I need another word for fetish. Obsession, inclination, fixation (the thesaurus was even helpful enough to suggest “thing”) – all of these words fit perfectly for what I have, but they all have such a nasty connotation. Okay maybe not inclination, but when I say the phrase, “I have a hand inclination,” it just sounds wrong.
I have a hand fetish, a hand fixation, I am obsessed with hands.
While I’m sure this obsession is not new to me, my realization of it is. I was watching one of my few reality vices a few days ago, “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Christina Applegate was a guest judge. She was speaking to one of the young dancers and she told her, “you put your finger against a wall and you break my heart.” It was a beautiful sentiment for a beautiful dancer and a beautiful dance. And it made me realize just how much attention I had been paying to the dancer’s hands. I wasn’t the only one. The more I listen to the Judges, the more I realized how many different times they made mention of the placement of hands in the dance. No matter what dance was going on, the hands weren’t important factor. They were part of the frame. They were part of the movements. From something as simple as knowing what angle the wrist should be benched when placed on the partners back in a Viennese waltz, to the intricate trick work of a hip-hop routine, the hands were oh so important.
Just watching the hand placement of a dancer is not exactly enough to diagnose myself with a hand fetish. It was enough, however, to make me start paying closer attention to how many times I focus on people’s hands. While watching yet another show, this time the Big Damn Fan Film’s production of, Browncoats: Redemption, I realized I was paying closer attention to the hands of the engineer but I was the actual storyline of the film. Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly enjoying the movie, and indulging my geeky side while despairing yet again over the loss of Joss Whedon’s, Firefly, but the engineer’s hands kept drawing my attention. His hands were particularly beautiful or amazing in any respect, but I was mesmerized all the same. He had long slender fingers, the better for dealing with wires and circuits and switches, I suppose, and since he was still somewhat young, probably 19 or 20, his wrists were somewhat small and delicate. Wrapped around one wrist was a white bandage, and he had small pieces of white medical tape wrapped around different fingers, as though protecting burned skin. Throughout the film, these pieces of medical tape would disappear and reappear in different places on his fingers. Occasionally, in the background, we would see him working on some switch and he would stop, put his finger in his mouth, and in the next scene, he would have a new piece of tape on his hand. It was character dressing, consistency.
My obsession reappeared while I was, once again, indulging my geeky side (I’m beginning to notice a pattern here). I was watching SyFy’s new show, Alphas, when I noticed it. The youngest character on that show, a young man named Gary, has the ability to see and read any type of digital signal. The signals are in the air all around him and he manipulates them with his hands opening them. Closing them, sending them on their way, stopping them, joining them (I’m beginning to sound like a Dr. Seuss poem gone bad). He doesn’t just stop and stare off into space, however, because that would get boring in a hurry, even with the somewhat simple yet effective special effects that SyFy uses. It would also get fairly expensive for the show if the only way we knew the Gary was manipulating the fields around him was by using said simple yet effective special effects. So instead, he uses his hands. A flick of the wrist shows that he sending something on its way. Raising his hands and twirling his fingers about lets us see that he is manipulating a connection. The movements are consistent every time. In this way, Gary can be in the background of a scene, but not look like he is just sitting there. His hands are constantly moving and we don’t have to see his eyes to know that he’s looking at things. He can become a part of the action. Gary is easily my favorite character on the show, and it’s not just because of his hands (I’m not saying that I’m not shallow, because I can be, but in this case there’s more to it). The movement of Gary’s hands is part of what made him who he is, part of his kinetic self.
The next time you watch your favorite show, watch the actors’ hands. Do the ones playing cops know how to hold the gun? Do the doctors fumble with their gloves or their surgical instruments? Do grifters swipe wallets with their fingertips like they are supposed to (don’t ask me how I know that)? Do the fighters make a proper fist? Do the cowboys loop the reigns around their fingers? Are the military salutes correct?
An actor can have the most expressive face in the world, but I’m finding that if they don’t know what to do with their hands, I don’t believe them in their role. I’m finding this is also bleeding over into reality. People hesitate with their hands. A person’s first day on the job at the cash register, their hands will always hesitate over the keys. They’re not sure which ones to press, they’re not sure how it works, and they don’t want to make a mistake. When my students hand in their papers, I can always tell which ones are confident in which ones are. The confident ones dropped their papers on my desk with a way (or just casual indifference), while the less confident ones often hanged by the desk. They hesitate before they put it in the pile. They rearrange the pile. They straighten it up.
Hands can tell a lot about a person. Blisters, callouses, rings, even the color of their fingernail polish – all hold stories. The force of a handshake, the hesitation before the entry of a security code, the selection of a soft drink. Perhaps I’m putting too much emphasis on hands and what they can tell me, but isn’t that part of the definition of fixation? Or fetish, obsession, inclination? Maybe the thesaurus was right – “thing” isn’t such a bad word for this, after all. It certainly covers all the bases.
So I guess now I just have to figure out the syntax. Which sounds better as an introduction: “I have a hand thing,” or “I have a thing for hands.”?
Or, maybe this is just something I shouldn’t mention during the first handshake. It might make people nervous.