Monday, August 20, 2012

A Woman's Hands

A mother's touch is legendary. We all envision delicate, petite, soft hands caressing a child's fevered brow.

Women's hands in modern advertising are always slender, smooth and have perfectly manicured nails. Men probably don't even really look at a woman's hands. My guess is that they are looking elsewhere, right men?

I have always had old hands. From the time I was a young teen I noticed that my hands were wrinkled and looked like they belonged on a 40-year-old woman. Because I am not terribly vain and really don't care, and because I have always worked with my hands, gardened, sewn, crocheted, cooked and subsequently washed up, I haven't really noticed my hands much over the years.

Yesterday I published a blog post on bread baking. Being the real person that I am, and not having a young hand model available, the hands in the photos on that blog post are mine. They are old. They are wrinkled. They have cuts, bruises, burns, callouses, and not-so-pretty nails. They are a working woman's hands. Sadly, they are not attractive hands. Yes, I noticed and vainly wished I had pretty, delicate hands for once in my life.

When I pull weeds I do not wear gloves. I own gloves and always attempt to use them but find that I cannot "feel" what I am doing so I end up casting them aside.

When I cook and wash dishes I do not wear gloves. I often use touch to determine if a pot is truly clean, if that hardened food on that plate is completely removed. When I sew, knit, put the battery charger clamps on my battery, check my oil, do laundry (often by hand), use a shovel or haul firewood I do not wear gloves.

My hands are often swollen, a side effect of my screwed up body after being infected with Lyme disease and who knows what else. When they aren't swollen they look even worse because they are so wrinkled they might as well be on the body of an 80-year-old.

You know what? That's okay. I have real hands. My hands do hard work. My hands pick berries and cucumbers from prickly vines. My hands are not on display for the pleasure of strangers. My hands are here to provide sustenance for my family. My hands bring great pleasure to my cats and dog.

On good days my hands are almost strong. On bad days they betray me. But they are still MY hands. They still do good.

Some days my hands shake. Some days my hands cannot even write a check. That's okay. They can still peel a potato or chop an onion. I think I might start photographing the hands of women. What a project that would be: a celebration of the work of women via their hands. Why not?

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