How We Hug Now

We’re still figuring it out.,

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Welcome. Last weekend I went to a party where I reunited with several friends I hadn’t seen since early 2020 or before. I greeted each with The New Hug.

The New Hug is a highly choreographed affair, beginning with an eager approach, the natural inclination to gather someone you’re happy to see in joyful embrace. Then there’s the pause just before contact, wherein you consider protocol, make eye contact, is this OK, is touching OK?

The pause is typically followed by both parties flinging wide their arms. The wingspan of The New Hug is infinite, a theatrical “Bring it in!” gesture so exaggerated it could be seen from space. Then comes actual embrace — really more of a dramatic air kiss over one another’s shoulders. One person might give the other a little squeeze, but it’s over quickly in peals of awkward laughter. Then we beat a rapid retreat back to our personal space behind our invisible fences.

This is my New Hug. Yours may differ, if you’re giving hugs at all. “It feels good to shake hands,” a person I met for the first time at the party said to me. Early on in the pandemic, we focused so hard on our hands: Scrub them for the length of two “Happy Birthday”s, disinfect them after every door opened, keep them away from our faces. Definitely keep them away from other people.

Every touch now carries with it a history of not touching, of careful ministrations and the assessment of risk. Will our gestures always be this overdetermined? Over time, perhaps, The New Hug will evolve or fade away. But this new appreciation for each fleeting moment of contact, the meaning in every casual touch — I hope that won’t ever going away.

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After reading Warren Ellis’s book “Nina Simone’s Gum,” I was introduced to the music of Nick Cave. I knew Cave’s name, but he was always one of those artists I told myself I would eventually get around to. Well, I guess the time is now. A random search on Spotify led me to a 2013 album, “Live From KCRW.” It’s a beautifully recorded, echoey almost “greatest hits” collection. I’ve been slowly going through his catalog, starting with his most recent work and traveling backward in time. I’ve also watched two documentaries about him, “20,000 Days on Earth” and “One More Time With Feeling.” I’m absolutely enthralled. He’s also written a few novels that I’m yet to get to, but they are on my list.

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Tell us.

How have you been greeting others these days? Do you have your own version of The New Hug? The New Handshake? Tell us: athome@nytimes.com. 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. See you Friday.

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