I Feel Bad About My Hands

I feel bad about my hands. Rather, I feel bad for my hands. All they’ve ever done is make my life incredibly easy. They’ve tried hard—not a finger has ever failed me with a fracture or a sprain. According to logic, they should demand respect—they should be loveable. But like chihuahuas (which are supposed to be adorable, but are simply too shaky and rat-like), my hands are physically pathetic.
Poor hands. Maybe I should name them. I could call them Gertrude and Gladys, or Myrtle and Roxanne, just to better convey how much I dislike them. They are small and fleshy with short, stubby fingers and, as young as they are, are full of lines. My stubbiest finger (my right thumb) sports a large writing-callus, since I hold a pencil incorrectly. My mom has bad hands, too. Her nails are particularly troublesome because they seem to want to grow out to the sides, rather than straight ahead. My dad’s hands aren’t too pretty, either, but he has wonderful, strong, healthy nails. They are ridiculously tough. They can open containers that other nails wouldn’t even attempt. I don’t know how he clips them.
I did not, in the least bit, inherit my dad’s nails. Mine are thin and peely. I have to keep them short or else they start to bend in funny directions. They are eternally uneven and the cuticles encroach on their territory. I also have a ton of hang nails that bleed far too easily—sorry, this is getting gross. My point is that, on the very rare occasion that I get a manicure with my friends, my treatment always takes the longest because there is so much to do. I’m a problematic client.
I do like my freckle, since it helped me learn to tell right from left. It sits on the back of my right hand, right by the valley between my thumb and index finger. It’s very small. Both of my parents, as well as my grandmother on my dad’s side, have a mole in the same spot, but on the left hand. I’m glad mine is a freckle and not a mole. My mom’s mole is particularly conspicuous. Small children are fascinated by it—sometimes they press it and she imitates the sound of a buzzer.
I guess I can’t talk about my hands without mentioning the fact that they are completely raw, since I’m an obsessive-compulsive hand-washer. I mean big time. Lady-Macbeth-style. My palms are pink, and they peel and shred. I also have a rough spot on the back of my right hand, near my middle and ring fingers, that is left over from my elementary-school days, when the backs were entirely rough. I think of the spot as a reminder, or a as warning, rather, not to return to those days, in which I’d stand in the tiny downstairs bathroom of our apartment and wash my hands until they bled. On the bright side, I’ve probably kept tons of hand cream and antibiotic ointment companies in business.
Finally, I have to mention that my hands are cold and clammy. Ew. Sorry. I hate shaking hands with people because they always comment on the coldness and–I’m almost positive–think about the clamminess. I’d like to tell them that my hands are cold because I have poor circulation, and clammy because I’ve washed away the oils and there’s nothing to counter the sweat, but that would be weird. Instead, I must simply apologize and face the fact that, when I tap people on the bare shoulder, they will flinch from the coldness, and that I will have to find a man who likes me enough to hold my clammy hand. I’d like to add that my hands are not clammy in the disgusting, sixth-grader-in-gym-class way. Rather, they are a nice, harmless, clean clammy. Rest assured that, as unattractive, unappealing, and gross as my hands may be, they are never, ever dirty.

Leyla Wade, Age 17, Grade 12, Berkeley Carroll School, Silver Key

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