Recently, (during pandemic insomnia) you may have tried calculating how often you gave or received hugs before the pandemic. Are you the type of person who can’t, simply because there are too many to count? Maybe instead you savor hugs, leaving them to intimate moments with important people. What kind of hugs are you imagining? A side hug? A bear hug? A tight, lingering embrace that speaks a lifetime of memories, or just the quick, we see each other everyday hugs? You surely have thought of people during this time who you would give anything to hug, even if you hadn’t seen them in years.

You may miss both the X’s and O’s but I’ll leave out the kisses. I was never a fan of pecks on the cheek or obligatory smooches. Hugs are more universal, covering friends, romantic partners, family, and even moments of shared emotion. Two bodies pressed together, arms encircled is a powerful symbol for the human need for connection. You can hug a tree all day but unfortunately, it can’t hug you back. (Good God, I just gave myself flashbacks of The Wizard of Oz and Evil Dead. That is scary human/tree contact, avoid that at all costs! These late nights are really catching up to me.)

How will social distancing restrictions affect your memories of affection? Usually, human contact of some kind surrounds your most important memories during difficult times; scooping up a crying child in your arms for comfort, holding a crying friend during an emotional storm, the death grip on someone you love after a scary diagnosis, and, the hug for your sister who is moving across the country during a global pandemic. We’ve learned a new hug, one of the cruelest side effects of Covid-19. This most precious hug no one ever imagined they would have to endure, hugging your loved one for maybe the last time outside of an emergency room.

How do you quantify every hug you give now or every hug you can’t give? Can you save them in a jar full of I.O.U.’s, hoping they can be redeemed? Will we all be hug-crazed when this is all over, hugging every family member and friend with the intensity of Conan the Barbarian returning home from battle? Will we hug random strangers crying at the bus stop? Or, will we return to averting our eyes at a stranger’s grief and texting at the dinner table?

It’s hard to say. For nearly 6 months, hugs have been dangerous. I’m glad the Care Bears aren’t here to see this, they would need massive amounts of therapy and antidepressants. For the human Care Bears you know, the full mental impact of this period of no hugging must be excruciating. Currently, the hug emoji is popular but it is a sad substitute. Huggers really need our support. Their arms are weak from lack of use, hanging limply at their sides, needing to regain strength.

Did you know there is an actual Hug Day? January 21, 2021, we should celebrate a Hug Day to top all Hug Days ever. In the name of Kevin Zaborney, on that day, hug the living hell out of everybody you see. I’m talking lifting people off the ground hugs, 20-minute bawling your eyes out hugs and, massive group hugs. No side hugs or a pathetic squeeze of the shoulder hugs. If we can’t hug on that date, let’s have a global Zoom hugging frenzy.

Hug day 2021, (unless it is postponed until 2022 which gives you another year of practice) let’s promise to hug like your 90-year-old grandma with Osteoporosis who still manages a death grip. Hug like the family of a soldier who made it home. Hug like your close-talking uncle who makes people uncomfortable but can’t contain his huge heart. Hug like a Mother Flippin’ Care Bear! Now is not the time to hide your feelings in a glass case of emotion. News stations need to televise the most epic hugs of the day, around the world, in commemoration of everything we did to keep each other alive.

But please, be respectful. I don’t have the money to bail people out of jail. And for the love of all that is holy, hug your dogs. They are deeply hurt that you returned to work and once again, spend every second of your absence in agony. Do Not Try Hugging Cats. Medical professionals will need a break.

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