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💕 Hugs are making a comeback. 🥰 You told us about your first post-vaccine hugs 🤗

Friends Chad Concelmo and Christine Knapp just minutes after their first post-vaccination hug earlier this month.
(Chad Concelmo)
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Tight. Tearful. Awkward. Wondrous. After a year without close physical contact, hugs have become anything but routine.

People are dreaming about them, planning them and savoring them. They vow to never take them for granted again. The handshake may never return, but hugs are making a comeback.

“It’s unprecedented to have the world just stop touching for a year,” said San Diego State University psychology professor Tristen Inagaki. “It sounds like it’s just going to be a hugfest, which is wonderful, because you have to do something to overcome all of that deprivation.”

There are undoubtedly even more in store in the coming months, but here are some stories of first post-vaccine hugs.

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The joyous hug

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.

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“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.”

First routine, then forbidden and now cherished, hugs have come to symbolize the next phase of the pandemic

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.

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“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.”

Gail Eichenthal, left, and Brian Lauritzen at a coffee shop
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.”

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The anti-climactic hug

Once Karina Cazares and her parents were vaccinated, they planned an Easter gathering with other family members. But they didn’t hug at first, as it felt uncomfortable after so long spent apart.

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Once the day came to a close, after hours spent together over a shared meal, they all hugged goodbye. Like it was the most normal thing in the world.

You’ve gotten your first COVID-19 vaccination appointment. Try out these scenarios to see if you know how to live post-vaccine.

“It felt really good,” said Cazares, who lives in Boyle Heights. “I guess after being there for a bit and being more close, after talking, it just made it OK.”

Anna Friedman had been so looking forward to hugging her friends after being vaccinated. But when she finally did so at a dinner party earlier this month, the embraces fell a little flat.

The 73-year-old thinks that maybe she needs a lot more hugs after going so long without.

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“I have a daughter who lives out of town who I will see in a couple of weeks and that’s where I think I’m going to really get it — that’s going to be my hug,” said Friedman, who lives in Asheville, N.C. “I’m going to just be attached to her.”

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The pet hug

A career working in nonprofits accustomed Reidel Post to hugging clients and others on a regular basis. Now, living alone during the pandemic, her only option has been to hug her rescue dog Katie.

“Whenever I just need to express loving kindness, I go up and give her a hug,” said Post, 64. “I will never, ever take giving someone a hug for granted.”

Reidel Post, 64, hugs her dog Katie.
(Reidel Post)

Mark Lessmueller, 36, bought some guinea pigs a few months into the pandemic to help with what he called “touch deprivation.” He says they’re about as cuddly as cats.

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Lessmueller, who lives in Ontario, Calif., is looking forward to the first meet-up of his live action role-playing group later this year once they are all vaccinated.

“When our group gets back together — normally the events happen over Friday, Saturday and Sunday — we’ve kind of joked that we should probably just set aside Friday just for hugging,” Lessmueller said.

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The much-anticipated hug

Before the pandemic, Ghazal Gulati, 32, had managed to see her parents at least twice a year, even though she lives in Pasadena and they in a suburb of New Delhi. But for the past year and a half their relationship has been limited to phone calls that lack the ease of sharing physical space.

Now that she is fully vaccinated, she is eagerly awaiting her trip to visit — and hug — them at the end of April.

“We talk every day, but it’s just hard because there’s nothing to talk about. Nothing is happening, I’m at home. They’re at home,” Gulati said. “I am a total hugger. ... My mom is the same way. There’s definitely going to be a long hug and a lot of crying.”

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Though Danielle Burd Bennett relocated to the East Coast two decades ago, the California native visited her family in Orange County every six weeks — until the pandemic hit. She has a trip planned to visit her 73-year-old dad next month, once she is fully immune.

“My plan is I’m going to fly out there and give him a hug. That’s it,” she said.

Column One

A showcase for compelling storytelling
from the Los Angeles Times.

Kammy Sislofsky remembers feeling distressed as she drove back to her home in Fontana last year after an outdoor dinner with her parents. It felt unbearable to be around them but not be able to be physically close, she said.

She decided to wait until they were all at least two weeks out from their final shots, hopefully in May, to see them the right way. With hugs.

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“All the things that we’ve had to give up, or we’ve had to miss, I think that when we get to do it again, it’s going to be so much more meaningful, so much more special,” said Sislofsky, 56. “We were taking a lot of things for granted.”

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