Me and Howard Hughes

No, I don’t have his money or his knowledge of aeronautics or quite the same level of agoraphobia (although I could go long stretches without passing the front door, particularly if I’m on deadline), but I’ve decided to finally admit that, like the mysterious, outright strange Mr. Hughes, I have a possibly debilitating condition.

Hi, my name is Joy and I’m a germaphobe. (Hello, Joy)

It’s a slow but persistent situation. The more advanced symptoms sneak up on you. And to be honest, I may be worse than HH. As the story goes, he grew his nails terribly long, afraid someone would get the clipping and use them to curse him. I see long nails and I think about everything that could be crawling around under them. The new short and squarish manicure style that’s popular now—that was made for me. And don’t get me started on the horrors polish can hide.

My mother thinks that my first sentence might have been “Change me,” but there was too much screaming over an unfortunate incident involving my favourite white sundress and a chocolate Popsicle for her to be sure. Once we were adults, my older second cousins told me how when I was little, they plotted to take me out to play or to the candy store, and at some point, get dirt or ice cream or soda, anything on my clothes, just to watch me melt down. I come from cruel stock. But I admit to have practically torn holes in blouses in my persistence to rid them of a microscopic coffee splash only I can see (until I wet the entire blouse. This is about dirt. Not modesty.)

Here’s how bad it is: I don’t like people using my phone. No matter who uses my bathroom or how little, it has to be re-sanitized completely. If Method made a perfume that smelled like their spearmint antibacterial bathroom cleaner, I would wear it every day. I don’t even want to talk about my views on public loos. I’m at the point now that I wash my hands when other people go to the bathroom. I wash new clothes because the idea of someone else having tried them on before I bought them is more than I can handle. I would rather starve to death or die from thirst than drink or eat after all about three people. I’m saying on three, but I doubt that’s true. I don’t like picking up babies or toddlers (unless there’s concrete evidence of a very recent bath) because otherwise, they tend to be sticky and I can’t always tell the source of their humidity.

I’m the kind of person who can’t wait until my love gets home and gets her clothes off—so they can go straight into the washer. The hydro company no doubt has a photo of me in their boardroom—I do about 14 loads a week and there are just two of us. I can’t stand the idea of dirty clothes that were outside of the house, in places, where things might not have been clean, bringing that dirt back to me.

A study in 2010 revealed that half a million Brits changed their bedding roughly three times a year.  When I stopped shaking, I stripped down every bed in the house.  For months after, I would randomly pull off the bedding and plunge it into the washing machine just for kicks. We eventually had to buy new sheets—even the good ones get pilly when you abuse them that much.

Once of my greatest nightmares is that I’m having a dinner party. I put out many clean neatly folder hand towels in the bathroom along with a collection of dispensers of fragrant creamy antiseptic hand soap. After the guests leave, I discover the towels remain in pristine condition.

And dinner is a buffet.

Which brings up the food things. I have a really hard time with potlucks and food brought to work. If I haven’t seen the kitchen it was cooked in, fat chance I can get it down. My real friends know this and don’t invite me over to eat or bring me gifts of food. Oddly enough, I don’t have a problem with restaurants. Granted I’m better with bright shiny chains and hotel connected eateries, can’t do a lot of independent places…I guess I have more faith in the health department than I probably should.

Thing is, I don’t mind messy. I have a dog who herds her toys into clusters throughout the house. There are casually tossed cushions on my couch and plenty of piles on my desk. Thing is, if you push those piles aside, I want you to be able to perform minor surgery on that desk.

And my germaphobia doesn’t end with my belongings and my personal space…it applies to my person as well. Being kissed is a big issue. Particularly since in my profession, kisses and hugs are as common as handshakes. I’m not proud of the fact, but I can turn my cheek and escape an embrace so fast you could get whiplash standing that close to me. If anyone reading this has ever kissed me on the lips, congratulate yourself. You are a member of an incredibly small and elite group.

Perhaps you all ought to get together and order club jackets.

Just make sure they’re machine washable.



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