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About once a week I walk into a store, look around, and ask myself if I am going insane. The masks and the loss of intimacy still freak me out. Yes, I wear masks. Yes, I want everyone else to wear them, too. There’s nothing natural about a mask, though. (And I’m not even talking about the fact that, as the United Nations points out, they are polluting our environment.) No, it’s just the fact that they are so isolating and depressing, especially for someone like me who loves to talk to strangers. It’s not just the masks, either. It’s that we move through space afraid to bump into each other or — God forbid — touch each other on purpose.

Media in the form of books, television shows, and movies are just as insanity-creating for me. I sit there watching Undercover Billionaire¬†and Cobra Kai and I am jealous. I watch the characters on the screen in bars and roller rinks and parties and wish I was there. Seeing all that normalcy reminds me of what we’ve lost. I’m jealous of the businesspeople shaking hands and giving hugs as the main characters walk through Erie, Penn. I’m jealous of the karate students wrapping each other up in chokeholds. Why do these scenes bother me so much? I think they remind me of my skin hunger.

The term has been around for a while, but only went mainstream this past spring as we logged months alone behind doors. Skin hunger is the need for physical contact. As a BBC story explains, skin hunger is “a longing to touch or be touched in a social way.”

It’s true. I have that longing. I ache for the ability to go out to dinner with my friends and touch someone’s hand as I pass them the butter. I want to give all our couple friends kisses as they come into the house. I miss book club and bumping chests over a funny book. I want to watch my youngest to play basketball or my oldest to racewalk inside and smack the leg of the parent sitting next to me. I miss the little one’s sleepovers when the kids ricochet off each other (and everyone else in the house). Facials! Manicures! Foot massages! I miss them all. The loss of Zumba and yoga are aches, too. I wish I could go back in time so I could complain about having to hold a stranger’s hand in Zumba, and feel the weight of my yoga instructor’s hands pressing on my back as I did a forward fold. This week I missed hugging my sister, brother, aunt, uncle, and cousin and their families, and taking a big, squishy group shot, everyone’s shoulders touching.

I have to keep reminding myself that there was a pre-mask, touchy-feely world and someday, hopefully, there will be a post-mask, touchy-feely world. Until then I will relish the hugs I get from my family and our pets.

 

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