Sage Advice: Pandemic Raises Behavioral Questions

By Amy Dickinson | March 25th, 2020

To touch or not to touch?


Man doing a Pandemic Greeting Image

Dear Amy: Several years ago, I collaborated on a project with an outside contractor. Although there is a large age difference between us, we hit it off right away and enjoy a friendship and communicate frequently.

We always try to get together when we are within an hour’s driving distance, so we can catch up in person. There is nothing like sitting across from a friend and breaking bread together. We will be in the same city next month and are making plans to get together for dinner.

In the past, greeting each other meant a big hug. In the age of COVID-19, what should we do now? A fist bump seems hardly adequate, but I certainly would not want to spread (or catch) the virus.

We also all have the need for human touch, and what is this going to do to us emotionally? I want to be smart – not cavalier or hysterical.

I have to think other people also have this question. What’s a person to do?

– Wondering

Dear Wondering: “Social distancing” might be the most effective way of halting the spread of the Coronavirus.

You can greet someone by using the “praying hands” technique of pressing your own two hands together and giving a little bow. (I call this the “Namaste-hello). You can fold your hands across your chest as a way of signaling “no touch,” or greet your friend, saying, “How about an air-hug?”

Because you are dining together, you could also practice other germ-avoiding techniques such as not sharing food, drinks, or touching anything on the table that he has touched.


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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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