Last week we had someone come to our house to quote on some work. When I answered the door, this man outreached to shake my hand. I awkwardly avoided his gesture. I felt rude and it’s played on my mind ever since.
A few weeks back I was in our garden centre. A lady touched my elbow in a gesture to enquire on where I’d purchased my outfit. I truly believe she didn’t intend anything sinister (she simply didn’t think), but I jumped back in shock at the touch of her hand. It felt so foreign after weeks of lockdown. I still think about my reaction and her face when I reeled away from her.
Today I was leaving the post office, and a gentleman opened the door for me. I smiled, but I was wearing a mask. Did he even know I smiled at him?
The thing is, I’m a tactile person. I love a big squishy hug; I like to connect and feel close to people, it is my normal reaction to reach out and touch an arm or a cheek as a gesture of friendship, compassion and love.
It’s now been five months since we have really been able to hug anyone outside immediate family. I’ve not been in the office since February this year (over six months). As such I’ve not been in a position where I have had the opportunity to consider shaking hands with a colleague. I’ve missed the connections we had through loved ones, friends and colleagues. The simple gestures we perhaps took for granted.
So my question is, where does this leave us moving forward? And more importantly… How comfortable will we feel going back to those tactile interactions (if and when that happens). Will we really want to shake hands with my colleagues, or kiss and hug friends and acquaintances when we see them? What are the other ways we show the same connection, without any physical interaction?
I’m also a non-verbal person. I like to smile. My smile is a communication tool, and I use it to show others that I’m thankful, welcoming or simply as a greeting. No words, just a smile. So how does this happen now when we are wearing a mask? I feel as though one of my core communication methods has been taken away from me.
I am not questioning why we wear a mask. The mask is a necessity and I’m fully compliant with the requirements to wear one. We need to wear one for our own safety and well-being.
However, I’ll be honest right here. I hate wearing them. They are uncomfortable, and hot, and I feel like I can’t communicate well in them, and most of all, I cannot read other’s expression and people cannot read mine.
They say habits and behaviours can be changed within a month of conditioning. We have had over five months of restrictions with social distancing, and now with masks being normalised, I have to wonder how this will affect our social behaviours from now and beyond Covid-19.
Will it all change? How will children and young adults be impacted by this current situation? Will it impact their behaviours for the future? Will our way of interacting and socialising now change for good?
Hopefully when the time is right, when our safety and well-being can be assured, we can retrain ourselves to be comfortable to become more tactile once again. Or perhaps we will always retain that fear that a virus like COVID-19 (or worse) will rise again, and so it is better to be safe than sorry. Maybe this is now life as we now it, and this is our new normal.
Only time will tell…