I really like the way my hands look today. I’m aware that’s a strange thing to find appealing but I do—I think my hands look great today. It’s not something I set out to do, to make my hands look better today than yesterday, I just looked down at them this morning and boom, there they were, a picture of fingery perfection.
Perhaps it’s the way my new sweater hugs my wrists, making my hands look like symmetrical plumage. The ribs in my sweater cuffs make my fingers look longer, not in a boney Jack Skellington way but in a proportional, grown man sort of way. Those charcoal grey sweater cuffs also make my hands look healthy and powerful; beige and pink in all the right places and none of my fingernails look like they could be used for snorting or tree climbing.
I don’t know that this is a situation like Nora Ephron’s neck, but I really can’t stop looking at my hands. I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I’m sleep deprived or perhaps the subzero temperature outside has frozen the part of my brain intended for rational thought. Either way, I can’t stop looking at my hands.
This winter, I finally bought the pair of gloves I’ve been wanting for the better part of as-long-as-I-can-remember. They’re perfect. Made of soft black leather, they hug my hands in a warm and functional way yet they’re fingerless so I don’t feel helpless like I’m pawing at my phone or doorknobs or apartment keys. At the wrist are black knit cuffs, much like my sweater, that hug my wrists like a turtleneck. I saw the gloves as the weather began to chill but the price was too high and the need wasn’t immediate enough. But as the weather turned from chilly to cold, then from cold to The Day After Tomorrow, they went on sale. Like a star above the manger, I was led to my savior from the cold, the most perfect gloves I’ve ever owned.
I don’t know where my infatuation with gloves came from. When I was 16, I worked at an ice cream parlor where I’d mix candy and fruit into ice cream on a frozen slab of marble. For whatever reason, I loved putting on a pair of the thin plastic gloves while I was cleaning the dishes. The chilly sensation of the water touching the gloves yet not wetting my skin was odd and uncomfortable and fascinating. This must be what scuba divers feel like in the water, something I’ll never experience because of my irrational yet entirely real fear of giant squids.
A few years before that, I was a part of a mime team at church. When my youth group began dipping its toes into the artistic pool, our first at-bat with any sort of interpretive ministry was a pantomime to a song called “There Is a God.” The serious group of artists we were, we slicked our hair back and donned black slacks, black shirts and black socks. We then painted our faces with traditional white mime makeup, complete with a single black tear drop under one eye. I now know this tear is a common prison tattoo implying you’ve either murdered someone, are mourning the loss of a murdered family member or that you’ve been raped in jail. But we didn’t know that then so with our prison tattoo makeup applied, we marched up the steps to the sanctuary stage to silently proclaim “it’s God who creates, God who delivers, God who heals and God who is worthy of a thunderous ovation of praise.”
I hated the mime makeup. No one at the church really knew how to apply it correctly so it tended to look gloopy and muddy on our faces. I hated it in the same way I hated my makeup during the children’s Christmas musical when I portrayed a cat in the manger scene. Yes, I’ve truly played all the great roles. I wore red sweatpants and a red sweatshirt, as all cats do, and while I enjoyed having cat ears and a tail, I hated the full face of makeup we were required to don to become manger kitties. Even when I went as a cheetah for Halloween, I hated having simple whiskers drawn on my face.
I was, however, a fan of the mime gloves. Perfectly white, our fancy gloves had a button to clasp them tightly around our wrists. I’d put my gloves on any chance I could during rehearsals, mostly in order to properly accentuate spontaneous jazz hands. We were theatre kids without actually being “theatre kids,” something I’d be thankful for later in life. The white gloves emphasized our movements and I felt artistically important wearing them.
Even younger, while I didn’t love playing baseball, I loved my baseball glove. There was a sense of safety in putting on that thick leather mitt and knowing it would protect me when I inevitably had to use it to keep baseballs from hitting me in the face. Less a catching device and more a deflector shield, my black baseball glove with the white leather laces was my security blanket on the field.
Truthfully, apart from my baseball glove, I’ve never enjoyed bulky gloves. Spending my childhood in Texas, this wasn’t something I had to face with any regularly. I think I owned one pair of big gloves that got me through five or six years of winters. In Texas, winter is merely a suggestion and there are very few days that can actually qualify. Apart from an impromptu ice storm that shuts down the Metroplex like the pause button on a DVR, there are maybe two weeks out of 52 that are cold enough to quantify as “winter weather.” But regardless of how cold it was or wasn’t, I couldn’t function in bulky gloves that weren’t conducive for tree climbing or bike riding down frosty drainage ditches.
Moving to New York, having gloves became a necessity—imperative for both tolerance and survival. Waking up to my first blizzard was a beautiful white picture of Northeast perfection, that is, until I had to walk through it to get to the subway. Then it became a blustery ice tornado intent on turning me in a Mr. Freeze-style popsicle-person. As soon as I got off the train, I stopped in the first tourist trap I could find and bought whatever knit gloves were cheapest and closest to the register. For someone who prides themselves on their preparedness, I felt extremely lacking.
But today, there’s nothing lacking about my hands. Apart from the place where I accidentally stabbed myself with a fine-tipped marker, my hands look great. I never thought they looked bad per se, but I remember being young, post-toddler young, and looking at my father’s big hands and thinking I wanted to have big strong hands like him.
The whole “size doesn’t matter” concept is something I have to remind myself of periodically, not because of my hands though. Stay with me on this. I’m a grown man; tall, sturdy and bulky. Frankly, I’m bulky in all the wrong places, but be that as it may, I’m still a big, strong man. A big strong man with small teeth. This is something I’ve come to terms with. The first time someone commented on my diminutive tooth size was when I was right out of high school. The woman was the mother of two teenagers on my drama teams and she had an abrasive personality ripe for the Real Housewives picking. Everyone else’s business became her business and she stage-parented from just outside the spotlight. Standing in a group of people of which she was a part, she commented on how small my teeth were. She chuckled in a droll and sandpaper-dry way, “Oh, they look like baby teeth.”
I didn’t take offense to it really, it’s true, my teeth are small. Not freak show small, there’s not a place for me in production of Side Show or anything, but they’re smaller than other people’s teeth. There have been a few times when people in my life have noticed that a Colgate commercial isn’t in my future, but it is what it is. I have small teeth.
But my hands—those look great.
All of this sounds like I’m a bit of a fetishist, going on and on about my hands and the gloves that preserve them, but when we like something about our bodies, we should celebrate it. Even if that means celebrating the way my silly hands look with my new sweater wrapped around each wrist. Every magazine, advertisement and movie poster is telling us we should look a certain way. Even the anti-body-shaming crowd is telling us we should like our bodies a certain way. It’s an inescapable pressure and it’s a wonder anyone has the gumption to get out of bed in the morning.
I don’t always feel great about my body. Sometimes, I look in the mirror at my lumpy shell and rather than seeing my worth and my talent and my brain full of words, I see crowds of gym rats, naturally-thin adults and Crossfit cult members staring back at me with judgmental eyes. But after I turn off the light in the bathroom, it’s just me again. So I pull on my person-suit for the day and head toward the subway, feeling great about my new gloves and by proxy, myself. Then, as I get to my desk and I take the gloves off, I’m met with the reality that my hands look really spectacular today. I notice as I use them to pick up my hazelnut coffee from my festive red cup and I see them clacking away on my keyboard as I respond to emails. Find that simple thing about yourself worth celebrating.
Today, it’s my hands. They look awesome.