| By Debra Adams Simmons, HISTORY Executive Editor
Searching the aisles of my neighborhood hardware store Saturday for the ever elusive hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and Lysol spray, recommended armor in the fight against COVID-19, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in several years. We approached each other with extended arms, but instead of going in for a hug we recoiled. We proceeded to have an awkward— and brief—conversation standing three or four feet apart.
From the passing of the peace in churches, or a moment described in some religious traditions as extending the right hand of fellowship to your neighbor, to the two-cheek kisses in much of the world, embracing is part of the human tradition across cultures. The handshake, sometimes offered when we meet someone new or to signal that a deal is sealed, stretches from Ancient Greece to Quakers, Nat Geo’s Nina Strochlic writes.
Social grace is being overtaken by social isolation, an important new phrase in the international vernacular, in the age of novel coronavirus. It is believed that “distancing” ourselves will halt the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. But it is socially awkward to wave at friends while avoiding them or to give strangers the side eye while wondering if they’re vectors, super spreaders of the disease, and it’s borderline rude to hope no one gets too close in the grocery store. God forbid someone should touch us.
How are you dealing with social distancing? Do you have any tips to share? Let us know, and we may share a few of your ideas with fellow readers. We’re all in this together. Stay safe, everyone.