The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands. ~ Anne Frank
I was recently posed a question through a very silly portal (formspring.me) asking what I considered to be my best feature. My assumption is that this meant best physical feature, and so I gave myself a cursory once over. I guess my eyes stand out because sometimes they look really blue, which is cool, especially in Asia. But the eyes are fickle; when I am in a mood they are stormy grey. I did not want to choose a favorite feature that capricious. I do have good hair (save for the tedious fact that it is going grey and not in the glamorous way. Oh, and a constant Afro in HK.) My hair is thick and grows fast. Once in high school my friend Tracy asked what my secret was and I thought the question was sort of funny so I told her that I pulled it every night for at least ten minutes. I never thought she would take me seriously. I found out years later from another friend that Tracy had taken to pulling her hair nightly for years. Oops. But my hair, like my eyes, seems too easily modified or changed to be one’s “Best” feature. I am tall, which I love now, but did not always, and I have long legs. But I don’t really see either of those as “features” – they are just facts, and a giant retail pain in the ass in Asia. So, I considered another option, my smile. Like most people, I look better when I smile, and I smile often, but I would not pick that as my best feature either because I am mildly self-conscious of my kind of crooked (though very white) teeth.
Then I looked at my hands. I have big hands, like, I can palm a basketball, but I don’t think I have man-hands. I have long fingers, and good nail beds according to my friend Deanna, and I assume she knows of which she speaks. I wear two rings on the ring finger of my right hand that I got from my mom. I don’t take them off and they are the only yellow gold jewelery I wear with any regularity. My hands are a little veiny, which always reminds me of being a little kid and looking at my friend Kelly’s hands – she was so thin and the veins on her hands always showed, even when we were six. I was jealous of that when I looked at my larger, browner hands next to her delicate porcelain white ones. My hands are strong and have lots of lines in them. Right now, my hands are very tan. And when I look at them I can see my mom’s hands sometimes.
Sometimes when I look at them I see my grandma’s hands, too. My grandma had great hands and hand rituals. I used to sit with her for hours (it seemed like) while she did her nails; long ovals, perfectly filed and painted one of her myriad shades of taupe. And my grandma used her hands too. She used them for cooking and hugging and patting the seat right next to her to tell you to come sit down and tell her how you were doing. She used them for expression, she tapped the table absently with her index finger while she read the LA times and shook her head about “those darn Republicans!” She always kept time with her fingers and punctuated key notes in the air with a little “Da-da-da…” as she moved around the kitchen doing this and that, listening to Ella or Frank or Sarah. She still keeps the time to those songs with her fingers, even now when she is not doing any of the other things she used to do.
There is a black and white photo in one of my mom’s photo albums of my great-grandma making Syrian bread (what she called pita bread.) I know it is Sittee simply because I know, it shows only her hands kneading bread dough. I used to look at the picture a lot and wonder why my mom would have taken a picture of my great-grandma’s hands when she could have taken a picture of all of her. I think I kind of get it now.
Hands say a lot about a person.
What they do.
What they don’t do.
What they want to do.
I thought of the hands I have known. My mom’s hands. Doctor’s hands. Builder’s hands. Musician’s hands. Junkie’s hands. Six-year old hands. White-collar hands. Blue-collar hands. Sure hands. Nervous hands.
The woman who was my dad’s second wife had hands like the ones Seinfeld was afraid of. She used to say I was so lucky I had my mom’s hands. But she made it sound like an insult. My best friend from high school has beautiful hands… long graceful Eurasian hands, the kind that are certainly meant to be taken care of. One of my best friends from college has hands that are completely double jointed – it is crazy what she can do with her hands, and all the women in her family have these cute little thumbs. I know someone in Hong Kong who told me his fingers looked like cow’s teats, and holy shit, if he wasn’t correct. My yoga teacher can contort his hands as deftly as he can his body. Tom Robbins wrote a whole story based around Sissy Hankshaw’s hands. Ex #1 had funny callouses from playing bass on his hands, but I liked them – it was like boyfriend braille or something. #2 had good hands – a nice combination of all the right attributes and he used them well. Ex #3 said he was mesmerized by my hands when he got out of the clink – he couldn’t stop looking at them. I don’t really know why. Ex #4 had really, really, really clean hands. #5 had hard-lived hands. One of my Government students once challenged me to see if I could get through one class without using my hands to gesticulate and otherwise contribute (distract?) to the lesson. I could not.
Hands can hold.
Hands can defend.
Hands can offend.
Hands can teach.
Hands can tickle.
Hands can hurt.
Hands can soothe.
Hands can create.
Hands can catch.
Hands can destroy.
Hands can heal.
Hands can save.
For my best feature, I choose my hands.