Howie Mandel's Impressive Germ Phobia


Life.comI don't know if you caught Howie Mandel on 20/20 talking about his germ phobia, but it was riveting TV. I'm a fan of Howie's, but even if you're not, it's worth watching—if only to reassure yourself that you're not so crazy after all. A few things really stood out:

Howie has a house behind his house, to which he retreats when his kids are sick. My first thought was, Only a guy could get away with that. Not even the biggest germ-phobic mom would ditch her kid mid-illness to escape to her own bubble. Sure, there have been plenty of nights I've wanted to run from the retching, but every mom knows if she doesn't clean up that puke, nobody else will, and that poor green kid will wake up in a pool of his own vomit tomorrow. Just think how the germs will multiply then.

The house behind the house is only a dream for most of us. Would Chase give us a second mortgage for that? They're not convinced we're a good risk for a crappy finished basement, so there's little chance they'll be green-lighting a second home 10 feet behind the first.

Money may be an enabler. And that brings me to my next realization about Howie—the rich actually have it worse when it comes to their neuroses. Howie made $10 million last year, so he can afford his backyard safe house and a private plane so he can get to his stand-up gigs without flying on the petri dish that is a commercial flight. While I wouldn't mind a private plane, I can only imagine how terrified of coach I'd be if I never, ever had to travel that way. (He even admits to a fear of turning into Howard Hughes.) So I wonder if having the means to escape bugs may be an enabler—and give you a false sense of security. Because let's be honest: You can never really escape bad germs. In fact, had I the house behind the house, it would quickly become just as much of a sick ward as my main house. As a mom to 6- and 3-year-old boys, I'm convinced that I travel encased in a Pigpen-like cloud of croup, strep, and pinkeye. If you see me coming, duck.

Howie rocks for sharing the gory details. It's brave and helpful and it makes the trademark fist bump seem much less ridiculous. May his memoir Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me sell like mad.

Disclosure: Howie has a special place in my heart. I once interviewed him for Child magazine (a phoner, no fist bump) and he was the funniest, most gracious guy. And Deal or No Deal played a major role in my son Henry's third year of life. Henry became obsessed with the show. (What 3-year-old doesn't love watching a guy lose the $200,000 that would've saved his family's home?) I made the mistake of getting Henry his own suitcase (a discarded makeup kit, actually), and he would pretend to walk in heels, imitating the ladies. At one point, my husband gently asked, "Um, do you like the ladies? Or do you want to be a lady?" It prompted one of those "that's really OK if our first-born boy wants to wear heels" conversations that new parents never imagine they'll have to have. Henry's over it. Us? Not so much.