When director Mike Nichols came to this country from Germany at the age of five, he was able to say just two things in English: “I don’t speak English,” and “Please don’t kiss me.”
I can so relate to this.
I have never enjoyed being kissed or hugged. I’m not wild about hand-holding either. It’s not that I’m afraid of everyday germs. Nor is this the result of any childhood trauma. There’s just always been something deeply off-putting to me about being grabbed and smooshed against another person’s body, or having to hold onto their clammy hand.
I never got the appeal.
“But everybody loves a hug!” you protest. “Hugging is good for you. It expresses comfort and love. It makes you happy! It reduces your blood pressure and boosts your endorphins!”
There’s even an annual National Hug Day on which the act of embracing people is celebrated. Nope. Not for me. I’m just not feeling it.
And when it comes to hand shaking? People think I’m weird if I don’t offer them my hand when we meet, and rude if I don’t immediately grab theirs when they extend it. I do it if I must. But I sure don’t enjoy it.
There are just two exceptions to my Hug Reluctance. A hug from a child can be magical. When my grandson races over to give me a big hug, my heart melts. (And I’m always glad to take his hand when it’s time to cross the street.)
And behind closed doors with my sweetie? Kissing, hugging, and hand-holding are more than welcome.
But if you don’t fall into either of those categories? Hands off.
I’ve gone through life telling my hugging and hand-grabbing friends that no, I don’t want a hug. Really. I don’t. They always find it hard to believe. It’s taken years for me to get my pal Deb not to greet me with a warm, enthusiastic, embracing, loving, happy hug.
But now? COVID-19 has changed everything. Suddenly social distancing is all the rage. Nobody wants a hug. Nobody wants you to grab their hand. Nobody wants a friendly kiss on the cheek from you.
I see this playing out over and over while walking through my neighborhood. Somebody moves in for a friendly hug — and their intended victim steps back and holds up their hand, signaling Back off, buster!
All I can say is —welcome to my world!
I really hate COVID-19. I hate the fact that the virus has killed thousands of people and sickened far more, and I hate what it’s done to our daily lives. Except for one thing. I have to admit that for folks like me (and I’m not the only one), living in a world without hugs and hand-holding feels great.
I love being able to interact with people without having to brace for contact. You may be going through hug withdrawal. But I’m thriving.
Will social distancing become the new normal? By the time this all blows over, will all the touchy-feely stuff have become obsolete? Will folks come to appreciate navigating social space without being hugged and held and hand-grabbed and pecked on the cheek?
Who am I kidding?
People love to hug. And that’s okay.
By the time National Hugging Day rolls around next January 21, 2021, I truly hope that this pandemic has become a distant memory, and I can go through the day the way I usually do — dodging friendly hugs.
It’ll be a small price to pay.