It’s Not a Handshake That’s Going to Do Me In

Having recently watched Contagion, I’ve become a little more aware when I hear someone coughing around me (and by aware I mean stepping away).  Sort of like when swine flu first reared its ugly head and I sat in church, one night, feeling suffocated as random people coughed around me, spewing their germs into the air I was breathing. No one, save family, was getting the kiss of peace in those days, and even they were suspect, at times.

Eventually, my paranoia faded and I went back to shaking hands and holding railings without dousing myself with hand sanitizer, afterwards, and was probably better off for it (maybe).

Then, I saw that damned movie.

Except, it wasn’t just the movie, because I hadn’t even seen Contagion when, one day, I happened to turn on NPR and they were hosting a man named David Quammen, who is the author of  a book named “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.”  A book in which he implicates bats as the next big carrier of a virus that’s likely to cross over to humans.

Did you see contagion?  Did you watch the end?  That’s right, it all started with the bats.  That scene changed the whole entire movie for me.  Suddenly, I wasn’t just watching some far reaching sci-fi flick, I was looking into the future.

I’m not going to tell you that I’ve gone all germaphobe since seeing that movie, because I haven’t, but I’ve definitely started taking notice, again, when I  hear someone cough, or when I’m at Wegmans and I eat a sample with the same hands that have been pushing the cart, or that have touched the debit card machine that everyone else has touched, right after they wiped their nose.  You get the picture.

But, yesterday, I came to the conclusion that it’s not a handshake that’s going to do me in, a la Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s lip gloss that’s going to be my undoing.

About a year ago, I was makeup shopping in Macy’s when I happened upon the Bobby Brown counter to sample some new lipsticks.  What should have been an enjoyable experience, turned terrifying as I watched the sales girl spray each lipstick with alcohol (or water, who really knows?) followed by a swipe of a tissue, before applying it to my lips. No applicator, no disposable brush.  I stood frozen, wondering if I could contract hepatitis or herpes, or some other virus from the lips of the fifteen million peoples, who had tried on those lipsticks before me.

Why didn’t I stop her?  I don’t know?  All I can tell you is that I went home, washed my lips like crazy and hoped that I would be left unscathed by the whole ordeal.

I vowed never to try on lipstick again.

Fast forward to yesterday, except this time I was in Nordstroms, looking for a new lip gloss.  The sales girl wanted me to try on a color.  I watched as she dipped a clean applicator into the bottle, but instead of acting like a bystander while my health hung in the balance, I balked and questioned whether the tube was contaminated by other peoples’ germs.

She kindly dismissed me and pointed out that they don’t even keep the original applicator in the lip gloss bottle, they cut it off, thus preventing overzealous customers from wiping it all over their germy lips.  Of course, I thought. This is Nordstroms, after all.

So, I sampled, and sampled some more.  But apparently, my technique was not earning the approval of the sales girl, who took, yet another, clean applicator out and insisted that she apply the color to my lips (because you know, you need an expert to do this sort of thing).

Things were going well, that is, until she decided that I needed more gloss and dipped my, now used applicator, back into the tube to apply more gloss to my lips.


I didn’t think about stupid sales associates contaminating the make up samples, I was only thinking about stupid customers.  Once again, I was foiled by the lip gloss.

Every scenario played through my mind, including one with Gwyneth Paltrow, or at least, her Contagion character, wandering along the makeup counter sampling various shades of lip gloss, and again, I left in a panic, sure that I had some incurable disease, all because I wanted a new lip gloss.

Handshakes, bring them on, I can always use the sanitizer, but I’m swearing off the lip gloss testing, forever.

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