Once together and still, hands remain suggestive of character, rather than
precise. An odd-shaped finger, a bitten nail, a callous, a scar, the rough texture of skin, the adornment with rings, the
application of polish -- or the absence of these -- can indicate an occupation, habit, hobby, experience or perhaps a facet
of personality. The hands of a variety of persons show that information gained from their condition is more telltale than
THE ADORNED HAND
Elisha Verdon and Wendy Beck have similar-looking hands; small, pale, with medium-length fingers
that seem long and slender because they have long fingernails. Both women wear rings, apply dark red polish use some skin
softener on their hands and say their hands as such enhance their femininity.
Verdon, 23, a strip-tease dancer and resident
of south Miami Beach, says she spends $15 for a 3-ounce bottle of mink oil twice a year to keep her hands soft. She keeps
her nails long and polished "more than anything else, because a man would rather see them that way." Her hands are
important for "touching people, like my boyfriend. You can say things without words with your hands, show affection."
In a way, she says, she views her identity through her boyfriend.
Beck, 26, a bookkeeper and resident of Coconut Grove, says her husband first made her
aware of her nails. "He likes long, tapered fingernails." So, when her nails break, she has them "sculptured,"
a process in which a manicurist mixes a chemical and a powder and applies the paste to the real nails. The paste dries to
a hard semi-clear substance that looks like a fingernail and is sanded down to an oval shape. It costs $35 to have 10 nails
scupltured at the salon she frequents.
"You don't want to walk around with four long nails and one stump," she says.
"Long nails look more sophisticated. You have a more finished look when you have a color on them." She wears Revlon's
"Blackberry." She says it is an "earth color" that goes with a lot of her clothes.
is a dark metallic plum color, "almost like blood. Maybe I've got a vampire thing in me. I had a vampire act once."
Long nails. "They
make your jewelry look better," Beck says. "They make people notice your jewelry. Notice my jewelry? I have to get
some jewelry." Beck wears a ring on each hand, a wedding band set with diamonds on her left hand and a large diamond
engagement ring on her right. What does this mean? "That my husband doesn't intend to buy me any more rings."
Verdon wears five
ringts: The two on her left hand, a diamond chip and an opal in a rhinestone setting, were given to her by her 9-year-old
son, Jason, who lives with his godparents on the west Coast. A light blue sapphire on her left index finger, she says, was
left for her in the box office of the Gayety Burlesque Theatre where she was working. "I don't know who it's from. No
note with it." The "Mexican fire opal" she wears on her left third finger is from a friend, "and the silver
and the stone came from a mine he owns." On her left ring finger is a three-opal ring from a friend of hers in her home
state of Hawaii. "It was given to him by his great aunt."
"Jewelry tells a lot about a person," Audrey Jones, 26, a hotel front-desk
manager, says. If you looked at hands like hers, she says, you would think, "this person is single, happy, free and no
problems." If you look at the ring she wears on her left hand, she says, you will see it is not an engagement ring. It
is rose-shaped with a small diamond in the the center -- her class ring. She bought it when she was graduated from Miami Northwestern
High School in 1970. "As I've grown older," she says, "I've noticed that I don't want the same thing June,
John, Ricky has." The ring on her right hand is about 10 years old, a gift from her mother. "It has seven loops
and a heart on it. It's 18-karat gold. It means I love you seven days of the week. It's very sentimental to me. I never take
Jones is very close to her mother. It was her mother who used to say she was going to cover Audrey's nails and withhold
her allowance if she contineud to bite her nails. "I used to bite them so bad the tips would swell. Finally my doctor
said if I bit my nails, I would die. He frightened the heck out of me, so I stopped biting them." That was when she was
"Now when I look at them, I think I'm being bad because they need manicuring and polishing. They're in rough
condition because I don't have time to take care of them properly and I cannot afford a manicure. All day I'm busy on the
phone, opening up the cash register and working adding machines. My nails break constantly from that. If you have nail polish
onyou have to stop and ifle your nails and I don't time to stop and dress up a nail. It looks very bad when polish is chipped,
so I just don't wear it. Polish is a form of makeup, for when you're going out someplace."
THE NAKED HAND
Pianist Frank Natale's
hands are bare. Although he is frequently in the public eye at the Deauville Hotel on Miami Beach, he wears no polish on his
fingers, which he files about once a day. "When I play I like to have my fingers naked," he says. And if he were
to play wearing clear polish, he says, the lacquer would chip. Uncomfortable. "I like 'em natural. Hands are such an
essential part of a person's make-up I like to see them just the way they are, without jewelry. Sometimes jewelry accentuates
a hand, but sometimes, if hands are characteristic, they don't need accentuating."
Vladimir Horowitz, he says,
has characteristic hands: "slender fingers, muscle-y, bone-y." Many surgeons, he says, have characteristic hands.
"A surgeon's hands are very similar to a musician's hands. They've got control of their hands. They're steady. Usually
if your hands are in good shape, you're in good shape."
Natale, 46, frequently kneads his fingers as he speaks. "It keeps the circulation
going." And two or three times a day he soaks them in first hot then cold water. "It limbers up my fingers."
He would never dare
do anything to jeopardize his hands, he says, such as changing a tire or using a meat slicer. He is careful with knives, he
says, when he cooks. And he has a "kind of second sense."
"You can almost tell how a person is going to shake hands with you. Some people
think they're cracking nuts." And he'll tell them, right off, "please, my hands." he says he is leary of "big,
masculine tough types, guys who slap you on the back."
Karl Green, M.D., 38, is an orthopedic surgeon who happens to specialize in, among other
parts of the body, hands. He is not so careful about his hown hands. He has a friend, another surgeon, who bought a radial
saw for about $300, used it once, and sold it. But Green himself does things that mess up his hands. A few weeks ago, as he
was skin diving, several spines from a sea urchin were imbedded in his hands. But this will not stop him from chasing octopuses
with his camera under the sea because it's "peaceful there, quiet. They can't reach you by beeper, by phone, by page,
He has, however, gotten away from working on car engines, "not so much from fear of permanent
damage" as from concern about going into the operating room with cuts, infections, or casts The bulk of his hand patients,
he says, are injured while working on cars ("caught in the fanbelt"). Another common hand injury, he says, is from
He says people don't get particularly upset over hand injuries. "They truly believe that everything can be fixed
in that area of the body. And they figure they've got 10 fingers, so if something goes wrong with one or two, no big deal."
But a cut could be a big deal. we have two main nerves in each hand; they branch out from the wrist and run down the inner
side of each finger at just about the place where our joint creases end. Cut a nerve sometime and you might lose the feeling
in as much as three and a half fingers. "A hand is totally worthless if it has no feeling," Green says.