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.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is having a baby. I am old-school, so I don’t love the fact that she is having a baby without being married, but she is an adult, and she has made her choice. I am coming to understand, in my old age, that not everyone shares my values. I am certain that she will be a good mother. She is a lovely young woman. She has invited me to her baby shower. I have been close to her since she was a child. I am thinking of attending. My only worry is that I still have some funny feelings about her not being married. I don’t want to say anything wrong. Can you suggest ways that I can be sure to be a good guest? -- No Judgment
DEAR NO JUDGMENT: Your worries may be for naught as it relates to going to the shower. Right now, only very small gatherings are being encouraged, so this event may be canceled. Check in with her to see.
Whether you see her in person or talk to her on the phone, focus on the positive. Congratulate her on the pregnancy. Ask her how she feels. Listen to her about how she’s managing. Pregnancy can be daunting for women the first time around. There is so much to consider. Since you have known her for all of her life, reserve your comments to words of encouragement. Keep your opinions to yourself.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)