Hug refuseniks: the people who won’t embrace the loss of personal space

While many are celebrating the return of hugging after more than a year, others would much prefer to maintain their distance

Name: Hug refuseniks.

Age: All ages.

Appearance: Stiff, cold, potentially smart.

As in hugging other people? Yes. Cats don’t count.

I thought we’d given all that up. It’s back: as of now – 17 May – hugging between households is permitted in England and Scotland for the first time in more than a year.

That’s nice. Although it seems odd to me that hugging was ever legal in the first place. You’re not alone. A hardcore group of spoilsports is refusing to join in.

Why? An abundance of caution, in some cases. With the Indian variant of Covid-19 on the rise in parts of the country, even the prime minister urged restraint as the restrictions were lifted.

I guess it’s good to be careful. Hugging is also a social minefield, depending on who has been vaccinated or not, or is potentially at risk, or just plain nervous about close contact.

You’re making it sound less fun, that’s for sure. After a year off, some people just aren’t ready to hug yet. And others were never much for it in the first place.

How is one supposed to know who’s up for a hug, and who isn’t? You could always ask, but here’s a quick rundown: Susanna Reid is not ready.

That’s amazing! How did you know I was thinking about her? When her Good Morning Britain co-presenter, Adil Ray, offered Reid an on-air hug on the morning of the new dispensation, she said, and I quote: “No, no, no, no, no.”

I feel Susanna might know something we don’t. The actor Joanna Lumley, on the other other hand, says she will be hugging “literally everyone I can get my hands on”.

So, a slightly different approach. Exactly. Meanwhile, the politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, won’t be hugging: “I’m not really a touchy-feely person,” he said.

A nation mourns. I guess lots of British people hate hugs. It’s actually a fairly international loathing. “Personal-space enthusiasts are sad to see their year of living huglessly come to an end,” according to the Washington Post, “even as they hold on to hope that some pandemic distancing habits might stick.”

They won’t if Lumley has anything to say about it. In the meantime, Professor Peter Openshaw, of Imperial College London, an immunologist who specialises in respiratory viruses, described hugging as high-risk: “I would certainly not be embracing people closely,” he said.

It would be weird if all this eventually resulted in Earth being populated solely by standoffish people. Weird, but possibly welcome.

Do say: “Let’s hug this out, over Zoom.”

Don’t say: “Loosen up, Jacob! I’m vaccinated!”

The GuardianTramp

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