Thursday, February 13, 2014

Impressions of Hands

I don't remember faces well, but I remember hands. When I'm speaking to a person, I often keep my gaze a little low, fixed on hands rather than eyes. For many significant meetings in my life, my primary impression is of hands.

When I met my ex-husband, we were sitting beside each other at a table. His left hand rested on the table next to his plate, and there was a large wart on one side of his thumb. As we talked and I realized I was attracted to him, I paid more and more attention to that wart. It became the center of my internal sexual questioning. I wondered what it would feel like and if there was anything bad about it entering my body.

I have always been attracted to people with long, delicate fingers, skillfull fingers. I spent countless hours watching people play guitar, and, later in my life, watching people hack computer hardware. The steady sureness of familiarity turns me on—someone who can position a piece of fabric under a sewing machine just so or precisely administer a dot of solder.

With men, there is something sexy to me about certain sorts of hair on the hands. I like when the arm hair is thick and impinges onto the back of the hand. I also like tufts of hair on the backs of the fingers.

With women, I am fascinated by fingernail choices (I would also be for men, probably, if there was more variety there). I notice the remnants of a sea-green polish and can tell the difference between tip wear and something that's been picked at methodically. I can often distinguish a DIY manicure from a salon manicure, decals from paint, and treatments such as shellac from traditional polish. The other day, I was stunned into extreme arousal by the sight of a woman's long, slim dark hands accented with gothy deep plum nail polish.

On both sexes, I love calluses and scars. I like to know the stories behind them or just to feel them. I also love seeing signs of work on hands–the incredibly stubborn grease that clings to a mechanic's hands, for example.

There are also the smells. It's sexy to catch the iron-tipped aromas of machines. I also enjoy a cook's hands, often wreathed with remnants of garlic, onion, and oils.

I'm not crazy about lotion. Living in New England as I now do, it's an occasional necessity, but I try to use unscented, fast-absorbing varieties. The lingering scent of lotion often strikes me as overbearing and it creates a slimy, too-soft sensation on the skin. I've been very put off in the past by hands that felt too soft to me. I enjoy the sensations of the sort of hand massage that comes with a nice manicure, but I always want to get the lotion off afterwards as soon as I can. It's always seemed like a cruel irony to me that nail techs' hands are often deeply affected by the chemicals they work with so that their skin is overdosed on lotion and their polish melted by contact with remover.

In moments of attraction, I often grow obsessed with the positioning of hands. They can be so close together that they brush accidentally when walking side by side, and yet the distance between that and taking a person's hand can seem like an immense cavern. The tentative hook of pinky finger around pinky finger can take my breath away, hit me solidly in the gut with disproportionate force. There is the deep awareness of the aura of heat coming off the hands, which sometimes creates a reactive frisson when one hand is in another's proximity. Sometimes, it's different. Sometimes, it's like there's no distance or barrier at all. When I met my current husband, I walked up to him in a club and put my hand on his shoulder as if I had every right to do so. I remember the breathlessness of that night, the way I couldn't get over how bold our hands were being and how it seemed as if there was nothing stopping them.

When I'm with an old lover or an interesting friend who can't become a lover, what will often make me sad is the way our hands must behave, the way that I must keep my hands to myself and not give in to the urge to close the gaps between us. And for so many of the romantic near-misses in my life, I was left with the memory of hands to comfort myself. There was the girl who invited me to her house and took my hand and explained that she had struggled with herself and questioned but she just didn't think she was interested in women that way. There was the boy whose hand I held at a party in an innocent fugue, but for some reason neither of us made any further moves.

I tend to think about sexual possibilities very frequently, and sometimes I walk through the world with a weird sense of freedom, realizing that I could take anyone's hand if I wanted to see what would happen next.

I don't. I've written this romantic meditation, but I'm usually reluctant to touch people I don't know. I am the person who downgrades hugs to handshakes, or doesn't step in close and satisfies myself with a wave. If I end up holding someone's hand in a supposedly innocuous way (in a group prayer, for example) I'm often consumed by my awareness of that person's body. The jolt I feel when I brush hands with someone else is too intimate for casual contact.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Annabeth!

    We're having a snow (ice) day where I live so i have more time to read and say hi. I was struck by a couple of things here especially:

    "The other day, I was stunned into extreme arousal by the sight of a woman's long, slim dark hands accented with gothy deep plum nail polish."

    I've never heard before of someone becoming aroused by someone's nail polish. That's really interesting. Is it the color that implies something? Things have changed since I was a kid. Girls only wore a few colors. A girl wearing dark or metallic nail polish was almost a sign of mental illness. Now nails have been an erogenous message in them themselves.

    "The tentative hook of pinky finger around pinky finger can take my breath away, hit me solidly in the gut with disproportionate force."

    This is another thing you never see in a story. Yet when I think of it there is something definatey intimate about it, intimate and non-threatening.

    You mentioned about a woman and a man. Are you bisexual?

    Garce

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    1. Hi Garce!

      Hope you are dealing with the storm all right. I'm far enough north that what's happening is in the normal range for us, but I've seen some scary pictures from the South.

      As far as the nail polish, the color was definitely part of it. The suggestion of goth there was contrasted with bright pink bracelets around the woman's wrists. But the nails were also just beautiful, perfectly shaped and so elegant. I'd heard her voice before seeing her, and getting this view from the corner of my eye floored me.

      I'm trying in general in my writing to pay attention to the entire body, so thinking about hands and fingers was nice for that (it's a bad habit, but tempting, to zero in on the obvious when writing erotica). Glad you liked the pinky finger imagery.

      And yes, I am attracted to both men and women.

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  2. The depth and range of things that turn people on never ceases to amaze me. There are so many considerations, it's a wonder people ever get together on a physical basis. How could one person divine the other's squicks and stimulations without lots of time together? This could be evidence of the so-called 'extrasensory' attraction we all know exists, just that those senses need to be defined. After all, 'clairvoyant' simply means 'sees clearly'.

    Maybe it's 'Love' in some form.

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    1. Several times, I've felt there was some spooky sort of recognition at work. Love or some sort of extrasensory lust or a bit of both. I've had the sensation with both one-night stands and longer things. The scientific part of me wants to think we are just very good at seeing something in subtle signals of posture and what have you, but there's another part of me that does want to believe that sometimes people "see" each other in that extrasensory way.

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  3. I've been subbing in some freshmen English classes and they're all reading Romeo and Juliet. Remember their first scene together, when they first talk? Romeo gets her to let him hold her hand, and that first contact thrills both of them. Then when he's done rhapsodizing about their hands making love, he asks her to let their lips do the same. But it's the hand-holding that cements their instant love. Even Shakespeare knew that hands can make or break a love scene.

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    1. Oh, that's a beautiful example. Thanks so much for the reminder! The wordplay about palms and palmers is just awesome in that scene.

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    2. That's the scene that stimulated my story "Trespass", that I talked about last week.

      From memory:

      R: If I profane with my unworthy hand
      This holy shrine the gentle fine is this
      My lips two blushing pilgrims ready stand
      To soothe that rough touch with a tender kiss.

      J: Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much.
      Such mannerly devotion shows in this,
      For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands may touch
      And palm to palm is whole palmer's kiss.

      R: Have not saints hands, and pilgrims too?

      J: Aye, pilgrim,hands that they use in prayer.

      R: Then let lips do what hands do.They pray.
      Grant though, lest faith turn to despair.


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    3. Ouch. Should be "Grant thou...."

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  4. Annabeth, this is so lovely - and revealing. I particularly like this:

    "I tend to think about sexual possibilities very frequently, and sometimes I walk through the world with a weird sense of freedom, realizing that I could take anyone's hand if I wanted to see what would happen next."

    That reminded me of the few times I've visited sex clubs (more or less swingers clubs). For once I was in an environment where I didn't have to hide my interest. I could ogle at a man or a woman whom I found attractive and not be impolite. I could reach out for at least a tentative touch, and see what happened.

    The next day, I found that sense of freedom tended to persist. Dangerous!

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  5. I've heard that hands must be as carefully painted by artists as faces, although most of us pay more attention to the faces (and assorted other body parts, depending on the painting) while being, perhaps, subliminally affected by the hands. in terms of great art, I think of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting of God stetting out his hand to infuse Adam with life. I remember the details of the faces more clearly than those of the hands, but the hands are the central image.

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    1. Funny you should mention this. When I was trying to figure out what to write, I was talking to someone who brought this up and was saying it's incredibly hard to draw hands. I didn't think I could write about that because I don't draw, but that conversation led to what I did write about!

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  6. Oops, that should be "stretching out his hand." My typing hand failed me.

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  7. It's pretty common knowledge about artists representing hands. Yes, they are harder than faces for most. A good gauge of an artist's skill is reflected in their representation of hands. Subtle proportions not consciously noticed in hands will compute mysteriously in our logic receptors.

    Annabeth said:
    The scientific part of me wants to think we are just very good at seeing something in subtle signals of posture and what have you, but there's another part of me that does want to believe that sometimes people "see" each other in that extrasensory way.


    Perhaps it's all science. Science that may be common knowledge in the future. Subtle body language we can't decipher in physical terms still manifests itself in our emotions. As said above, a clairvoyant simply 'sees clearly'.

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