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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Germophobe? Think again!

Dear Rachel,

My wife is driving me nuts and I jokingly threatened I would write to you. She took me seriously and wanted to know whether I’d also listen to what you have to say. Since nothing can be worse than her nagging, I decided to take my chances… and here I am.

The subject of her scorn, believe it or not, is what she calls my carelessness when it comes to cleanliness. More specifically, my wife eyes my every move each time I walk into the house, then inevitably slams me with her “you didn’t wash your hands with soap yet, did you?” routine.

“Not only did I wash my hands but I scrubbed them with bleach,” I shoot back, but her look tells me that she doesn’t share my sense of humor and before I know it she is lecturing me on the germ business, on how germs are spread by hands that come in contact with you name it, blah-blah-blah.

In vain I argue that I haven’t been anywhere near any germ-infested place and that even if I had, they (the germs) could hardly have survived the frigid outdoor air. Before I get done explaining, she is already berating me for not wiping the soles of my shoes on the mat outside the door. In fact, by this time she is already wielding a bottle of Windex in one hand, paper towels in the other, and is busy scrubbing the barely visible traces of footprints on our vinyl flooring.

Despite my wife’s scrupulousness in her own hand washing, and with all those miniature hand-sanitizers she tucks into every crevice and cabinet, she came down with a whopper of a cold just the other day. So who do you think ends up getting the blame for it? You guessed right.

Okay, so I did get sick last week, but she wasted no time in wiping the house down with those disinfectant wet cloths that are supposed to destroy all kinds of bacteria on surfaces. Rachel, she wouldn’t take a piece of challah from my hand on Shabbos, insisting she’d cut her own slice. Heck, she even got her own knife. And still she managed to catch whatever it was I had.

When I tried pointing out how useless all her hand washing obviously is (didn’t end up helping her any), she said it was because I did such a fine job spraying up the whole house with my sneezing.

She claims I’m in the wrong and she’s in the right and that I’m an inconsiderate slob. I believe she has taken this germ thing overboard. Please straighten her out, Rachel; she reads you religiously.

Married to a Germophobe

Dear Married,

You can argue with your wife if that’s what makes your day, but you can hardly argue with every health professional and health manual that says the same thing: To avoid catching colds or getting contaminated with a cold or flu virus, wash your hands frequently (with hot water and soap; running your fingers for three seconds under cold water is worthless.) Decontamination with alcohol wipes is also highly recommended, as is steering clear of contact with a sick person.

Since it takes two to three days for symptoms to show after being infected, your wife had most likely already contracted your virus when she was taking all those extra precautions to avoid it. And yes, sneezing with abandon can release thousands of virus-containing droplets that can hang around in the air for hours. Coughing or sneezing by anyone should be done in the arm at the elbow versus the hand, which can more easily spread the germs by those who are not likely to sanitize or wash their hands immediately following that infectious cough or sneeze.

I don’t live with her, but your wife doesn’t seem to fit the Merriam-Webster’s definition of germophobe – “a person who has an abnormal fear of germs.” If in your book she is a bit germophobic, try picturing yourself living with a careless slob, then take your pick.

Your comment about your wife’s nagging brings to mind (no offense intended) the two men who are out fishing and quietly drinking beer. In a low tone so as not to scare the fish, Ron says, “I’m thinking of divorcing my wife. She hasn’t spoken to me in over two months.”

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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