Spot the Difference

I have freckles on my hands. The light ones that occur in smatterings, never just one or two.

I am not a freckly person. My skin is uniformly tan.

The freckles appeared three weeks ago, just as I was starting my new pastry chef job. I thought maybe they were an allergic reaction to the unfamiliar brand of gloves, but the spots weren’t red or itchy—just brown.

They haven’t gone away. And their existence is inconsequential except that they have a disruptive sort of presence, something foreign in a well-known location. As a result, I can’t stop staring at my hands. I stare at them when I’m driving, when I’m typing, when I’m setting up a barbell at the gym. I rub them absently while I’m talking to friends. I rub them consciously in the shower, as if I might be able to wash them away.

But the longer they stay, the less I want them to fade—because the extraordinary amount of attention I’ve been paying to my hands has had a curious effect on the way I feel about them.

I have hated my hands since I was thirteen years old, if not before. I was a late bloomer, owing in part to my decision to stop consuming a normal number of calories during the summer I turned twelve, so I watched my friends shoot up around me like well-watered saplings, lanky and long-limbed, while I stayed firmly entrenched on the childhood side of puberty. Even after I too experienced my growth spurt, and even exceeded my hopes of being 5’7” (I’m 5’8” now), my hands stayed small and my fingers stayed short. “Stumpy,” I once described them in my journal. My shallow nail beds and wide fingernails don’t do them any favours either.

But I look at my newly acquired freckles, and the hands they adorn, and the mystery of them—that I could just wake up with freckles one morning, and have no idea why—inspires appreciation for all the other things my hands can do. They can deftly shape cinnamon rolls and write blog posts and move a barbell with confidence. They are callused and strong and they give very assured handshakes. I can walk on them and do pull-ups with them and impart affection to the people I love with them. I may still not love the way they look, or what ring size my fingers are, but their physical appearance does not limit their capacity, so maybe I’m okay with not having hands like Meredith Grey’s.

Now I wish I would wake up with freckles on some other parts of my body too.

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