Seeing friends is something we all crave, especially during the pandemic. Our spirits lift when we see our friends, and we want to express our happiness and even delight in seeing them. Greetings show our pleasure in being together and communicate that the other person matters to us. But with hugs and handshakes off-limits, there’s an awkwardness to offering people we care about socially distant greetings.
Of course, we want to keep our friends and ourselves safe, but some of the suggestions for socially distant greetings that are flying around the internet seem ridiculous.
Elbow bumps are strange and unappealing. They seem more like a peculiar martial arts combat move than a friendly greeting. We also have to be fairly close to do them, so they’re not even that safe.
Tapping feet is worse. I don’t know anyone I want to greet with a kick. Certainly not anyone I care about! There’s also a chance of accidentally hurting someone or losing one’s balance. And like elbow bumps, kicks require being fairly close together to make contact.
Bowing is a lovely tradition in many cultures but can feel awkward or even like uncomfortable cultural appropriation if it’s not part of your upbringing. Bowing is respectful, but it raises etiquette questions about how low to go. In this country, it’s also associated with accepting applause, which is odd for greeting someone.
There’s always waving or blowing a kiss (if that’s appropriate). These are easy and common actions, but they somehow highlight the distance between our friends and us. In ordinary times, we do those from far away.
The new socially distant greeting that I find most appealing involves placing the hands together in front of the chest, one palm facing up and the other down, forming the fingers of each hand into a C, and cupping them together.
This greeting expresses connection and includes a satisfyingly tactile squeeze, while keeping everyone safe. It could fill the gap left by our absent hugs and handshakes. I hope it catches on.
© Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD.