought handshakes to be a weird and archaic custom we could largely do without, and the pandemic’s resort to “fist bumps” is better, though still more contact than I want with the average person. I really think a nod or little wave/salute kind of thing is enough. But I live in a society far more social-minded than I am, so I’ll cope with whatever the new normal becomes.

  47. I miss hugs. So much. I await their safe return with hope.
    I’ve been trained by a large social circle I became part of in my early 20s to check whether someone is a hugger or not. “Do you hug?” Is a good question.

  48. For acquaintances, I’ll probably be more selective about offering hugs.

    For friends and family… I expect to be *more* huggy overall (though obviously not with anyone who’s not comfortable with it).The lack of hugging / physical contact / physical proximity has probably been the hardest ongoing thing about this pandemic for me (which is a statement I do not make lightly – and one that I hope one that does not change, because I’m positive “family member has a serious or fatal case of Covid-19” could beat it out and let’s not go there, please?)

    I hope to throw a cuddle-party with at some point in late 2021 or early 2022 with friends who feel as I do, where a bunch of us can just hang out in *contact* with each other – hugs, sitting side-by-side, lying with head on someone’s lap, trading backrubs, and generally reclaiming that which has been torn from us.

    I’m guessing my biggest long-term habit shifts will be away from handshakes, and towards wearing a mask when I’m sick.

  49. Not a hugger and not going to start being one.

    I’ve found that I strongly dislike fistbumps and elbowbumps. Touchless greetings or handshakes for me, please.

  50. OK, I gotta say that I initially tried using the fist bump, but I still felt uncomfortable with that. Probably because I’ve been in many a public restroom and seen how people do something they for some reason call “washing their hands,” and it isn’t something that I would call “washing my hands.” I don’t care if we are only touching knuckles, I’ve seen where they’ve.

    So then I tried moving on to the elbow bump, which at first seemed a bit more sanitary because, I mean, who uses their elbows for anything other than maybe bashing one into the armoire in the middle of the night after stumbling over their shoes in the dark. But that required getting way closer than a fist bump with a fully extended arm; after all, that elbow’s located about midway up that limb, so no.

    What I’ve settled on here of late when I see somebody coming inside of my 5-6 foot buffer zone for some variety of an unwanted contact greeting is something I like to call the “elbow wave.” In my use, the elbow wave involves making fist near the middle of my chest and rotating my shoulder joint so that my elbow waves forward and points generally in the direction of the approaching encroacher. This act almost always causes them to stop in their tracks and mimic my elbow wave. In those instances where my “elbow wave” doesn’t have this desired affect on the person, I resort to hold my hand up with my open palm facing toward them, which I guess can be interpreted as either “Hi!” or “Stop!” I really don’t care which way they take it, but it does the trick.

  51. I’d like to go back to wearing hats so we can tip them in greeting. Also bowing and curtsying (your choice of course). And hats could cover bald spots again. Hand shaking was always a power play. Hugging is fine for close companions but weird for just acquaintances.

  52. I’m bashful so don’t initiate hugging, but will receive them if someone else initiates it. As a result, before the pandemic, my wife and I — with a vast pool of friends — got hugged about 50 times a week. Now it is just her and I, and we hug more than we used to.

    Now I just wave at friends from about 10 feet away (on the rare occasions we are in anyone’s presence), and verbally express my deep affection for them. No hand shakes, fist bumps, elbow bumps (especially since we’ve been told to cough into our elbows!), no human contact. I deeply miss it, and feel the physical, psychological, and emotional loss.

    As for the future, our only hope with COVID seems to be if it mutates into a less deadly strain. If not, then it is with us forever…so the hugs are gone for that long. My friends fantasize about the day when we will all hug again, and I keep silent about my opinions and just smile.

  53. Hmmm when we can truly say we are almost all inoculated and the disease is largely gone, I’m sure handshakes will come back. It’s part of the classic American, maybe even European, part of meeting someone or closing a deal, etc. Hugging will be vastly reduced. My grandkids miss it, for example. Now I’ve done some elbow bumps. I am okay with, eventually, casual hugging but it likely be only with family members.

  54. No hugs is good hugs. Most of the restriction stuff for COVID doesn’t bother me. Stay home? Fine, thank you, now I don’t have to make excuses why I don’t want to go somewhere. No hugging? YAY! No handshaking, that’s great! Now if no phone calling was a new restriction it would be super!

    I’m one who hopes that all this casual physical contact is a thing of the past.

  55. Dear John,

    What an interesting topic (and comments)!

    Even though I come from hugging culture, I’m totally fine with a smile and a hand wave as the default (’cause I still get sufficient hugs).

    But I’m a hard no on fist or elbow bumps. Never gonna be doing that.

    That’s a bro culture thing. It’s jock behavior, like the friendly punch in the arm, because, y’know, it’s not okay for REAL men to show soft physical affection with each other. It’s mock-aggression behavior, a kinder and gentler macho.

    Thought experiment: if women were the ones who controlled the social cultural matrix, can you imagine they would’ve settled on a fist bump as the new default?! I can’t. I try to play that one in my head and it’s like a Saturday Night Live gender reversal parody. It’s just… not.

    If fist bumping is the norm ten years from now (I’m with Kincade — I can’t see it, but never mind that) AND it’s been embraced to an equal degree by men and women, then it will have lost those emotional connotations. It’ll be like handshaking, as Don humorously pointed out. We can check in with each other then.

    But for now if someone offers their fist, they’ll get a smile and a wave back. I’m not worried that anyone will take offense. They’ll just figure I’m really touch-phobic and — in these Plague Times — no one’s going to hold that against me.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. 
    — Digital Restorations. 

  56. I’m shy & introverted, but I hug family & certain close friends, or in certain situations. Not now, but I never see anyone anyway. I mostly just see my spouse, who typo’d “I’m hungry” as “I’m hugry” recently, so that’s now our joking way of saying “I need a hug.” It sounds like some others in this comment thread are hugry, too!

    I was sad to hear a close friend talk about seeing her daughter and (due partially to her daughter’s work, methinks) using a giant plastic sheet so they could hug! WAH! ;-( I joked a bit and when we met (me, my spouse, her, her husband) for an outdoor, masked, somewhat-distanced visit, she had a sheet ready. I was like, no, we can hug! We were masked & turned our faces away (and we’re all very cautious re. pandemic). Damn, I didn’t hug my mom when I visited her months ago, but she’s in her 80s and we’re not supposed to. ;-( But I really believe a quick, faces-away, masked hug is okay! Given all my precautions and how little I leave the house, it probably makes more sense for me than for some; I know it’s a big deal, don’t get me wrong.

    Re. other greetings, I work at a casual company. I’m used to the short, casual wave or head nod from 5 billion internal meetings and passing people in hallways. I’m fine with continuing that, when/if I ever return to the physical office. Practically the only people whose hands I used to shake were customers or contractors, in the super-rare meetings with them (and sometimes we didn’t shake hands anyway). We’ll be fine with the quick wave and nod, I’m sure.

    I mean we do that in social situations, too – the wave/node. It’s was normal pre-pandemic, so I see no need to find an awkward physical touch to replace friendly, non-touching greeting/acknowledgements of yore! No need for fist or elbow bumps, please. (TBH if I don’t want to shake hands, why would I want other parts of our hands to touch? Fist bumps make little more sense than handshakes during a pandemic, IMHO.)

  57. Just a quick P.S., sorry: Did people really handshake much in social situations pre-pandemic (i.e., not business meetings or other business-related activities)? I feel like that’s not something our social circles have ever done. Maybe occasionally if some acquaintances from long ago showed up, but in that case a hug was more likely – or not, depending on on the people.

    The only other time I can think of is sometimes when meeting someone for the first time. “X, this is my friend Y.” ::handshake::

    The only major social handshaking I remember was decades ago, a friend in college usually shook hands with people regularly. It was an endearing quirk of his — not something the rest of us did.

    So I’m really curious, pre-pandemic, did y’all shake hands with your friends all the time???

  58. Close friends & family, yes. Everyone else I think I’ll go with a bow. After I ask if the person has been vaccinated.

  59. God, how I miss hugs. I’m a pretty extreme introvert, so I don’t need a lot of personal interaction, but I need hugs.

    I work in theatre, and theatrefolk are, by and large, exceedingly huggy people. There are exceptions, for sure, but the vast majority of my circle are highly tactile, myself absolutely included. Most of us hug – and some kiss – in greeting, especially when we see someone we haven’t seen in a while. And as a free-lancer, that’s my life! I go from theatre to theatre – and get hugged often at all of them. My college students tend to run up and group-hug me when I show up after an absence of a few weeks.

    So I feel like someone who has been feasting for 35 years, suddenly experiencing famine. I am aching for hugs. The idea of them – the longing – is a real, physical, wrenching pain. And the knowledge that it’s going to be years before it gets like it was – if it ever does – is dreadful.

    I surely understand that it’s a small thing, in the broad scope of the pandemic. People are losing loved ones, are suffering terribly, are experiencing dreadful long-term symptoms, and are losing livelihoods (my own industry has entirely evaporated). The loss of hugs is a drop in an immense bucket.

    But I miss them sorely.

  60. First, to answer Kendall – being an informal American, I’ve never shaken hands with friends, only with strangers I’m meeting for the first time. But I was raised Catholic and had to get used to the “peace be with you” handshake during Mass, which involves whoever happens to be nearby – family, neighbors, strangers.
    I’m not a natural toucher so, with the exception of family, I’ve always let others initiate hugs (which I was always fine with). After Covid is beaten back, I suspect I will be much less tolerant of casual hugs, and handshakes can go the way of the dodo.

  61. Response to Kendall: Probably 95% of my pre-pandemic handshaking was upon first introductions to people. I’ve found it very rare among folks already acquainted.

  62. Going back to Before Covid (is this the new B.C.?), I was an occasional hugger with family, close friends, and, very rarely, professional associates with whom I had an escalated connection.

    Until we are After Covid (A.C.?), it’s a once-in-a-while (and usually awkward) elbow bump.

    I carry some dread for my family’s Christmas gathering, what with my close family (about an hour away on the other side of Atlanta) are all much too cavalier about the threat that lengthy maskless interaction offers. My father seems to feel that pleading ignorance is a safe choice and doesn’t want to believe that he’s at-risk if he doesn’t take precautions.

  63. My personal space has always been small, hugs were fine with me. I still hug my grandchildren, outside, faces turned away, but miss cuddling the babies. I keep my distance from strangers, always wear a mask and it may take several years of vaccines, and Covid being preventable/treatable, to undo that.

    With cases rising here in NY, I may not be hugging my grandchildren in the coming months. The separations, even for the holidays, are worth it so we can all have many years together in the future.

  64. Bought a car the other day. We all agreed it felt weird not to shake hands at the end of the transaction. I still think I’ll remain in the Nodding category in this type of situation going forward. With friends, I greet them saying I wish I could hug them. We tend to depart with a one handed, bodies apart, back slap. When this is all over I will be hugging them again.

  65. I’m a big hugger..
    To all humans who want hugs..
    Fills my soul..
    I’ve continued to hug throughout covid – carefully and only to those who are ok with it..
    People are definitely more relaxed generally speaking – and hugs abound in my world and always will..
    I do understand anyone who wishes not to..
    I just don’t fall into that category..

  66. I wasn’t a hugger as a kid, or young adult. Did it awkwardly for a decade or so thereafter. Really got comfortable with hugging in my late forties. Now, in my lat(er) fifties, I’m comfy with it and great at it, until of course the shitstorm hit. I won’t be hugging anyone except my mom, son, or girlfriend. As far as greetings…Spock’s hand gesture. Live long and prosper. Elbow bump to the non nerds, I guess.

  67. I don’t miss hugs AND everybody said I was the best hugger in my toastmasters club. (All the other clubs shook hands hello, but not ours) We hugged goodby too.

    I associate hugs with artists and theatre people, like Elizabeth, and I would hate to see hugs become expected for everyday life around normal capitalists. Because some people, like a famous person with orange hair, I don’t want to hug.

    In that 1980’s book Generation X there was a cartoon of a young lady on the telephone to her mother saying, (from memory) “You wouldn’t understand. People hug around here.” Meaning that in most social settings hugs were not normal in 1980, but now from my covid-time reading that may have changed.

    There is a scene in the early 1980’s Odyssey-5 where a grown son starts to shake hands with his fighter pilot dad, as usual, only to get hugged. That is because, unbeknownst to the son, his dad has just returned from five years into the future. But no, his dad wouldn’t normally hug.

    We know which dogs don’t want to be petted, and which people don’t want to be hugged. But they (the people) will still shake paws… So to me hugs were always an optional thing; hence I would carefully match my hug to the person. Like matching a handshake, I guess.

    I’m fine now; after covid I’ll be totally back to hugs.

  68. I suppose I’ll have to follow whatever social conventions emerge in the aftertimes, but if it’s a matter of my personal preferences, I want to hug people more. I miss it a lot, and realize now that I never appreciated it enough before. Giving it up would feel tragic.

  69. I would be MORE THAN FINE with no hugs. Ever again. DO NOT TOUCH. Seriously just no. I would love it if handshakes went extinct also. Polite nod and eye contact ( not a stare down, come on people don’t make it weird) from too far to grab is perfect.

  70. On a random note, i don’t really get the fist/elbow bump as a replacement for the handshake. If we’re not supposed to be touching AT ALL, that’s still…touching and getting within six feet. So why has that presumably become a thing?

    I assume I’ll be politely waving from a distance for the rest of eternity, though.

    I live alone and while that’s great for safety, god, I wish I could safely pod with huggers. But…not an option.

  71. My best friend (a guy I’ve called my “little brother” for about 30 + years) and I have both gone through a lot of crap and losses in the last year and a half. As soon as it’s safe, we’re going to hug. We need it!

  72. Since you asked, I have had a hankering for an almost random hug for some time. I have had a hankering for a bunch of things that I didn’t know I needed until it came up.

    My base of social structure isn’t on hugging much more than trees and my partner, but every once in a while on came by that raised my spirits for a time. A bunch of other things used to do that too, though i don’t know what all I am missing anymore.

    The world, and the perceptions of the people populating it, has changed. I can see a few scenarios where a bunch of hugs happen, some good, some not, then i see people getting sheepish and shying away from them for a long while.

    By the way, thanks for bringing up one of the things that seem to be lost, but are obscure in our bewildered minds, the world has changed so much, it will take us a while to get used to this new one.

  73. Once it’s safe, hugging will resume with the inner circle, assuming they’re cool with it. I miss those hugs. Beyond the inner circle, maybe not. My casual hug threshold was pretty low before all this started, but that will probably change.

    As for shaking hands… Not gonna lie, I’m going to miss it. That particular social ritual resonates with me in a way that a wave or an elbow bump can’t match. I don’t really know why. If we have to leave it behind, then so be it, but I hope we come up with something that serves the same emotional function without physical contact. If someone wanted to popularize the “Live Long and Prosper” sign as a handshake replacement, I’d take a look at that proposal.

  74. I’ll hug back but don’t initiate them unless it’s a relative or a truly special personal friend, in both cases knowing it’s ok with them already. I’d do elbows or fist bumps if offered and that’s how things roll going forward, but also probably wouldn’t initiate. I’ve pretty much internalized the 6′ distance at this point and don’t have a problem with it. I have a husband and a choice of two rough collies for hugging so I’m good to go on that score in any case.

  75. I’ve become a fan of the elbow bump, perhaps because it feels so odd and thus perfectly suits our current unsettling global predicaments.

  76. Never mind hugging, I’m going to do a lot of mask-wearing for a long time after the pandemic is over. Don’t miss getting flus, colds and other non-covid diseases either.

  77. I come from a long line of New England Yankee Reserve, so I’ve never been much of a hugger outside of family and very close friends. The elbow bump thing strikes me a physically awkward, but I’m more than willing to do the fist bump.

  78. I have a weird set of feelings around physical contact. The things that have been ritualized, like handshakes and hugs between family/close friends I don’t think twice about. But other contact bothers me. And not just myself being touched; watching others being touched. I was once watching a panel at Blizzcon of voice actors that was moderated by their director, and she was the type of person who talks with her hands and will casually touch others to punctuate her points. I’m positive the people she was touching on stage had no problem with it, but every time I watched her just casually lay a hand on a shoulder in the middle of a sentence made me wince.

  79. I’m not a natural hugger. But being in theatre, there was a lot of casual hugging. And I think for my close friends, I got comfortable with that.

    Not sure how it’s going to work out when the vaccine rolls out. For one thing…90% is very good, but being part of the 10% is…unsettling.

  80. I’m a hugger (with permission, of course) and miss it. I’ll definitely hug again once things have settled down.

    I’m confident that the handshake will come back, though obviously not over night. It’s survived multiple pandemics through the centuries, not sure why this one would knock it out.

  81. When we moved away from Hawai’i (a very “huggy” culture), I had to learn not to hug. I’m back in Hawai’i, and I guess we’ll all have to learn how to deal. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.

  82. Hugs I kind of miss. But the future is the future, and we’ll just have to see.

    What I will not miss is guys who’ve been spending too much time in the gym looking at themselves in the mirror trying to show how strong their grips are when shaking hands. Leaving aside the whole “dominance game” nonsense, that’s just not something that mere weightlifters should want to get into with pianists and touch-typists <vbeg>

  83. I only liked hugging people who I already am close to so not hugging “strangers” isn’t much of an issue. My husband and I are going to start greeting people who in the past got a hand shake with two hands palms together at nose level with a slight bow. It’s respectful of the person and the space between.

  84. I love hugs, and pre covid, I was happy to hug willing family, friends, and sometimes strangers who requested it if they seemed non-creepy.

    I’ve cut out hugging since the pandemic, and it stinks. It’s really hard for me to miss out on my love language. But I don’t want to get anyone sick, and as long as my mental health isn’t in serious jeopardy, protecting others is more important.

    I would love to go back to more frequent hugs when this is over (with those people similarly willing to hug). Maybe fewer people will want hugs, but that’s okay – I know which of my friends are avid huggers, if I need a hug. I’m pretty healthy, so I’m not phobic about getting a run of the mill cold, and I get flu shots annually.

    Besides regular hugging, I also hope to return to social dances, like swing dance. I learned a few English country dances on the JoCo cruise in March, and that was a delight.

  85. I like the elbow strategy. It goes along really well with my other pandemic habit: attempting (and mostly succeeding!) to open various doors with an elbow (and maybe a foot, too). I have a move that’s very much like the Jurassic park scene when the velociraptor figures out how to open the door to the kitchen.

    See, I decided all by myself that this will save me, keeping my hands off doorknobs and such that could be covered in coronavirus particles or whatever. I hope people will observe me and take it up. (I was an English major, I studied aesthetics, and you know, it’s actually really very logical so just give me a break already, OK?? Oops I didn’t mean you.)

    I hate hugging because I associate it with weird old relatives and perfumes and lotions that a) I’m horribly allergic to and b) scent that stays on your hands and hair for like three days is icky. (See, I was the baby of the family and maybe .. too cute? Apologies to my big brother!) Pre-COVID I have been known to appear at other people’s families houses and say things like “Oh, you guys .. all hug? Um, I guess okay.” (while I’m already smushed up into some semi-stranger’s armpit because we are all arriving at the same holiday party at the same time? Sure.)

    OTOH pre-COVID I always reached out to shake hands particularly when meeting men because I was a young-looking skinny little girl for such a long time, and it disarms people when you do this. Or something. I don’t know what I’ll do about that ‘when this is over.’ Maybe I’ll be so old when I am out of quarantine, it won’t matter anymore. So back up to bumping elbows? It SOUNDS lame but if you are already using it to open the door creatively, it kinda makes sense to give a little wave. As much as anything makes sense. Good post, thanks!

  86. Count me on the hugger side of the aisle. Once a vaccine is widely available, I’ll be happy to go back to hugging – no touching now since March. But only with permission, so I’ll probably be prefacing any contact with a cheerful, “Are we hugging? Vaccinated?” Otherwise, I’ll skip the elbow or fist bump nonsense and go with something Black Panther-ish.

  87. I’ve always been a hugger. I dislike not being able to hug people now especially when I want to offer comfort. I plan on going back to hugging anyone who will let me once this is all under control and we have a vaccine.

    In fact, one of my favorite youtubers, Doctor mike, said in a recent video that we actually need to go back to at least handshakes and not wearing masks once we have a vaccine and have her immunity because our immune systems need the challenge.

    And I agree. He didn’t go into the details, but I know that there has been extensive research on how not having enough pathogens in our life can cause the immune system to go haywire and develop allergies. If we don’t use our immune systems properly, they go looking for something to attack that isn’t an invader.

  88. I don’t really like hugs that much. With my family I’m okay, but others not so much. At my previous job that COVID caused my lay-off from, if someone wanted a hug (mostly women) I tried to be friendly about it, but didn’t really feel totally comfortable. I put up with it so as not to have an awkward moment.

    Handshakes are alright with me. I’m hoping to be able to go back to them as soon as possible when it is safe, but I imagine that won’t be until forever. I think the go to is fist bumps as you said, John.

  89. Very much non-hugger. You know how you hunt for silver linings? One pandemic silver lining for me is that I’m no longer forced to choose either to take the “bad guy” position of refusing a hug that is thrust upon me, or to accept an unwanted intrusion into my bodily autonomy.

    I also may very well never shake a hand again in my life. I saw a handshake in the wild about a week ago and it freaked me out. Like, I had a small physical reaction to seeing it.

  90. I’m squarely team hugger. When the vaccine is broadly available, I expect the Great Sorting to commence, as my likeminded new friends create puppy piles the size of major metroplexes and the non-huggers flee for the coasts.

    That being said, I’m completely on board with no more physical contact of any kind in business situations, ever.

    Also, I’ve been really comfortable with the degree to which people make less eye contact and don’t face each other as much during the pandemic. Sadly, that will probably go away.

  91. To grow up autistic is to observe human physical interactions weaponized as a means of social control. Handshaking is awkward at best. How much pressure, how much eye contact, how long to hold grip, is my palm sweaty? Is theirs? Never liked it. Don’t miss it at all.

    Hugging is also a major occasion for dominance games. Children used as proxies for deference to elderly & unfamiliar relatives – glad that’s gone, for the time being at least. An autistic child is likely to miss out on warnings from other kids such as, “Watch out for Uncle So-and-So; he’s a bit handsy when he’s had a few beers.” Nowadays there’s more awareness, compared with when I grew up, of adults who are more about servicing their own needs than making an appropriate display of affection to a child. Current COVID avoidance practices, however, might actually stop them from doing it.

    The world has every reason to hope for a speedy resolution to the pandemic. I don’t begrudge those who love hugs a chance to get back to it ASAP! Me though, I’m happy to incline the head, sketch a salute with index finger, do the “sawasdee” Thai gesture, or indicate thanks east-Asian style with right hand wrapped around left fist at chest level, accompanied by a slight bow.

  92. I try never to hug people who don’t want to be hugged (this includes several reasonably close friends). But I like to hug my friends. Hugging strangers is mostly weird although once or twice I have asked for a hug from someone I admire. I do not expect to be given it. It is a gift. But god I miss hugging. I will go back to hugging those who let me just as soon as it is allowed and I may hang on for seconds longer than I would have done for the first few hugs each.
    If I offer a hug (To friends :arms held wide, query face, to strangers: “Can I get a hug?”) and you don’t want it, just say no (or shake your head).
    I don’t shake hands much unless it’s work related…. People squeeze and it hurts.

  93. Never was a hugger. It would be fine with me if social boundaries get reset to the point where the only hugs a person received were from close family members and extremely good friends. No invasions of personal space by casual acquaintances or co-workers a person barely tolerates to begin with.

  94. I agree with Nan, above. Don’t assume you’re in *my* ‘hug circle.’

    I prefer handshakes to fist-bumps, and that silly elbow bump, just no. Shake hands and then use sanitizer if you must. I stay at home even more than ever. Most people I know have moderated their ‘social interaction’ to a smaller circle; less ‘going out’ even if bars and restaurants are open.

  95. I’ve got nothing but waves, nods and verbal greetings for folks not part of my household.

    I’m blind and can’t hear smiles, nods or waves but won’t mind verbal greetings.

    I can hear masks and the lack thereof and have neither verbal or non-verbal greetings for bare-faced, friends, relatives, colleagues or strangers.

  96. I am a hugger. The first few months of this pandemic were painful for me. I live alone and am kind of an introvert and I’ve been single for a long time. Hugging was the simple thing that made me feel less lonely. Towards the end of summer, the other huggers in my circle said screw it and we started hugging again. I even started dating someone again (brief romance) and the loss of the physical touch afterwards was more than I had anticipated. I am still struggling with it.

    I hate the fist bump and the elbow thing. I’d rather just nod or wave. I work in a manufacturing environment and there have been a lot of new hires this year and not being able to see people’s faces or shake their hands at the first greeting feels all sorts of wrong.

  97. Not a native hugger, except for close family, but became one in specific contexts after singing in a large women’s chorus. I miss singing, and hugging my singer people.

    My doctor does an elbow bump now. I like it. Even just a little chicken-wing move is cheerful and intentional. To me it communicates, ‘Hey fellow human I would shake hands with you if I could, but we both remember that you are high-risk in health and I am high-risk in profession.’ Guessing we’ll stick with that.

    After traveling in SE Asia, I better understood the use of the wai and I find that works very well in broader friend circles. I intend to keep using that.

  98. My sister, who knows I love her more than anyone else in the multiverse (besides my self, because who am I kidding), knows that on the rare occasions when I hug her I must REALLY be feeling love for her. Hugs from casual acquaintances? What are they, perverts?
    And in my younger days it really offended me that salesmen didn’t seem to be aware that etiquette rules clearly stated that women initiated handshakes, you didn’t force handshakes on them. I’ve given up on that one. Doesn’t mean I like it.
    COVID didn’t change my reaction to hugs or handshakes one bit.

  99. I’m a hugger, and my circle of friends is established enough that I know who does and doesn’t want them. But man, I miss hugs. I like handshakes, too, though I expect to replace them either with fist bumps (with friends), or a small bow (more formal).

  100. I love the new paradigm making it okay to refuse phycial contact. I have always hated touching or being touched by people, with the exception of super-close relatives (my current list of acceptable touchers consists only of my spouse and my kids).

    It’s just fine that greetings now can be limited to a wave and/or head nod, and I intend to keep going this way for the foreseeable future.

  101. I’ll go by what I’ve been doing before: if I don’t know the person likes to hug, I ask if it’s okay to hug, and also say out loud it’s really okay to say no if it isn’t. I really love hugging and human touch. But I hate if there’s a feeling it’s coerced, so I try to make as sure as possible it won’t be like that for anyone.

    In my country, nobody really shakes hands, with the exception of politicians and businesspeople. Hugging is also a bit rare, depending on the social bubble you happen to live in. Waves, nods, and purely verbal greetings are the norm I think.

  102. I’m with that cat. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is not having to deal with hugs from well-meaning friends.

    I’m hoping that my typically British nod and “Alright then?” will continue to suffice.

  103. Team no hugs here. Close relatives, good friends, ok. Else nods and handwaves. I expect handshakes will come back as a formal gesture (and dominance game for some). Martial arts are already bowing, which works fine. As small businesses, though, I’ve heard rumors they are in trouble.

  104. Probably going to be the only voice of dissent here.

    Before coronavirus, I had been dancing close embrace Argentine Tango for 14 years. The last time I danced was on March 15th, after which all the dance places in the Bay Area decided to shut down.

    Though we miss the intimacy of the embrace, the consensus among dancers, is to wait and see the effects of the vaccines, and observe what happens after the measures taken by a Biden presidency go into effect.

  105. I don’t hug, I don’t like touching people – I come from a British family. I have enjoyed not feeling the need to awkwardly hug during this pandemic – and I will never be a hugger.

  106. No hugging and no hand-shaking would have to be a couple of the very few things I’m not having any problem at all with right now. I hate touching other people’s hands, and the people I hugged pre-Covid were only relatives from out-of-town and my hubby. (I still hug him, though.) If I never have to touch another damp, clammy, sweaty, reptilian hand in greeting, I will consider myself most fortunate. I’m hoping that we normalize just a kick in the pants or something in greeting.

  107. The culture I live in now is very big on personal contact, whereas the culture I came from is more reserved. It took me years to be comfortable with the casual hug, but only days during COVID to resurrect the standoffish habits I grew up with. It’s hitting my children’s librarian hard; she grew up here, and until this spring she got hugs from children daily, plus friends and acquaintances.

  108. My expectation is that, once the vaccine is out and the virus is curtailed, I’ll be ‘going back to business as usual’.

    I don’t think that less personal contact is necessarily a good thing in our society. We’re already more distant, due to social media and other cultural changes, than we probably should be.

    I’ll be happy to go back to normal myself, but I’m not going to push anything on folks either. Everyone’s entitled to control their own space after all. So if someone’s not comfortable, that’s just fine.

    But me, I’ll be fine with hugs and handshakes again and hope that they come right back.

  109. I’m British and a slightly shy hugger, when it’s appropriate to hug. Some people hug way too much and inappropriately (like at work).
    My family always hugged each other. My wife never hugs.
    I really need a hug right now.

    This topic has got nearly as many comments as some of the political posts, who would have guessed that!

  110. I have not been in the military, and don’t have any love for authoritarian rigor, but I can honestly say that I like a small, soft salute as a no-contact greeting. Why not? It doesn’t invade anyone’s personal space or require unwanted touching.

  111. Handshakes: learned to do ’em in high school debate, to disregard any ick factor. As a woman in computer programming starting in the late 70s, I got occasional compliments on my willing, firm handshake. No one has ever squeezed too hard. Someone above said they are a power play. Huh? I guess I can play back atcha.

    Hugs: learned to do ’em in high school theatre. When I first left for college, to be gone for 4 months, I hugged my parents in the airport. Each of them just stood there like a stick. Got more practice hugging at SF conventions. I loved hugging anyone I could name, even if I hadn’t given them a thought for a year.

    I’d be fine with returning to the status quo ante.

  112. I’ve become a hugger through becoming part of several social circles that are big huggers, and now I’m used to it. But I agree that now I’ll have to tier people as to whether or not they get hugs.

  113. I was always in the take-it-or-leave-it camp for hugs (I don’t initiate, but was okay with them).
    I’m also a stilts performer, so that has presented the unusual challenge of figuring out how to interact without the primary shtick of our trade: high fives. We’ve come up with some alternatives, but it’ll be interesting to see if we’ll see the same eagerness for high fives from our audiences after this.

  114. As for handshakes being a hurtful dominance thing, which to me is rare, I was struck one day:

    The group Up With People was in town, and after a show on campus they were in the student lounge. The group, which performs internationally, is of young people, just out of high school, who get service clubs to sponsor them and then go off to join the group. I knew a former member, and so lots of the performers shook my hand hello. Their handclasps were all normal and soft, I mean ALL.

    I realized this was not because “performers are artsy,” but because they had left home without time to be taught that for job interviews, or the business world, a handshake is “supposed to” be really strong. The young people were being honest, that’s all.

  115. I miss hugging friends and will return to it when it’s safe.

    That said, I’m reminded of something that happened to me just before the pandemic. I was at a Meetup. Things were wrapping up. A person I just met came at me with arms open, saying “I’m a hugger.” I had practically no choice and don’t mind that much, so we hugged. But I was thinking, “this person doesn’t understand hug consent.”