They Look Like Good Strong Hands, Don’t They?


I try not to indulge in insecurity about my appearance.  Admittedly, it helps that I generally think I look good.  But worrying too much about my appearance feels like an exercise in insanity: Beauty standards are warped. There will always be someone better looking.  And good looks are fleeting.

But when it comes to my hands, I really, truly fail with my dreams of Beauty Mythbusting. I’ve written before about my skin problems.  The first place I ever suffered from eczema was on the knuckle of my right index finger, now I have it all over both hands.  Years of dry, itchy, raw, cracked skin, plus the side effects of the steroid creams I use to alleviate those symptoms, mean I have the hands of a much older woman.  Plus I have to keep my fingernails filed down to the quick, which isn’t the most glamorous look.

I really delighted in this post a few weeks back on Shakesville, because I saw Sarah Jessica Parker’s un-retouched hands and thought “those look just like mine!”

And Melissa McEwan described those hands as “beautiful and remarkable,” and not for the first time I wished I could be more like Melissa McEwan.

I mentioned the other day I have a scar through my eyebrow, and that I love it.  I never ever think of it as a flaw in my appearance.  Why can’t I feel that way about my hands?  I remember reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle as a child, and when I read these words in the final chapter:

Even as she stood there, holding my hands, a strange look passed across her face.  Slowly she turned my hands over, gazed at the palms, then touched them with her fingertips. “And your hands?’ she asked in horror. “They are so . . . hard.”

I knew this meant to show the reader that Charlotte had grown as a person; her experiences were showing on her skin.  We’re not supposed to be horrified like her mother.  We’re supposed to be proud.

Then again, I didn’t get my rough hands leading a mutiny against a villainous sea captain, so maybe that comparison doesn’t hold water (excuse the pun).

Still, I wish I were more comfortable with my hands, and not just for all these philosophical reasons, but for the simple fact that getting engaged (if you have an engagement ring) means showing your hand to EVERYONE.  Every time I see someone new and they ask to see the ring, I have to shove aside embarrassment about how my hands look.  This weekend I’ll be seeing most of Collin’s family for the first time since the ring arrived, and my hands are in worse shape than usual: picture SJP’s hand up there but with a bunch of scratch marks all over it.

I will probably try to rely mainly on the procedure of taking of my ring and handing it over to anyone asking to see it, even though that can be a little awkward.  In the meantime, I hope I someday learn to love my hard, hyperlinear hands.


  1. I like to think our scars and scratches and weathered bits are part of our life story. I find them similar to tattoos, documenting parts of our lives that we can joke about, cry about, etc. Obviously you can choose a tattoo and not a scar, but sometimes that is what makes them scars more interesting.

    And p.s. I really admired your post about not hiding your eyebrow scar in your wedding photos.

  2. I completely second Angie. I think these quriks make us so much more interesting. One of my best friends has a scar on her chin from her sister hitting her with a monopoly board when she was little. Also, my grandmother once told me ‘Your hands are so rough…like a mans’ so I hear you on the hand self consciousness.

    I hope you learn to love it to, its what makes each of us interesting and great. And I’m sure people are checking out your bling more than your hands!

    • I have gotten the same comment re: manly rough hands. Sexist! Rude!

      Also that had to be one hell of a smack with a Monopoly board! Note that my eyebrow scar also comes from childhood fun with my sister: she taught me how to play “ring around the rosy” around a coffee table, and I got overexcited at “we all fall down” and nailed my face on the edge of the table.

  3. I used to be super self-conscious about my hands because I bit my nails to the bone. I have since given up that habit, so now I focus mostly on the enormous gap between my two front teeth.

    I’ve been told by friends, family, and my boyfriend of 5 years (and even strangers!) that they *love* my gap, yet at the age of 30 I still find myself smiling with my mouth closed in photos. I still try to hide it when I meet someone new. I still worry about how ugly it looks when I sing.

    It’s just one of those things I guess I’ll always be self-conscious about. We all have those little things. Even the most beautiful women do, I’m certain of it! You seem like an otherwise well-adjusted and happy person (especially now because of Collin!). I think that’s what’s important. :)

    • I am going to add to the chorus of “I love your gap!” Because I do do do do do. Also maybe it is part of the reason you have such an awesome voice?

    • I have a gap between my front teeth, and so does my daughter. My mom always told me that the gap meant I would travel (um, yeah, not so much so far…). When I first met my current dentist, he tried to sell me caps to close up the gap. I told him, “If a gap-toothed smile can work for Madonna and Lauren Hutton, it can work for me, too.”

      Even though I am self-conscious about it, my gap gets a lot of “sexy” compliments, so there must be something about a gap-toothed smile on a woman that men like.

      Google it, and you’ll see. It IS sexy.


  4. I think our scars are still part of our hardness and growth. You’ve weathered a lot in learning about the world with your eczema, and I’d wager it’s given you strength you would otherwise have missed out on. No, it’s not a reason to celebrate the eczema, but it’s a reason to be proud of your hard hands.

    It’s not the same thing as your engagement ring angst, but I have a particularly ugly scar on my ankle. It’s more of a giant red gash, really. The red hasn’t really faded in five years. Everyone notices it in the summer time. And, well, I love it. It’s ugly and hard, but I love it. And it took a long time to get here. And now I like dressing it up with amazing shoes and showing off anyhow.

    Your hands are yours. They do amazing things like type this blog post and hold your partner and open doors and grip cooking utensils. Our hands get used and used up. We all end up with SJP hands, yours just came earlier than ours.

    When the aesthetics make you ache (as they sometimes will) try and remember what your hands still do for you every day. And the take-the-ring-off compromise sounds like a good option for the aesthetic ache. When I look at my hands I ignore the pale dry skin and the cracked fingernails and I look at the ring. Because the commitment is the important part. He loves you and your hands. And your hands are hard and have taught you something about strength.

  5. What counts most is your intended loves you including your hands. And most likely everyone will be ooing and awing over the ring and not evn notice your hands.

  6. You’re pretty the way you are.


  7. I love that somebody else has read the True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and talks about it. I love love loved that book when I read it.

    My hands are also somewhat messed up – calloused from hockey and law school, scarred from that time I tripped and fell running, bent from broken fingers, and right now I have nail polish on exactly one finger because I tested a sample at Sephora. (Okay, that one is silly, but I get where you are coming from.)

    Hands are hard because you can’t hide them. And scars are different from “imperfections” so it makes sense that you would feel differently. My scars make me feel badass. The weird allergic reactions I have to metal? Not so much.

    If it really makes you feel self-conscious, just do what I do – pull off your ring and hand it over.

    • I think I am developing a callous from highlighting. I also have a rainbow of highlighter ink on my hands pretty much at all times. (I have a six-color system. It’s earning me a bad reputation at bar review class for my distracting switching between markers.)

      • My bar review professor told us that people who use a color highlighting system fail the bar because they lose too much time on the essay questions, but that is probably only true for Maryland and its nightmare of 10 25-minute essay questions. Also we’re not allowed to use highlighters on the bar exam. But I’ve been taking notes by hand in bar review and my hands are COVERED in ink.

        What’s funny though, is that I have somewhat negative opinions of my hands, and I was talking to a guy last night who was like, “right after I notice a girl’s face and assets, I look at her hands. And you have the NICEST hands.” (Oddly enough, not the weirdest compliment I’ve ever gotten.) So maybe not everybody sees what you see :) .

  8. SJP is a wonderful person who has graced us all with her artistry.

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