A Romantic Pandemic: Ingredients and Hygiene Theater

In the early days of the COVID pandemic in February 2020, I relearned to how and when to wash my hands. Not that I never washed my hands before, but certainly not as thoroughly and as often as I should. And not while singing the “Alphabet song” in my head, which I did while washing them until I was well-practiced in intuitively sensing the 20-second recommended interval. There was no shortage of hand sanitizing advice available at the time, even as soap and hand sanitizer became impossible to find in stores and online due to hoarding. (I learned to make my own!). Something as mundane as handwashing and using hand-sanitizer became wrapped up in a whole number of hygiene rituals that I followed, not knowing what else I should be doing at the time. Social Media, as always, was having fun with it, with PSAs and Tiktok dances. But it didn’t take long for the savvy American punditry to weigh in and label it all “Hygiene Theater”, starting a debate on hygiene that continued on for the next 18 months and isn’t over yet. It did not take long for handwashing to weave its way into Boys’ Love, through the web series, Ingredients: a romantic sitcom about two roommates who fall in love while washing their hands.

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