Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"I Know it Like the Back of My Own Hand"

Apart from sometimes.

I didn't recognise the back of my hand the other day. I can't remember the exact circumstances, I was probably upstairs in the office doing something or other trivial, but I do remember I was scratching the knuckles on my left hand when I became concious of the fact that I had been doing that a lot recently. An awful lot. I looked at my hand and had a really horrible moment of 'what the fuck is that?'. 'That' was my hand. Nothing weird about it, no sudden pustular growths breaking out, no suddenly noticing I had grown another finger in the night. It just looked so sodding OLD.

My hands were grey, cracked, and wrinkled. I really had trouble reconciling what I was looking at with the fact that I was looking at a bit of me. Parts of my 48 year old body were suddenly looking like the less attractive parts of Boris Karloff's make up in The Mummy - and he was supposed to be 3,000 years old! (Mind you ancient fictional Egyptian princes like Im-ho-tep didn't do the amount of washing up and laundry I do). A couple of days of slapping the kids' emollient cream over them at every opportunity and they were looking more like the the dirty pink things I'm used to seeing at the end of my arms but for a day or two I though someone had destroyed the portrait of me hidden in the attic.

It made me start to wonder how many people would recognise the backs of their hands if, say, they were presented with photos of their own hands to pick out of dozens of others. After a fruitless hour trying to find if anyone has ever done this simple experiment (The Institute for Improbable Research seemed like a good place to start) I spent another hour or so constructing a double blind trial to establish whether people really do know what the back of their hand looks like. (It involved hidden cameras and gloves.) I've added this experiment to my list of Pointless Projects I Will Never Get Round To Undertaking along with those I listed here a long time ago.

To wit:
  • An international data base cataloguing the times between the appearance of a swimming pool in a movie and the time someone falls into, is pushed into, or is discovered floating face down in it (depending on the type of movie).
  • An international data base cataloguing the times a swimming pool appears in a movie and no one falls into, is pushed into, or is discovered floating face down in it (depending on the type of movie). Because it annoys Phoebe.
  • The definitive episode by episode guide to the number of times characters say: "Omigod!" in Friends (the resulting site to be called
  • A detailed survey of the extras in Babylon 5 pinpointing (with screencaps) the appearance of a particular hat which seems to be in every episode of at least the first 3 seasons.
I am really grateful to my kids for keeping me too busy to get round to doing any of these.

But if there is someone out there with a truckload of money and a burning need to know...

1 comment:

Phoebe said...

The hand thing. Wow. I remember growing up and hearing (more than once) women talking amongst themselves saying "The hands never lie" when talking about the age and beauty of another woman who was suspiciously not being talked amongst.

I asked what that meant, and was told that women can get plastic surgery for their face and body, but nothing can be done about their hands. Their hands will always tell their true age.

Unfortunately, that has stayed with me and for years I've been checking my hands worried that they are telling some evil truth.

Which they are. I have - what - LIVER SPOTS? on my right hand already. My knuckles are getting elephant jointy. My skin looks like wrinkled paper. And the lotion isn't helping so much anymore.

I wish I didn't care. I also remember my grandmother the farmer always had big dry, cracked, strong hands stained by the husks of black walnuts or the sticky juice of the tobacco stalk. I told her I wanted hands like hers and I would try to get them stained. She said point blank I *didn't* want that.

So sometimes I see my grandmothers hands in mine and I'm proud of the hard, strong work they can do. It just gives me the heebie jeebies when bits of the dry skin snag on synthetic fabric. ARRRGGGHH.

The pool - That's funny. Because I was reading it and thinking "YES! I hate that! Pointless pools!" and I'd forgotten about the earlier exchange.

I have - for my entire life - always ALWAYS wanted to get into a swimming pool if I saw it. Even an empty one. Same with fountains. And bodies of water.

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