I’m a hugger. Growing up in an Italian family, hugging was the first thing you did when greeting relatives and friends. When meeting a stranger for the first time, the 2-minute rule applied…talk for two minutes and then hug!

Hugging is an expression of affection, love and friendship unless of course, you were my Uncle Guido. He hugged just to make sure the other person wasn’t packing…if you know what I mean. Hugging was his way of practicing the old saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Happily, he was the exception to the rule…even in our family.

In this unique time of the COVID, common expressions of affection like hugging, patting, kissing, and handshaking have been put on hold. We’ve been asked to ‘socially distance’ ourselves from others and with good reason. The ‘logic’ of not hugging however cannot override the need to hug. Of course, Jeff and I are free to hug each other, having been quarantined together for 36 years…I mean several weeks! But there’s a point of ‘hugging overload’ even for my even-tempered, easy going husband and I get it. However, for a hugger, I’m going through hugging ‘withdrawal’.

So why is hugging so essential? The word ‘hug’ is believed to come from the Old Norse language. It appeared approximately 450 years ago in Scandinavia as the word ‘hugga’ meaning ‘to comfort’. The history of ‘hugging’ as an act of affection has many ‘suggested’ histories but nothing that’s carved in marble…or provable.

Until the time we’re all enjoying hugging again, what can we do to stay connected? Smile. Wave. Make eye contact. Blow a kiss. Wiggle your eye-brows. Revert to sheets…bed sheets to be exact.

One of my dearest and most loved girlfriends is more concerned about touching, kissing, hugging and other COVID-forbidden tactile signs of affection than I am. At first, I tried to convince her to be cautious rather than crazy and then I realized that I was doing her a disservice. Everyone, EVERYONE has a right to their feeling, thinking and reaction to COVID and it is her right to react the way she does and my responsibility to respect her decision. Her birthday was coming up and she agreed to have dinner at our home, as long as it was outside on the deck, we wear masks and remained socially distant. All doable. All done. At the end of the evening she looked at me and said, “I really miss our hugs.” We stood there, with tears in our eyes, staring at each other – 6’feet apart, when it hit me – OH SHEET! I ran to the linen closet, pulled out a clean sheet, and ran back fully draped in the sheet. Casper the friendly ghost would have been proud as I weaved between the furniture and avoided falling down the stairs. I stood 6’ away and my friend, feeling safe, came over and we hugged. It was the BEST hug ever. We laughed, cried and discovered a safe hug approach.

If you have a heartbeat and a pulse, you need physical contact. Whether you’re a hundred hug a day person or just one, find a way to stay connected. As Dan Pearce, author of the blog, Single Dad Laughing said, “Some moments can only be cured with a big squishy grandma hug.”

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay sane.

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