All This Germ Stuff Is Making Me Re-Evaluate My Germaphobia

In case you’ve lost track, here are the things that are gross and you should never touch: bathrooms, kitchens, money, hotel rooms, the steering wheel of your car, your disgusting purse, phones, computer keyboards, door handles.
Publish date:
May 21, 2013
germs, germaphobia, drinking hand sanitizer (don't do that)

It’s a pretty well-established fact among my friends, family, and current/former co-workers that I’m at least a little bit germaphobic.Using a public restroom is a complicated ballet involving an attempt to touch as few objects with my hands as possible. I always flush with my foot. After I wash my hands, I turn off the water with either my elbow, like I’m about to go into surgery, or with a paper-towel-protected hand. And then of course I use a paper towel to open the door, because I know some people before me didn’t wash their hands and therefore spread around their poo germs on every single object they touch.

I’m not nearly as germaphobic at home, unless of course, someone in my house is sick. In fact, I refuse to buy antibacterial handsoap, and I generally live a germy life in my house -- I’m not obsessive about cleaning, and I can handle my own filth to a certain point. My house, my germs, all good, right?In fact, I don’t know if I really qualify as germaphobic, if we’re talking about a scale from never-washes-hands to drinks-hand-sanitizer. I’m just a smidge over the line past won’t-touch-public-restroom-door-handles.I remember that time when Oliver was two and licked a dirty window in the international terminal at LAX. He survived that, right? I almost passed out when I saw what was happening (everything seemed to happen in slow motion; and yet, I could not reach my child in time to stop the contact between tongue and window).And then of course, there’s the first 10 years of my own little life. I don’t remember my mom ever instructing me to wash my hands. I honestly don’t remember washing them at all. I mean, I always seemed to have some sort of respiratory illness growing up, and maybe that’s related to my filthy childhood hands. Or drinking out of the garden hose or whatever other thing we don’t let kids do nowadays.So how did a germy little kid like me grow up to be an adult who’s afraid of poo germs on door handles? I don’t really know, but this latest wave of germ-hysteria is really making me reconsider my germaphobia.You probably already read about your filthy, disgusting iPhone, and how you may as well just lick a toilet seat.This is where I draw the line, you guys. Who cares if my iPhone is as dirty as a toilet? It’s not like I put it in my mouth. I wash my hands before I eat, so I think I’m okay with my germPhone being a cesspool of bacteria.And here’s a new thing to freak out about: Most office kitchens are dirtier than a bathroom. Eeeeew, right? But you know, I also periodically wipe down my office’s shared kitchen, and I wash my hands before preparing and eating my lunch. I think I will survive.Germs have been around forever and ever, and if I can survive the first 10 years of my life sticking my bacteria-laden fingers in my face, I can survive the kitchen I share with my co-workers. What I don’t know if I can handle anymore is more of this germ drama.In case you’ve lost track, here are the things that are gross and you should never touch: bathrooms, kitchens, money, hotel rooms, the steering wheel of your car, your disgusting purse, phones, computer keyboards, door handles.NO PLACE IS SAFE, FOLKS. Isn’t it starting to feel that way, anyway?Let me tell you a story: My favorite beach here in Southern California has a restroom with flush toilets and sinks with running water, but there is no soap. The first time I realized this, I made a mental note to bring my own soap next time we go to the beach. And then I decided I was being silly. Who brings freaking SOAP to the BEACH? I mean, what kind of fun is that? I never want to be the kind of person who keeps a bar of soap in her purse.And then I remembered that in a pinch, you can just rub your hands together really hard to “clean” them. You don’t really need soap to get the bacteria off. This is a skill I learned during my dirty, gross childhood (which I spent camping and peeing in the woods and swimming in rivers and stuff) and promptly forgot in our modern world of scary super bugs and anti-bacterial everything.So I’ve come to a decision: from now on, I’m going to try to be less of a germaphobe. But I still refuse to touch that public restroom door with my bare hand.

Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood