If cleanliness is next to godliness, my bone-dry, soap-scoured hands make me seraphim, the angels closest to His divine light. It is Day 120 of quarantine, and Mrs. Meyer’s, Fantastik and Purell have permeated my palm. There is no hydration left. Any lotion I apply seems to dry up instantly, like swimming-pool water on sun-baked concrete.
Like my ancestors, the skin on my hands has wandered in the desert for 40 years. My fingers are a thousand scuttling scarabs. Do not give me a firm shake. You will disintegrate into ancient dust.
Call it pandemic Stockholm Syndrome, but I’ve actually begun to enjoy the feeling of dry hands. Why is this? COVID-19 has me instinctually fearing any wet surface, and I’ve been Pavlov’d into associating “painfully dry” with “no germs here!” And so, when my hands feel rigid and dusty, I believe deep in my soul that they’re clean. I would admit this with more shame if there were strangers around who were compelled to exchange the odd human custom of grasping digits and squeezing.
Take away the social pressure (and medical wisdom) to keep your skin hydrated, and you can trick yourself into thinking this dryness is pleasant. (It helps if you don’t think of the surface of your hands as “skin” — maybe more like newspaper gift wrap on your corporeal form.) Right now, my hands have the texture of a wooden drumstick, a sheet of printer paper, a dog’s nose, a plump and flour-dusted pita, a matte-finish Hydro Flask — all nice things. Run a finger on the pad of my thumb and you’d find it’s smooth and frictionless, like a sanded wooden desk.
I know I’m alone in (sorta) enjoying this. When I googled phrases like “dry hands feel good” and “dry hands are good,” I got a 2005-era gun forum and a quote from April Ludgate from Parks and Rec. “I don’t like lotion,” she tells Leslie Knope. “I like my hands to be as cracked and calloused like a railway worker.” Quar queen!
As I write this, I’m noticing how my fingers simply glide over the keys. I touch my index finger, then the staticky, perforated speaker grill on my MacBook: They are the same. My body has evolved past the need for oils, and if I ever found a fingerprint on the space bar, I would shriek. Then I’d wash my hands for 20 seconds, come back with a paper towel soaked in Fantastik (Fresh Scent), coat my electronics in it, use the towel to clean all the handles and light switches I can see, then wash my hands again.
Life at home revolves around scrubbin’ and sprayin’. Today I tenderly washed a mustard packet, then a plum. It’s an intimate ritual: I take each grocery item out of the paper bag (which has the texture of my own hands), place them on the countertop, wash my hands to create a soap-bubble mountain, massage the items one at a time, set them out to dry, put the bag in the recycling, wash my hands again before touching the Fantastik, Fantastik the countertop, wipe it down, wash the Fantastik off my hands and return to my desk. Five minutes later, without fail, I’ll think, Dang, why do my hands feel like an iguana’s ass?
This is a normal way to live. I am fine.
In 2022, when you see me again, I will have aged two centuries. I will have stared into the parched maw of Sodom and joined Lot’s wife as a pillar of salt — only with more mask acne. All this because our government is too hobbled by incompetence and cruelty to do anything but kill us off. My OCD habits may be “working” now, but the joke will be on me the moment I step outside and dare to wash my hands anywhere public. What the hell is lurking on a soap dispenser? You don’t want to know.