DEAR HARRIETTE: I just went to the doctor and had to speak to an administrator. When our meeting was over, she reached out to give me a fist bump. I was so surprised, I wasn’t sure what to do. At least she wasn’t offering me her hand to shake -- but seriously? She works at a health institution, and we have been told that we need to practice “social distancing,” including not touching one another. A fist bump is still two hands touching. I quickly offered her my sweater-covered wrist to bump her hand, but I thought it was ridiculous. What should we do in social or business situations now when people try to shake hands or otherwise touch you without thinking? -- Social Distancing, Please
DEAR SOCIAL DISTANCING, PLEASE: People are so accustomed to touching one another that it is taking time for us to come to terms with our new reality.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is a life-or-death decision to stop touching. The CDC says that the virus can live on your skin for a long period of time, so it is simply not worth it to touch anyone’s skin for the foreseeable future. That medical administrator made a mistake. She should have just said goodbye.
In the future when you are in the company of other people, smile at them, say what you are feeling and what you are about to do, offer an elbow if anything at all -- but do not touch. I like the Asian practice of bringing your hands together and bowing in front of the person before you as a greeting. Honestly, you just need to avoid touching. If someone aggressively reaches out, step back and speak up to stop the encounter.