I’ve never liked my hands. My roommate and a few friends are particularly attached to them and often wax poetically about their feminine qualities and artful motions. In my mind that’s all nonsense as I’ve never seen my hands at being particularly graceful or anything but manly.
Broad, short, stubby and with microscopic nail beds there is nothing on these digits to admire. They never mastered an octave span on a piano (or done more than bumble a scale. I’m hopeless on keyboards) or heralded a standing ovation as the accompaniment to a ballerina. They’ve cracked and callused and burned thanks to a no-nonsense father who determined a hard working Midwestern upbringing full of yard work and manual labor was character building. Two years of managing a coffee shop saw them scared by spilt coffee, sharp knives, hot ovens and endless, absolutely endless, dishwashing. A penchant for toilet and bathtub scrubbing ensures that my nails will never grow to a luxurious length. Though they are treated to a weekly manicure and polished in the most absurd shades I am very at terms with the fact that hands are tools, and at the end of the day we all have to get a little messy in order to be satisfied with the work we have done.
When people ask me what I miss the most about living in India I always reply with “touching everything”. You eat with your bare hands, clean with your bare hands, do your laundry in a bucket with your hands. This kinesthetic attachment to your everyday tasks puts you into a wondrous mindset. I don’t know how often I wish I could sit on my rooftop overlooking Manhattan and scrub my clothes clean with my bare hands. Elbows deep in soapy water, getting a little blister on the outsides of your pointer finger from friction and wringing and wringing and wringing out soap before hanging your clothes up to dry is one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever participated in. I absolutely abhor laundry and in the City drop it off to be done so that I have no involvement in the process besides transportation and payment. This disconnect alienates me from honest-to-goodness manual labor. It’s really quite despicable… but laundry is just so vile.
I’m not going to say eating with my hands is a pleasurable experience. To be sure it’s kind of gross… but I will not deny the connection you establish between you and your food. You know how much you’re eating, what your food feels like, the temperature, the texture. It creates a sort of bond between you and your food, already a reverent relationship, that catapults it into a very sensual experience. That’s what I thought about as I dug into this bran muffin without any sense of decency or manners. I needed a moment with that muffin and ditching the fork was the only way I was going to get it.