You’d think I’d been laying cement for the last two decades, the way my hands have been looking lately: veiny, crepey, way tanner than I’d like them to be, as I keep forgetting the sunscreen, and overall, well…kind of shocking. Between the tense tendons on the backs of my hands, the raised purple veins forking toward my wrist, punctuated by skin bracelets, and the knuckles textured like pitted prunes, a zoom shot of my hands might be confuse people into thinking that they were seeing a skin graft from an elephant’s ankle.
The weird part is I’m only in my early forties. But I guess growing up in the eighties, a time that was for me synonymous with tan reflectors, Hawaiian tropic Dark tanning oil, baby oil infused with iodine, and smoking, has something to do with it.
Still, I feel way too young to be carrying around these reptiles for hands—and elderly reptiles at that. Would it surprise my friends to know that I am not as cold as I oftentimes seem, but rather cradle these little old ladies in the sleeves of my sweatshirt, both hiding and protecting them from the elements, and in some ways, caring for and comforting them the way I would for faithful pets who have served me over the years? Not if they saw these iguanas in full sunlight, it wouldn’t.
The question is: will I do anything about it? Recently I saw a yoga instructor on a plastic surgery show having her hands injected with Juvederm. She was in her fifties and had a killer body and a smooth face, but felt that her hands were aging her. At the time, from the perch of my couch, in the soft, forgiving lighting of my den, my hands still in the ghostly state of early spring, I thought, “What a vain loser!” Then summer came, the skin browned, the freckles grew pronounced, the purple veins took on a ghastly greenish-blue hue, and I realized, Yes, I too can be a vain loser (alas, without the killer body), for the low, low price of… $1,500? Besides, what’s a little hyaluronic acid in the grand scheme of things?
But I won’t inject them, at least not yet, not only because I would be hard-pressed to put that little luxury before back to school money, but also because I have to remind myself that as old these five-fingered lizards look, their weathering has as much to do with ill care as it does the small moments that have, for better or worse, shaped my personality.
Their crepey skin, for example, harkens me back, much like a photo album, to the first dishes I ever washed and got paid for (a novel concept at fourteen) at Bob’s Luncheonette, which probably empowered me to eventually open my own places. Their pruney knuckles remind me of doing data entry and accounting at an appliance store as my fingers clicked my way through community college. I can still recall the sheer pleasure of crunching numbers into a calculator, bringing up that long white ribbon, and the incredible meeting of luck and skill when the numbers worked out to the penny.
The wood-grained skin below my nails might be traced back to the years spent clacking away on keyboards—from the Sony word processor to my current laptop-- trying to put order to my thoughts.
The raised veins, tense and hard looking, but vulnerably soft to the touch…like uncooked clams?... might stem from years of chopping vegetables and stirring the wooden spoon around the sautee’ pan; or the places I’ve decorated: apartments, houses, businesses; or the care I’ve given: changing diapers, bathing animals; or maybe the love I’ve shared. Not to get all Fifty Shades of Gray on you, but let’s just say these hands have been involved in some happy times with some happy people, myself included.
If you think about it, hands really are incredible, considering that there are no muscles inside the fingers, but rather muscles located in the palm and up through the mid forearm, which bend the finger joints, much like puppets. The hands have 29 major and minor bones, 29 major joints, at least 48 nerves, and at least 30 arteries. Not myself, but others can support their entire being using just their fingers. And the thumb? It’s a pretty complex little sucker with six separate descriptive terms just for particular directions of movement of one thumb joint. Our ability to oppose our thumbs makes us unique in the animal kingdom, although chimps and some other monkeys share this trait as well. (Chin up, Homo Sapiens, the best of them are only as smart as three-year-olds).
Hands also take up a chunk of our brain space. About a quarter of the motor cortex in the human brain is devoted to the muscles of the hands. The loss of a hand will garner one 244 weeks of paid compensation, according to the Federal Employee Compensation Act, almost as much as a whole arm, which will net one 312 weeks' of compensation. Not too shabby.
Do hands also hold emotions? Mine do, which is something I discovered recently when I went for a massage and the therapist held my hand. I almost cried. It was kind of embarrassing, but also interesting: there is obviously some underlining issue that I need to get to the bottom of. (Note to self to tell therapist).
If not telling of how were doing emotionally in the present, can hands really reveal our past and future? I’m not sure if I believe in palm reading, but if I do then according to my left hand, the hand of my past life, let’s see…I was a creative person with absolutely no earning power, whose love life was bumpy. And according to my right hand…wait, it looks kind of similar to my left hand. Never mind, I don’t believe in palm reading.
Something I recently learned about hands is that the knuckles only get creased with movement. If that is the case, then these hands-- these little elves servicing my mind, this brawn to my brain— remind me how very hands on I have been in life, how fortunate I have been not to have had everything handed to me—and how very much I enjoy creating.
Still, if anyone knows of a good, anti-aging cream, inbox me.