Saturday, January 03, 2009

My syndrome

Back when the blog ring used to *work* this blog was right after Stephanie's and I used to get a TON of incidental traffic of hers. Since we were neighbors, I was only a little nervous about introducing myself to her at my first Rhinebeck, back in 2004.

I think I walked up to her and stuttered out something dorky like "Hi, Stephanie... My name is Chelsea, and we're next-door neighbors in the blog ring." The first thing she did was take hold of one of my hands and say, "They look perfectly normal sized to me. In fact, mine might even be smaller." (My non-blogging friend didn't get how cool that was at all.)

Steph was totally right, though. Hers are smaller.

She's not the only one wondering, though. Two phrases turn up quite often in my keyword search results.

"I have small hands"
"small hands syndrome"

And then today, one of my favorites: "Most successful people have small hands."

A quick search of my own on the first two phrases revealed a surprising number of forum posts pleading for help finding everything from guitars and video consoles to gloves and cutlery that will comfortably accommodate the very tiny handed. And more syndromes than I would have guessed with "small hands" as an indicator.

It is true that my blog title doesn't come from the actual size of my hands, per se. Though I would challenge anyone who knows me to call them large.


For a long time, my hands and my eyes were the only parts of my body at which I didn't take overt offense. Everything else seemed constructed specifically to not work as designed.

In high school, when I formed the majority of my opinions about my body, I had way too much in the way of eyebrows, but not enough bangs. I had too much cleavage and no waist whatsoever. My feet were stubborn malcontents, stumbling and tripping me through gym class without a thought for my feelings. While my mouth... First off, my mouth held what I had always considered my absolute worst feature (crooked hillbilly teeth that yellowed at the mention of coffee or cigarettes) and secondly... let's just say that my mouth got me in to way more trouble than it ever got me out of.

But my hands were always graceful and soft and if I dared say so, somewhat creamy. My nails were bitten down to the quick until sometime in college, but even that couldn't take away from a certain poise that I found in my hands. Mornings at the Heathman Bakery and Pub in Portland I would draw my left hand with my right while waiting for my first class at art school.

hand drawing 01 - from Nov 1991 hand drawing 02 - from Nov 1991

It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned to touch-type and was able to add one more useful skill to my hands' repertoire. They can draw, crochet, sew, knit, massage, scratch, knead, apply some deadly eye-makeup, and unknot or retie many things. I have always admired that about them.

Since I have been varying degrees of overweight (from curvy to fat and back again more than once) for a lot of my life, liking my hands was safe. While I mentioned my eyes earlier, they were a double edged feature. When you are a fat girl you don't usually want to hear how pretty your eyes are or what a nice smile you have. You are only too aware of the implied "if only" that lies like a rattlesnake behind those sorts of compliments. Secretly, I could rely on my fingers to always be long and thin, even if I never would be.

It sometimes felt like a small thing, to like my hands, when held up against all that I didn't like about myself. But it was still important, even though I never considered them pretty, exactly. What they were--and are--is graceful, and skilled, and subtle. All things I have always wished to embody.


Some time around high school age, I started going through my mom's few books of poetry. One stood out: 100 Poems by E. E. Cummings (he prefered it capitalized, you doubters can Google it).

I have read and reread my mother's copy so many times that the binding is cracked and several of the dog-ears that mark my favorites have come unhinged and fallen completely from their original pages.

His poem, Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond was the inspiration for my blog title. It isn't my favorite among his poems, but the last stanza is one of my all-time favorite sentiments of love.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

And there it is.


Now it seems really appropriate to go all maudlin, and end this thing choking up a little, with a bit about how now I finally love all of me. Or some promise to like the rest of me as unconditionally. Yeah, right. That will always be a process, one that I sometimes feel ahead of and sometimes feel behind.

Anyway this post wasn't about that. That isn't what I meant at all. It was just about my hands. And my blog title.

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