Got Ugly Hands?
I Do… (Almost) Always Have
“Your hands look so old,” he said. I was 20, and, yes, they did look old. I have bony fingers, knobby knuckles, short, flat, thin fingernails, and blue-green veins that look like elevated railroads.
My hands have rocked babies, removed IV needles from a loved child, kneaded bread, crocheted afghans, grown and then chopped vegetables, sewn garments, and written hundreds of thousands of words. My hands have been busy.
One thing they’ve never been is pretty. I’m a few years older than 20, so now, my never-pretty hands also have swollen knuckles and weird, puffed-out joints. They also have dark brown freckles and horrid age spots. (My granddaughter calls them “boo-boos.”)
Only once did I rebel against my ugly hands. In winter of 2003, my husband and I had been separated for several months and my self-image was low, low, low. I didn’t feel good about much of anything. I wanted a change, something visible, but I was smart enough to not do anything radical (like pierce my nose, which I eventually did). My daughters were getting their nails done every few weeks and French manicures were popular.
I didn’t have enough nails to become French or any other ethnicity, but I decided to get acrylic nails—fake nails. It was kind of scary the first time I had them done. I was aghast when the nail tech actually sanded my existing nails. The smells in the shop were noxious and I wondered why only the techs wore masks. I wanted one, too. But I wanted pretty hands more.
Sanding, buffing, adding, filling, filing, and polishing created my nails, long nails—nails that kind of sort of looked real. I loved them! I felt crummy about so many things, but when I looked at my hands, I didn’t have ugly hands. I liked not having ugly hands and felt better about that one thing. I decided to keep “my” nails.
That all changed when spring arrived and I began feeling positive about other aspects of my life. Winter was over and I went outside to play in the dirt. But the soil, water, and activity wreaked havoc with my “pretty hands and nails.” Dirt crusted and congregated beneath, around, and inside those fake nails. I couldn’t scrub it off.
As I continued to dig and trim and weed and plant, I realized I felt better about myself—in spite of once again having nasty fingernails. I had made it through that first winter of separation. I had survived. Better—I was beginning to thrive.
As the nails came loose, I peeled them off, and let my real nails grow. My hands hadn’t changed; they still were old looking and ugly. Nor had any other aspects of my appearance changed. But I had changed inside. I was ready to do more, to feel more, to be more.
I don’t regret my six months of pretty hands and fingernails. I needed that boost to feel better about one aspect of my life. It was worth it.
When going through life transitions, it’s important to find even one little thing that can help you feel better, something that can “hold your hand” as you walk toward a new, and even improved, life.