Mandel is going public with his struggle with his OCD in a humorous autobiography entitled, "Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me," which hits bookstores today. He reveals the unusual set of rituals and the terrifying role that OCD consumes in his life.
Click here to read more about Mandel's struggle. Read an excerpt from the book below.
Welcome to Me
November 29, 1955. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Mount Sinai Hospital. Howard Michael Mandel was born to Albert and Evelyn Mandel. I have absolutely no recollection of my infancy, but I'm told I was the happiest, most idyllic child, not to mention the cleanest child known to man.
As excited as my mother must have been about having me, she tells me that she felt like a child herself. She was just twenty-three, and my father was twenty-nine. She was really nervous about her baby boy and wanted to protect him from the evils of the world at that time-the Commies, nuclear proliferation, and, most important, the invasion of germs.
Whenever somebody came over to see her baby, God forbid they should touch little Howard's teeny fingers. As soon as they left, she would take me into the bathroom and scrub my hands with soap and water. If somebody sniffled and touched my crib, my mother would mark the spot in her mind. She would remember that it was two inches to the left of the headboard, and again, as soon as that person left the room, she would hit that spot with the Lysol, putting me back in my sterile environment.
You might think this was over the top, but the apple didn't fall far from the tree. The first and all recollections I have of visiting my grandparents on my mother's side were of approaching the house and seeing my "bubbie" outside the front door on her hands and knees, waxing the concrete veranda. Waxing. Concrete. Outside. There was no way she was going to allow anyone to track filth into her home. She believed that this was the first line of defense toward maintaining a safe environment-that is, if you ignored the fact that it was very easy to slip and break your neck before you rang the doorbell. Let's weigh the odds here: no dirt on your feet, or a broken neck. She seemed to lean in favor of no dirt on the feet.
Once you were inside, not much changed. As in many homes in the Northeast and Midwest, inside the door there was a tray where you could remove your boots so you didn't track mud and snow into the house. I know there was a boot tray, but my grandmother's was covered in newspaper, because God forbid the boots should touch the tray. In fact, I don't think I ever touched any of the furniture or carpets in her house because it was all covered with plastic. Everything was hermetically sealed in its place.
So when I now see a picture of me as an infant, posed on a chair in my living room and separated from that chair by a sheet of plastic, it seems to make some sense.
I started my life with the cleanest of slates, so to speak. Everything went swimmingly well for Howard for those first two and a half years in what was metaphorically a perfectly chlorinated pool. But then comes my first memory of infancy. I may not be accurately depicting the facts, but I promise you I'm accurately depicting my memory.