The Anatomy of ‘New Hugs’

And handshakes.,


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Welcome. The holidays approach, and with them, the excitement tinged with concern we’ve come to associate with get-togethers in the pandemic. This year, vaccinations affect the calculations. We’re titrating our levels of anticipation and anxiety as we work out what a Thanksgiving gathering looks like in 2021. Indoors or out? Masked or not? Buffet or family-style? How many guests? How close will we sit? What will we talk about? What won’t we talk about?

If you’re planning to see friends and family for the holidays, you’ll probably need to negotiate what I recently called “The New Hug,” the sometimes-awkward way we greet each other now. I asked last week about the changes your own hugs and handshakes have undergone. Here’s what you said. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

“I like to call The New Hug ‘Hey Buddy.’ This hug is done with one arm extended over the shoulder of the recipient to give a little squeeze as both parties face the same direction. I haven’t actually initiated this hug but I have been the recipient so many times I am guessing it’s catching on.” –Michele Medina, Daytona Beach, Fla.

“New Hug? No thanks. I’m taking advantage of these times to (finally) be honest and tell people I don’t want to hug, and it feels good. Some of it’s about specific people I don’t want to hug, but I’m just extending it to everybody so it won’t be awkward. Most of my friends aren’t huggers anyway, so it’s working out well.” –Elizabeth Fox, Campbell, Calif.

“What mainly changed for me is the smile around the eyes, since the lower part of our faces are now mostly hidden away to keep each other safe. I share more squinting and smiling eyes with people I interact with, be it in the park on my walks, with the people at the bakery, my neighbors. After all, smiles don’t cost a thing but it can change someone’s day to the better! And from all the smiles I receive in return, I really feel like this is The New Hug for me.” –Regina Mayr, London

“My version of The New Hug has been at first asking ‘Are you doing hugs?,’ or ‘May I give you a hug?’ When I receive an affirmation, my body as it comes into contact rolls off to one side, my head turned away from the receiver’s face. It’s a shorter version than The Before Hug, and more of a gesture than an actual physical connection. It does not feel like The Real Deal Hug. For now, it will suffice.” –Kari Wishingrad, Anacortes, Wash.

“My new handshake is baking goods for my loved and treasured ones, to provide some small measure of comfort and sustenance.” –Maria D. Medina-Whitfield, Slidell, La.


Check out this article about “time millionaires” from The Guardian. A sample: “The enforced downtime of the pandemic caused many of us to reassess our attitudes to work, and whether we might be able to lead less lucrative but more fulfilling lives.”

Ric Robertson’s “Getting Over Our Love” is one of those new songs that feels like an old song. I had the sense that I knew it by heart the first time I heard it. Have a listen.

I spent a surprising amount of time perusing the U.S.P.S.’s Postal Facts site, where I learned, among many other tidbits sure to help me in some future bar trivia contest, that Abraham Lincoln was a postmaster early in his career. Fascinating!

Tell us.

What are you planning for Thanksgiving? Will you gather in person? Have a virtual feast? Travel, stay at home? Tell us: Be sure to include your full name and location and we might feature your response in a future newsletter. We’re At Home and Away. We’ll read every letter sent. And of course you’ll find more ideas for passing the time below.

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