i have hugged exactly two people since the pandemic started.
two people. one is my husband, who i’ve been hugging daily. and, this past wednesday, finally, at long last, after seven months of not seeing him, and with great forethought, i hugged my son. that’s it. no best friends. no dear friends. no sweet neighbors. no co-workers. no one else. just two. matter of fact, i had an extended conversation a while back with my daughter and, in the middle of a discussion about possibly having a long-long-long overdue visit out in the high mountains and the absolute need to hug, even mask-on-face-turned, her admonishment to stave me away from the rampant numbers there at that time, “how will you not hug me, mom?”
so walking in front of the neighborhood store, about to put my mask on, imagine my astonishment when someone i haven’t seen in almost a decade called out my name, ran up and hugged me. HUGGED me.
this was an adult! an adult exhaling cigarette smoke. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on and no acknowledgement that i was in the process of putting my mask on but hadn’t completed the motion. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on and no acknowledgement of my incomplete-mask-putting-on-action who completely ignored my stepping-back-hand-out-clear-non-verbal-please-back-the-****-up behavior.
daaaaaaamn. i was shocked. it’s a freaking pandemic. my hug-quota is sorely lacking and yet, it is i who should choose who i would like to sacrifice my safety for in order to hug. did i mention? it’s a pandemic!
when i regained my composure on the sidewalk a few blocks away, i reviewed my actions. david, who was clear i did not want to hug this person, said i sent all the right signals. i reviewed it all again. i mean, i am a huggy person and this person would likely remember me as such. this wasn’t a cold reaction to the person; it was a reaction to the social distancing guidelines that we have been encouraged to follow in order to not spread or contract covid-19. i mean, it’s a pandemic!
what would YOU do?
i suppose next time – if this happens again – i could, as fast as my mouth could manage, say, “it-would-be-nice-to-be-able-to-hug-you-but-right-now-in-the-pandemic-i-am-not-hugging-people-sorry-don’t-take-it-personally.” only this wouldn’t have worked. she came at me in a warped speed tunnel…she went directly from the curb to hugging in seconds flat without stopping, without exhaling the cigarette smoke, without donning a mask, without passing go, without collecting $200, without stopping to think, “oh yeah, it’s a pandemic! i shouldn’t be hugging her.”
or, since that likely wouldn’t work in the warp-speed version, i could say in a loud assertive outdoor voice, “back up!” or i could use 20’s spicier version of that (only i won’t print that here.)
either way, it’s alarming to be put in a position like that.
david’s momma told us about a woman who spontaneously hugged her when jeanne gave the woman tomatoes. it horrified my mother-in-law, who then went home and showered and washed all her clothes. at the time i wondered how that could ever happen. well. silly me. s**t happens.
this is such an odd time. it’s scary all the way around. we have been inordinately careful, like many of our dearest friends. we are making choices based on what are the safest behaviors. the fact that someone can just arbitrarily take away your choice – during a pandemic (don’t know if i mentioned that yet) – is bracing.
i will have to have a plan of action for the next time. practice it. evaluate it. practice it again. make it a reflex. and make it flipping obvious.
in the meanwhile, i want my hug back. i need it for people i have actually been dying to hug.
BACK UP! from PIETA ©️ 2010 david robinson