If you’re entertaining in your home this year, there are many reasons why you might want to utterly destroy a guest with obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the technical differences between a frenemy, a nemesis, and a cousin who drives you to murder with a turkey baster are beyond the scope of this article, all are bound to show up at your door this holiday season, and one of them might have OCD. By taking the words of Sun Tzu to heart, and learning these actionable techniques, you can deal with that person.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
OCD comes in many forms, and this guide is not meant for all of them.
But if you know your guest has OCD, and you know that their OCD intersects with germaphobia or health anxiety, you need not fear the result of this holiday season.
Greet your guest at the door
Start off on the right foot! Or rather, the right hand, where you keep a great deal of germs. A hearty hug or a handshake is the perfect way to warmly welcome your OCD guest into your home while also saying, “Nothing is safe for you here.”
This one is especially great if your guest is female! No matter how many gender norms we see fall by the wayside, the norm at gatherings of friends and family is still to hug women while men shake hands. If you are warm, effusive, and sweater-wearing, you can hug everyone.
Once you’ve mastered the basic greeting, next year you can pull out of the hug and cough demurely. Something is going around!
Make space for everyone
Do you need to make space on the table for another side dish or for another guest’s plate? Does your OCD guest have a cup full of water that they’ve been sipping from? This is a two-birds-with-one-stone situation, like when you have multiple turkeys and kill them yourself with the molded plaster “Welcome to our home!” tile that you scooped up from the walkway.
Wait until your OCD guest glances in your direction. Then pick up their cup by the rim–the part they drink out of–and move it two feet or so.
Remember, don’t pick the cup up by the base; this method is less effective less of the time, and you should make sure you know your guest is suitably sensitive before trying it.
Take more mashed potatoes
Curses, you’ve run out of mashed potatoes! You scoop up more potatoes, but they are hearty and thick, and they stick to the spoon. Don’t panic; you can get out of this situation with subtlety and panache, and you can destroy your OCD guest at the same time.
Now, do you have the serving spoon in hand? Clunk the spoon onto your gravy-swirled plate. This action will free your desired serving of potatoes, while also leaving a subtle seasoning of your mouth-germs on the spoon, which you should then stick back into the nursing-home-yellow casserole dish.
Burn those holiday calories
Going for a post-meal walk or run either to burn off some calories or for a good reason? For convenience, place your sneakers soles-down on the table before you sit down to put them on. Make sure it’s not a side table, an end table or a coffee table: you want to use the kitchen or dining room table.
This will send a clear message: “All the germs from every public restroom I’ve walked in with these shoes are now on the table where we eat!”
Keep up your dental hygiene
Is your guest staying over? You have a great opportunity here! Make sure they’re around when you brush your teeth, and do the following: squeeze out your pea-sized ball of toothpaste, scrape your wet, used toothbrush over the opening of the toothpaste tube to get the paste off, and hand your guest the tube. Make sure to tell them, “All set! Here you go!” in your cheeriest holiday voice.
Make holiday cookies
You’ll want to get the kids involved with this one! The smaller and more heartless they are, the better!
Even though flax is a flawless egg substitute when it comes to cookies, make sure you use raw eggs in your cookies. After you’ve rolled out your cookies and put them on trays, but before you wash your hands and tidy up, make you sure touch a lot of things. Chairs, doorknobs, and refrigerator handles are great options which are all in close proximity of your kitchen.
If you really want to be a maverick, combine this with the next tip.
Put out the guest soap
You know those shell-shaped soaps that sit ambiguously in their dish, making guests fret over whether they’re supposed to use them or not?
Don’t use them. That kind of holiday anguish is old-school, and definitely not on-trend. These days, there’s a better way: have bars of moisturizing soap at every sink, and turn off your hot water. The slippery, difficult-to-rinse nature of the moisturizing soap draws out the oft-repeated hand-washing process of your OCD guest, making it as long an excruciating as possible.
Keeping your hot water off ensures that if your guest needs to wash hands multiple times—and they will, if you’re following these tips!—their fingers will be too numb to unwrap presents or pretend to eat your dubious food.
Share some comfort and joy
Is there a flu going around? Has your guest expressed concern about the flu, or about the sick children you invited because child germs are different from adult germs? Remember to make vague comments about upset stomachs, then assure your guest that it’s indigestion.
Does your guest think the meat seems undercooked? Make sure you dismiss this silly concern! Even if you used a meat thermometer, even if the pink occurs naturally in that cut of meat, even if you’re an experienced cook, don’t say any of those things. Don’t explain how you know the meat is fine. Simply say, “there’s nothing to worry about.”
Remember that dismissing legitimate concerns isn’t holiday gaslighting; it’s sharing comfort and joy.
As Sun Tzu said, that’s what the holidays are all about.