May 8, 2021


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Post-COVID vaccine hugs: Readers share first interactions

Ronny Gross and her 101-year-old mother live just a few blocks away from each other on L.A.’s Westside. But it wasn’t until February, once both were fully vaccinated, that they hugged for the first time since the pandemic began.

“At first we were just talking, and after a few minutes of talking I said, ‘I guess we can hug each other now,’” said Gross, 69. “It was a real hug, like a tight hug, for I don’t know how long. We didn’t cry or anything, but there were times I felt like it. I was just so happy to see her and to hug her after so long.”

For Brian Lauritzen and Gail Eichenthal, there was a moment of hesitation before they went in for their first post-vaccination hug. Though the two longtime colleagues normally hug upon meeting, they had to assess whether they both were comfortable with being that close.

“We do this pause — like ‘We can hug, right?’ — and then this look of relief comes over your face and then it’s like the most beautiful feeling in the world. It was so emotional,” said Lauritzen, a radio host at KUSC. “She pulled her sunglasses down to show me the tears in her eyes.”

When Svati Proctor made post-vaccination plans with her friends to resume their favorite activity (brunch), she warned them that hugs would be in store. It wasn’t a message she ever expected to send.

“I was so anti-hugs my whole life, and never wanted anyone to touch me, so it’s funny how much this has changed,” said Proctor, 27. “Despite having all of this stuff where you can Facetime and you can email … nothing can really replace that [physical closeness] and I think that’s what makes it special. As much as I thought I didn’t like it, it’s such a way to express love.”

KUSC colleagues Gail Eichenthal, left, and Brian Lauritzen, right, at a coffee shop in Pasadena after their first in-person hang out and hug in 13 months.

(Brian Lauritzen)

Chad Concelmo, 44, and his friend Christine Knapp embraced and “didn’t let go for an awkwardly long time,” during their first hug this month, he said. Now that Concelmo is reentering the world, routine activities, such as hugging hello and going to the grocery store, feel special.

“I’m that annoying person that’s like ‘I’m a hugger.’ I hate those people that say that, but I’m totally one of those people,” Concelmo joked. “There’s something beautiful about taking these small mundane things that you never ever thought about and looking at them in a new light.”