Sunday, September 17, 2006

Childhood Trauma: Soft Hands

It's amazing how an offhand comment can affect you for the rest of your life, especially when you're a neurotic and paranoid child. I obsessed for years about my butt after my mother compared it to my grandfather's, which was notoriously wide. My parents also used to tell me that I had "sowbug feet," which I continue to half-believe even though I'm pretty sure my feet are just as sowbuggy as everybody else's.

But here's an odd one. When I was 11 I saw the movie "Trading Places." There's a scene where Jamie Lee Curtis -- a prostitute with a heart of gold -- tells Dan Aykroyd -- a pathetic, childish, pampered businessman -- that he has baby-soft hands, meaning he has never done a hard day's work in his life.

As a kid I wasn't worried about being masculine (surprise!) but I WAS worried about being lazy. And since I spent most of my time reading, typing, and crying my hands were -- predictably -- baby-soft.

After this I worried about my soft hands for many years. I felt they identified me as a person who never did any work. During my summer jobs I revelled in every blister and callous I could get, but my traitorous hands always healed again. Nowadays, of course, I'm THRILLED that my hands are soft, but that comment by Jamie Lee Curtis haunted me for a long, long time.

I bring this up because I'm reading "A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution" by Orlando Figes. While eating breakfast this morning (all that Russian famine can sure make you hungry!) I ran across this sentence regarding the revolutionary People's Court:
Judgements were reached according to the social status of the accused and their victims. In one People's Court the jurors made it a practice to inspect the hands of the defendant and, if they were clean and soft, to find him guilty.
Startled, I dropped my bacon. I rubbed my hands together...yes, still soft.



Anonymous said...

VanillaJ said...

More pictures of you tap dancing, please. Oh, while holding a kitchen utensil, maybe a spatula?

Adam Thornton said...

Oh wow, just you WAIT!

You're always thinking ahead, Jen.

Adam Thornton said...

And by the way, in Soviet Russia, anybody who listened to Barbra Streisand/Barry Gibb duets was immediately executed by the Kremlin's "Smarmy Sentimental" squad. But don't despair, they didn't like Ann Miller either.

Anonymous said...

Soft Hands

So your hands don't feel soft anymore?

Before you go to bed, lavish on the Vaseline and then pop on a pair of cotton gloves. Your hands will be incredibly soft by morning.

Anonymous said...

Soft Hands 1964-Egypt

For many years, a young prince has lived far beyond his means. He eventually finds that his finances are in a desperate state and he must now change his lifestyle. This would mean that the titular appendages will have to be put to use if he is to support himself. This Egyptian feature runs only 75 minutes. ~ Kristie Hassen, All Movie Guide

Adam Thornton said...

My God, the vaseline treatment sounds like a medieval torture...I'd be afraid my skin would come off with the gloves! But the day my hands start losing their silky-softness is the day I'll resort to your suggestion.

VanillaJ said...

For me, the Vaseline-in-the-glove works as well as the retainer-in-the-mouth. Both end up on the floor, obviously ripped off my person in my sleep. Even my subconscience knows that cheap, Woman's Day Magazine prescriptions to beauty regimes are a nusance, and freak'n uncomfortable, at that.

Adam Thornton said...

This vaseline glove makes me think of the following (again, from Orlando Figes' "A People's Tragedy," p.646): "The ingenuity of the Cheka's torture methods was matched only by the Spanish Inquisition. Each local Cheka had its own speciality. In Kharkov they went in for the 'glove trick' -- burning the victim's hands in boiling water until the blistered skin could be peeled off: this left the victims with raw and bleeding hands and their torturers with 'human gloves'.