Cases are rising, entire countries are locking down. We’ve never seen or experienced anything this apocalyptic in our lifetime. Around the globe, billions of people are taking extra precautions to stave off the coronavirus. But there is a small subset of the population whose day-to-day routine has been hardly affected at all by this pandemic, and those people are the germophobes of the world.
For us germophobes, this has been a mostly regular few weeks, routine-wise, anyway. You might even say we’ve been preparing for this moment our entire lives.
People are, understandably, freaking out. “OMG! I just touched a door! Do you have hand sanitizer?!” And for the first time, we’re the calm ones. “Of course I have hand sanitizer,” we reply, thinking, I’m glad you finally have an understanding of how I have lived every single goddamned day of my life since I got my first fever, at age 10.
We’ve always wiped our phones after putting them down on a table. Showered after being in public. Disinfected all surfaces. Made sure our city clothes never touch furniture in our home. We’ve always avoided non-essential travel and kept a safe distance from friends who’ve just been on a plane. We have always sprinted away at the sound of a sneeze or cough. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that a germophobe wouldn’t go to Coachella if you paid them.
When I read the experts’ suggestions for how to best avoid COVID-19, I was deeply disturbed. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after you touch things? Distance yourself socially? Be careful going into the outside world and being around lots of people? Don’t shake anyone’s hand? Can they give us one thing that would feel different to start doing?! I haven’t touched an elevator button in 11 years, and I haven’t touched my face since I was 13 and learned it could give me acne.
Pre-corona, us germophobes were made to feel like freaks for not shaking hands. When a person extends a hand, an aggressive anxiety manifests from deep within the germophobe. You have four seconds to decide as you watch it move toward you in slow motion: Do you risk offending them or risk getting sick? Will any offense taken affect you long term or just in the moment!?
But now I think we can all agree that shaking hands is one of the most archaic niceties that exist. It’s the Electoral College of interactions. So maybe no longer shaking hands can be corona’s lasting impact. Like saying “Bless you” after a sneeze was for the bubonic plague.
We’re just supposed to touch palms with a stranger, someone you meet for the first time whom you know nothing about?! You wouldn’t have sex with a stranger! O.K., maybe you would. All right, a lot of us have. But hand-shaking is basically a one-night stand for the hands. It cannot continue.
Shaking hands is one of the most archaic niceties that exist. It’s the Electoral College of interactions.
The coronavirus has revealed a lot about us. Are you the type of person who feels a scratchy throat coming on and still leaves the house? I had a friend come over the other week who didn’t tell me she was in the midst of an actual common cold, somehow unaware of the hysteria regarding mild colds right now. As someone who has an incredibly hard time rejecting a handshake despite the fact that it mentally and perhaps physically kills me to shake, I knew it would take more strength than I would be able to muster up to ask her to go home. Instead I breathed into my shirt, slid further and further away from her on the couch, sinking in so deep I basically became one of the pillows, while she hacked into a seemingly endless series of tissues. Tissues I now had to monitor, along with her hands and sockless(!) feet. When she left, I basically drank a bottle of disinfectant.
Then there are the people posting end-of-the-world memes, videos of empty supermarket shelves, details of their quarantine stashes, and photos of themselves in masks, writing things like, “I’m such a hypochondriac!!” No, you’re not a hypochondriac. There is a global pandemic; this is a sensible reaction. But, yes, the top half of your face looks cute, and you’re totally pulling off this mask look, which is what you actually wanted to hear.
Needless to say, we all feel extremely distressed and uncomfortable by this horrifying and heartbreaking virus sweeping the world. None of us know what we’re supposed to do or what will happen. Are we allowed to talk about anything else? Is it inappropriate to post photos and promote our lingerie lines? Should I be writing this article? No one knows. (Probably not.) But like all tragedies, it’s important to try to keep as much normalcy in our lives as possible. Fortunately for us germophobes, that won’t be so hard.
Cazzie David is a columnist for Air Mail