Could I Be A Germophobe Now?

By Cheryl Ryan

I can’t tell you how many times my husband has come home from a business trip with a raging cold or flu declaring that he knew he shouldn’t have shaken some person or other’s hand. He traveled a lot in those days but he still refers to some handshake every time he gets sick. I didn’t travel as he did but I did end up working for a company that hosted several conferences per year in cities across the U.S. 

During those travels, I spent an entire week shaking hands constantly and I still maintained my typical pattern of getting sick only once or twice a year. Consequently, I never worried too much about handshaking. But sitting next to a very sick person on a airplane has always made me want to run for cover – but that’s for another day.

I’ve just never considered myself a germophobe of any kind. In fact, I was lazy about handwashing and never worried about my kids playing in dirt or in playgrounds. But after living through a worldwide pandemic, I’m feeling weird about handshaking. I wash my hands every time I get home from a store or touch a grocery cart now. 

A cold by Kelly Sikkema @ Unsplash

I know that COVID-19 isn’t spread through handshakes but colds and cases of flu are. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why we’re going right back to it just as flu and cold season is upon us. Can’t we use this opportunity to come up with a different greeting?  I guess the reality is that I’ve come to view germs differently than I did before.

I’m totally in for the elbow tap, fist bump or even a bow.  Why not? I’m watching with a silent scream as we all start shaking hands again. I’m not sure how to change the direction of this time-honored germ passing tradition without hurting someone’s feelings. But I’m proud to say that I gave it a go for the first time last week.

To handshake or not to handshake

I met someone at a social event and when he put his hand out to greet me I told him that I’m not shaking hands but that doesn’t mean that I’m not very pleased to meet him. There was a momentary pause among our small group and then we just moved on with introductions and the enjoyable experience of getting to know each other. 

This particular person had a very kind way about him. Something about him seemed potentially more receptive to my challenging of this norm than others might. And I read it right. He was a very lovely person and I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet him. I felt proud of that bold move but since then I’ve shaken plenty of hands. 

Am I the only weirdo?

I’m finding it harder in business settings. I’m curious if I’m the only weirdo thinking this.  Am I turning into Howie Mandel?  I was speaking to someone about this and they are feeling the same and suggested just being the first to make your move with either a fist bump or elbow touch. Then the greeting has passed and you can move onto the business of sharing time together.

I know it’s irrational and that the most likely outcome is that we’ll all go right back to our germ-sharing handshaking ways. We’ll hug those that we know well and shake hands with new acquaintances. But the truth is, at least at the beginning, that I may be carrying a little spray bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse. I’ll try not to touch my face until I can get to a discrete location to give my hands a little spritz. I don’t think I’m a full-blown Howie (just yet) but I do fear that my carefree germs be damned days are behind me.

How are you feeling about this?

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  • Reply Patsy Lindsay October 8, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    It’s perfectly normal to be cautious especially with Covid. If someone coughed in their hand, they can contaminate all kinds of things. It was so nice not to get sick in the last year. I think masks and elbow bumps are the way to go!

    • Reply zestandplomb October 9, 2021 at 8:31 am

      Right? If we all do it together! So glad I’m not the only one feeling this 🙂

  • Reply Janine Doyle October 8, 2021 at 8:41 pm

    You are not the only weirdo. At church, it’s a very common greeting to shake hands at the “Meet and Greet” time. I never had a problem with it before. But now that we are wearing face masks, it seems kind of obvious to me that we shouldn’t be shaking hands. And even though people can’t see my smile behind the mask, my enthusiasm for the elbow bump hasn’t seemed to offend anyone. I loved your response and think I will try it out next time someone wants to shake my hand. I did have someone working on my Mom’s house yesterday shake my hand. Unfortunately, my only side effect from the chemo seems to be very painful arthritis or neuropathy in my hands. So when I pulled back in pain from his vice grip, he apologized. So now I have a new excuse not to shake hands.

    • Reply zestandplomb October 9, 2021 at 8:33 am

      Yikes! That sounds painful. Sorry to hear that. That is even more reason to ditch the handshake for sure!

  • Reply Jeanne October 9, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    Elbow tap or fist bump for me! I don’t plan on giving up my mask anytime soon. A new acquaintance hugged me before I could realize what was happening the other day. I didn’t even know if she had been vaccinated so I kind of freaked out later that evening. I was relieved when I could ask her the next day and yes, she was vaccinated. But I still need to learn how to get out of it gracefully! I will try using your words! Thanks!

  • Reply Christina October 12, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    I’m so over handshakes and I’ve experienced those awkward moments of hesitation then I ultimately relent. Thanks for the intentional tips, I’m going to try either words, fist bump or smile and wave. I also cringe at the elbow tap after teaching my kids the Dracula sneeze that we learned on Sesame Street that is promoted by US Health and Human Services.

  • Reply Gwen Dawkins October 14, 2021 at 7:22 am

    Love this, “Am I turning into Howie Mandel?” 😂😂😂

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