One sentence horror story: public restrooms must remind employees to wash their hands. Like what the fuck? How are you a living, breathing human adult who can’t remember to wash your hands? The only thing I remember to do is wash my hands. Like, sometimes I can’t think of doing anything else, and here you people are about to touch my food after possibly not having washed your hands?!?!? No thank you.
Washing my hands is the only time I feel truly at peace with the world. It’s like binge eating junk food, sex with the guy I creepily stare at when I get coffee, and self-actualization all at once. Washing my hands makes sense. There is no absurdity in the act even when taken out of context. The only thing that could possibly go wrong when I wash my hands is the water suddenly being cut off, which happened the other day and caused me a great deal of distress.
I fetishize the fuck out of hand washing. Like, I would immediately have sex with any guy whose bedside table is actually a sink (sry parents). Everything else in my life is so carefully restricted and controlled by my warped state of consciousness. I regulate my calorie intake, the places I can go to, the people I talk to, the clothes I wear, my beauty routines, my conversation topics, my vulnerability. I am a model of bureaucratic inefficiency incarnate because all these regulations cost more than they give. But not hand washing. That shit is liberating. It’s mental and spiritual anarchy. It’s the deregulation of the financial industry for one-percenters. It’s the handholding, kumbayah, flower crown wearing version of communism (but like, if I could guarantee the cleanliness of everyone else’s hands).
My obsession with contamination is mostly gone, but the residual comfort of my hand washing compulsion will probably never go away. And honestly, I hope it doesn’t, because burning my hands under a stream of hot water and antibacterial soap is my adult version of a security blanket. Like, I got rid of my stuffed animal cat Fluffy and pacifiers, and now I have the warm and secure embrace of soapsuds.
Everyone has his or her weird thing they do to quell anxiety – of both the mundane and existential varieties – so I’m not really ashamed of hand washing unless someone points out how much I do it, which is often. I get shit for going through a bottle of hand soap a week and using too many paper towels, but just because I’m breeding my own pet superbug in my room and singlehandedly destroying the environment doesn’t mean I want to be called out on it. Nobody wants to be told the weird thing they do is weird. Odds are good that he or she already knows it. Luckily, I can hide mine in bathrooms for the most part until the landlord emails me about my excessive water usage. Oops. Secret’s out.
Even typing about it makes me feel better. Like knowing I could get up and wash my hands at any moment alleviates a lot of my anxiety, and part of the reason for that is because I know how bizarre it is. I can laugh about it and still need to do it, which is a running theme for most of my mental illness manifestations. I can laugh about them but still be plagued by them, but hand washing is the only thing that doesn’t plague me. Truthfully, most activities I have the impulse to do (like drugs, drinking, sex, buying shit, etc.) would utterly destroy me and aren’t always readily accessible, but sinks are ubiquitous and relatively safe save that one time I overflowed the sink and flooded the bathroom at Corner Joe. Sorry, but at least the floor got clean because someone had to mop it up afterward.
I didn’t even know I had it in me to write this much about hand washing, but my passions bleed into all my writing I guess. Yeah, I’m passionate about normal stuff like love, music, and poetry, but the need to simultaneously differentiate myself from the crowd and be accepted by it permeates everything. For that reason, I have to have normal passions and weird ones.
And since Christmas (read: my birthday) is coming up, if you feel compelled to buy me something, make it an array of differently scented antibacterial soaps. Don’t buy that decorative shit. How am I supposed to feel clean if soap comes in the same shapes as country club pats of butter? Much like butter – which I can and will eat with a spoon – soap is seemingly endless but without the threat of weight-gain. I can pump as much as I want and not feel bad about myself. I am obsessed with things that feel infinite because I’m so viscerally aware of everything’s finitude all the time.
The way I wash my hands is mine, and I protect it at all costs. No one will take it away from me. No, not even my counselor(s).
Plus, I think people’s weird obsessions are endearing. It’s one of the only things that individualizes us. So you know how some people have a kill shelf of empty liquor bottles? I’m going to have one of empty soap bottles, and it will be beautiful.
So give me some running water and some sort of sanitizing agent, and you will immediately win my affection if that’s what you’re looking for. If not, that’s okay. I will still have my soap.