Farmer Hands & Cheese Grater Feet
By Kelley Sheiss
I remember it clearly. After recently moving to Indiana, I had the privilege of helping at a local livestock event with another volunteer, a strikingly beautiful woman a few years older than me. I knew she lived on a farm doing a good chunk of the livestock chores along with yard work, gardening and renovating an old farmhouse. As we worked side by side during the show, I happened to notice her hands. Much to my surprise, this woman who turned heads everywhere she went had man hands! Some people call them "farmer hands," "gardener hands," or "laborer hands." I choose "man hands."
The term stuck with me when I was in my early 20's and lived in Chicago. A little story that might seem a bit out of my character (well, not really for those of you that know me) on how I came to use the term. I would like to blame it on young ignorance, but no such luck. A co-worker of mine was taking her brother out to celebrate his birthday. She knew I hadn't had much of a taste of Chicago nightlife, so she asked me to join them at "The Baton Club." This was an establishment where men dressed up as famous women performers. As I stood in line, all I could think of was "if my parents could see me now." As we entered, we were ushered to the front row, right in front of the stage. Being with the birthday boy had its benefits! As the performers came out, I was in awe. These men...er...women...er...performers...were amazing! There was Donna Summer and Marilyn Monroe, along with many more. Honestly, I was fascinated. At one point, "Donna Summer" knelt down to sing to the birthday boy and I looked at his...her...the performer's hands. There wasn't any make-up, wigs, tape, etc. to hide the fact that this dude could easily palm a basketball with one hand. Even with the acrylic nails, I could see it - man hands!
Around here, man hands are worn and weathered. Often, they have short nails, rough, dry skin and plenty of cuts, divots and scars. In some cases of farmers I know, there are crushed finger tips and even missing parts. That's why you'll never see my husband wearing a wedding ring. He put it on the day we exchanged our vows and took it off the next day. I'm o.k. with that. Why? Rings are a digit death wish on a farm. When I worked off the farm full-time, I took great care of my hands, vowing to never fall victim to the man hand syndrome. That vow has now gone by the wayside.
As I type, I look at fingers with short nails, cuts and dry, dry skin. Something had to give, and it was my hands. Well, to be honest, it started with my feet. I knew it was bad when recently Donnie said "Jeez, you need a cheese grater on those things!" I am thinking there is a little Amish in me somewhere, because I love to go barefoot. In the house, in the yard and even in the barn. I have had things on my feet you would take time to walk around. Add to it a genetic tendency for bunions and the fact I tried to scalp a foot a couple years while mowing, well, I've got a disaster down there. Even the butterfly tattoo I splurged on for my 40th birthday didn't help the landscape on my feet. I once had someone tell me the feet are the key to your soul, health and well-being. She then followed-up with informing me nicely I was in trouble if I didn't take better care of them. I could put the Pedi-Egg company out of business. I've been working on the feet, but now the hands are taking a back seat.
I envy women who post on Facebook they are off for a mani/pedi. The one time I went in for a pedi, I swear the nice little Oriental man was cursing under his breath. And mani's? I am better off flushing money down the drain. I drool at gals with fancy acrylic nails. I gaze at the amazing nail designs on Pinterest, sadly realizing it is not meant to be. On rare occasions, I splurge and buy press on nails, but for some sadistic reason I do this right before we go to a cattle show, and they are off in mere hours. It doesn't help that I was a nail biter way back. I keenly remember the orthodonist telling my mom "she has to stop biting her nails or this is going to cost more." Since I had the Fort Knox of braces on my teeth for several years, my mom's dire measures consisted of putting vinegar on my fingers. It worked. To this day, I don't bite my nails. What I do now is pick, especially when I am nervous. For those of you that know me, I am nervous...a lot...especially when Dillon is showing livestock. Look at me on the side of the ring. Bet 'ya I am working on my nails.
I have come to realize that my days of hand glorification are over. I am so used to short nails I don't think I could function with anything over the tip of my finger. In meetings, I find myself looking at other ladies nails and then, with sneaky shame, hiding my hands on my lap, wondering if someone has noticed my "man hands." One time, fearful of being late for a meeting after hastily doing some barn chores, I quickly washed up and rushed to town, only to realize I had left a little bit of the barn on my hands. Cue a quick excuse to the bathroom.
On the other hand (no pun intended!), I realize they are a portrait of hard work and obsessive hand washing to keep the newest virus at bay. Will I ever be a hand model? Absolutely not! Don't even think about the foot model gig, either!