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Coffee+Crumbs: Out Damn Spot

“Stop washing your hands so much,” the dermatologist tells me in February of 2020.

I went to the dermatologist because my thumb was gone. No skin left. I’d washed it to a raw nub, and the rest of my fingers weren’t far behind. I was living a really silly horror movie where the protagonist washes and washes till she has bloody stumps for hands and the bad guy is SOAP.

Realistically, I probably wash my hands thirty times a morning before my kids even get out the door for school. Bathroom, wash. Touch the doorknob, wash. Feed the dogs, wash. ‘Nother doorknob, wash. Unzip a backpack, double wash because those things are cesspools for disease.

You get the idea. All the washing adds up throughout the day until I have no skin left. Made unlocking my old iPhone impossible, although I probably would have a shot at crime if I wanted to. They’d never be able to identify my fingerprints. Adopting the girls was tough because my prints kept getting rejected by the FBI, the GBI, and USCIS. I was like Will Smith in MIB and Rip Torn had used the space laser to zap my prints right off.

Except instead of a space laser it was OCD. My skin was gone because of my raging OCD. (Whenever someone says they’re “OCD” because they like to clean, I die a little inside. I wish OCD was just about liking to dust and vacuum. I’m not a clean freak. My OCD is just freaky.)

So in February of 2020, the doctor tells me to stop washing my hands so much. Too much hand washing! She told me if I absolutely had to, to use hand sanitizer, so I wasn’t constantly stripping the oils out of my skin.

Then right when the skin started to grow back, Covid hit, the hand sanitizer flew off the shelves, and everyone was talking about washing hands more. DAMMIT. My thumb nail was just starting to grow in and I wasn’t bleeding every time I opened the lid on a Tupperware container.

The whole world focused on handwashing. Suddenly everyone was washing their hands (for the first time ever? Unclear). I marveled that people hadn’t been doing it before. Was handwashing a new trend? Made me glad I’d been washing enough for the entire tri-county area. Way before a global pandemic, I greeted my kids after school not with “I love you,” or “how was your day,” but “wash your hands.”

I can’t even talk to my kids until I know they’ve washed. They try to tell me about their day and all I see is them touching the counter, then the refrigerator handle, then, good gravy please no, rooting through the cutlery drawer. Not the forks! I put my mouth on those!

Just wash your hands. Wash them so I can be a good mom and focus because your hands are distracting me from literally anything else that’s happening you could tell me you burned down the school and I wouldn’t hear you till you wash wash wash.

(I am a damn delight to live with.)

(My family deserves an award for patience.)

(Even though they are disgusting plague rats.)

I wonder if I’m the only mother who washes her hands after hugging her kids. I try not to. But I can’t concentrate until I wash.

Maybe just one more time.

I lost count. Was that 20 full seconds?

Maybe just once more.

I wash my hands in the bathroom then touch the bathroom doorknob to get out and have to wash my hands in the kitchen then pick up a dirty cereal bowl and have to wash and the cycle continues all day every day.

I’m very aware of my hands, like Lady MacB. Hers was because of guilt and mine is germs, although I wash so much, logically, I know somewhere in my brain that the germs brave enough to stick around on my hands are more like the flavor in a can of La Croix. Just the barest essence of virus.

Maybe just one more wash.

I’ve started talking more openly about my OCD, because Covid has made OCD cool. KEEP READING

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