For most of my adolescent life, I managed to keep my germophobia under wraps. While it was stressful at times, I worked very hard to keep up an easy-going, germ-indifferent public persona. But now, as people are slowly catching on to my constant hand washing, inability to walk barefoot and fear of fruit garnishes, I’ve decided to come clean. While I don’t expect to shock many people, I do hope, at the very least, that in writing this blog post I am able to significantly decrease the amount of people who ask for a sip of my drink or to borrow my chapstick.
The first signs of my disease cropped up when I was still a spry young chap on the cusp of Kindergarten. As I did not have much to do after my morning screening of Fraggle Rock, I took it upon myself to police the bathrooms in hopes of instilling a more rigorous hand-washing regimen among my relatives. I’d station myself directly outside of the bathroom door and interrogate people upon exit. Sometimes I’d go as far as to press my ear to the door to make sure I heard the faucet running. How my family must have loved me.
I ended my career as a self-elected CDC official upon entering Kindergarten. At this age, I had bigger fish to fry. Like trying to convince my classmates that my dad was part bear. (To rationalize his coat of back hair, my dad told me that he’d spent his preteen years living as a bear living in Sacramento. I believed him for longer than he had intended me to.)
Anyways, the first event on my Kindergarten social calendar was the Pilgrims and Indians brunch. Coincidentally, it was this event that scarred me for the rest of my life:
I considered the brunch my inaugural ball into public schooling. I usually came to school clothed in Lands’ End overalls and knockoff Zoo merchandise, so this opportunity to dress up was a big deal for me. I gave my mom my costume instructions and immediately organized a trip to Stride Rite. Come Brunch day, I was ready to make an entrance in my homemade pilgrim frock. My only regret was agreeing to wear the bonnet as it completely overshadowed my bowl-cut.
After all of my hard work and meticulous grooming, it was shaping up to be an enjoyable afternoon. That is until one of my female classmates projectile-vomited directly onto my chest. I don’t remember much after that happened — I’m assuming I fainted on the spot.
Things didn’t get easier after Kindergarten. As I got older, I began to fear more than just my peers’ sooty paws and their spontaneous projectile-vomiting. Once lice came on the scene, I successfully planned and executed my first self-quarantine. My sister, who was notably less prepared for such a disaster, was not as lucky.
Over the years I’ve gradually learned how to discretely cope with germophobia. College was a real breaking point for me — I like to think it relaxed me a bit. Only once did I wipe down a tap with hand sanitizer prior to keg-standing. Serving also gave me a crash course in coping skills — I didn’t last long as a server, but the only germ-related trauma I really flipped out about was when a dollop of queso splashed into my eye while I was bussing a table. I quit shortly after that incident, but not before Googling “Pink Eye” and “workers’ comp”.
And although I no longer accost people in restrooms, I do exhibit my geromphobia in a number of more subtle ways:
- I avoid all fruit garnishes on drinks as I am well aware of their manhandled filth.
- I am terrified of walking barefoot — but not without good reason.
- I visibly panic when people ask for a sip of my drink (it’s hard coming up with a polite way to say “absolutely not”.)
- I am somewhat frightened of used books. (As a child I found a booger in one my library books.)
- I thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly) sanitize the elliptical at the gym….before using it.
- I throw away my chapstick after questionable people harass me into sharing it with them
- I am giddy at the sight of public restrooms with doorknob-less swinging doors, automatic faucets, automatic soap pumps and automatic paper towel dispensers.
So I guess the moral of this post is, please don’t ask for a sip of my drink. Or to borrow my chapstick. Or for a bite of my meal. And please don’t ask why my hands are so dry — it’s obvious that I’ve over-washed them. And I realize that in writing this post I sound like a serious nerd. But let’s be honest, I think that ship has sailed.