Friday, March 16, 2012

Quiet Disclosure

Image Detail

People watching should be categorized as a national pastime.  It's frankly more popular than baseball and probably accounts for a significant portion of the economy, as we linger for hours sipping lattes and munching chips while covertly observing the entertainment that is common life.  Temper tantrums, love affairs, frustration and joy.  Arguments and apologies and accidents.  Finding onesself in a shop with a klutzy obsessive compulsive fellow in line behind a hippie with four flower children being waited upon by a German named Helga is like hitting pay dirt--the cacophony of emotional spasms and explicatives sure to be had enthralls me.  Years of this stealthy contemplation, however, has illuminated me....and made me slightly paranoid.  For I've come to the conclusion that every day, every moment...we are giving ourselves away.

A "tell" in poker is a change in a person's behavior that subtly reveals a shift in the card-esk wind.  Learning to read the tells of your comrades during a late round of strip poker may mean the difference between you leaving with dignity...or baring it all. (ahem)  Some of the greatest tells, the ones oft ignored, reside within our hands.  While we make significant efforts to control our expressions, we rarely realize that everything from the pulse throbbing beneath the translucent flesh of our wrist to the flex of the tendons in our fingers, the closing of a fist, the wiping of a palm....these, my friends, proclaim much. 

And it is not just in the moment, that our hands give us away.  The state of our hands, our most used appendage, divulges a great deal about our priorities.  I'm not much of a fan of "I don't have time," I feel it is the weakest excuse on the planet.  Choosing what you do with your time--that is the issue.  And if your hands are sporting peeling polish and jagged nails, you need to take a longer shower tonight.  With a glass of wine.  Find time for yourself. 

What about the secret hands....the "housewife" in sweats at the cafe with the rumpled hair and little one in the stroller.  Look closer, see those long tapered fingers tipped with perfect nearly-black-red nails?  There's a box under her bed...with a lock on it.  The gentleman with the briefcase and the slightly crooked tie?  His baby soft, sweaty palms that twitch every time the door opens?  Don't ask him to back you up in a fight.  That overly plump bank teller who always dresses in pastel colors and has a glittery little ring on every single finger and pats them constantly?  She has four cats.....but go easy, she's terribly lonely.  My favorite?  The well-dressed man with the calloused hands.  Have to admit, the harder the palm--the more I shiver.  Perhaps it's that ranch life upbringing I had, (or just the texture of them sliding across my skin) but I positively melt at a man who knows hard work. 

My eldest son walked in the other day and immediately asked what was wrong.  When I inquired why, he responded, "well, you're strangling the dishtowl."  The cashier apologized for being slow when he caught me tapping my finger on my wallet, and a total stranger offered me advil when I was seen massaging my achy digits on a miserably damp day.  I touch my hair when I'm nervous.  And twist my fingers when scared.

In an effort to exude the peace that I am ever-seeking to embody, I have consciously begun to pay attention to my hands.  I quiet them when I desire to fidget, relax them when I feel like clenching.  Like some kind of phalange yoga, this seems rather powerful as, to my delight, I actually feel calmer.  More patient. 

The wonder of the reverse.....control the symptom, appease the cause?



Shelly said...

People watching is one of my favorite activities. Going to the mall or an airport is like attending a lavish buffet for me.

There is so much to see in the details, details that so many people miss because they are in too much of a hurry to notice.

Great post-

Robbie Grey said...

Very nice.

I call it monkey watching for the half-bald primates I so get a kick out of observing-perhaps a little too much National Geographic and Jane Goodall. My obligations allow me to witness the various strata of humanity as they happen by. The stories I collect on the glance and the occasional interaction is its own reward.

The Loerzels said...

I'm totally into people's hands! And I know when people aren't into hands when they ask me for a recommendation for a manicurist...

Shea Goff said...

Almost like focus on breath, focus on hands. Incredible piece. Thank you for writing it.

Out on the prairie said...

I had to laugh when being seated at a restruant the hostess put me with my back to the door. I wanted to change seats with one of the others, but kept mum. I love to watch people.

Brian Miller said...

oy this was like getting a fix...haha...i love watching people...i study them honestly, looking for those tells and listening to the stories pouring off of them...def the hands are very evocative...phalange yoga....hmmm....may need to try that...smiles.

mermaid gallery said...

Hands really do tell a person's story better than anything. I agree with the hard working, man hand being appealing!...Soft hands on a man are just awful! ...soft hands....soft you know what.....

Pearl said...

You've got me thinking.

What's my tell?


p.s. In reference to your comment on my page, have you figured out your stripper name? :-) Your first pet and and your mother's maiden name. :-)

Chantel said...

Shelly--hurrying leaves one missing the color, doesn't it? (I love the word 'buffet,'it brings images of copious platters of food....)

Robbie-"strata of humanity," oooh, I love that! (monkey watching--ha!)


Shea--thank you!

Prairie--oh, I am rather vocal about where I am seated, a view is a must!

Brian--oh, it's marvelous for the mind...and flexability. ;)

Mermaid--I just belly laughed at that!!

Pearl--it was a black and white kitten named Oreo Cream Pie. Mum's maiden was Cats....dare I use a synonym?? (I am now laughing so hard my stomach is cramping)

Shrinky said...

Another rich and compelling post, dearest Chantel, and oh so delicious to devour!

People watching, hmmmmn.. this I had much opportunity to indulge in over the course of my chosen profession. I may have overdosed a little, as now I much prefer to simply let the world drift by me, less observed.

I had to smile at what you had to say about how telling it is how some people will use their hands - and Lord knows, I shudder then to think of what you would make of me, as I find it nigh on impossible to hold any conversation without the full use of my hands, in fact it's a standing joke in my family that I'd be totally mute with them bound!

Mary said...


When I was younger I was told I would dig my thumb into my pointer finger when I was mad. My whole family could tell I was mad when I did that, so I stopped. I thought they wouldn't be able to tell when I was mad but as it turns out I also give the "I'm gonna stuff you in a little box and throw it in the ocean" look, as well.

Watching people and how they interact has always been amusing.

terlee said...

I was at Newark airport not too long ago, watching the human movies as my 4-hour layover dragged into infinity. I had entire stories built around several interesting characters.

Then I noticed there was a woman watching ME. Couldn't help but wonder what she imagined for my story.

Great post...

Lo said...

Love your thoughts but must beg you to cut out the destroys concentrating on your words.....if you must include it please make it optional.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I love the fact that your son has a gift for reading body language, too. When I was working, I had a couple of male bosses who were absolutely clueless to even the most obvious tells. They made some big mistakes because they wouldn't believe me when I told them the people we'd met with didn't like their proposals, even though they hadn't said much. Hah. Payoff's a b*tch.

sm said...

beautifully written

EmptyNester said...

People can't tell a darn thing about me by my hands. I always keep them calm and still on purpose--so that they can't figure me out. However, if they ever look at my feet, I'm sunk. LOL

Shrinky said...

Forgive me, but I just had to take the ball up and run with this, over on my own site - couldn't resist!

Chantel said...

Shrinky--I always knew you would be one of those passionate talkers!

Mary--lol! That sounds like one heck of a look!

Terlee--that would be slightly disconcerting, but hours in an airport must have been rife with sweet observation opportunities!

Lo--Done. :)

Bliss--lol, yes--the unobservant usually suffer in the long run; too bad they weren't smart enough to listen to you!

Sm--thank you!

EmptyNester--love the idea that your feet give you away! I envy your control of your hands...

Shrinky darling again--I don't understand the "territory" issues bloggers have; I am so flattered if something I write inspires another! Like the conversation just expands--isn't that exactly how the dinner party winds up lasting till 4am?

Shrinky said...

You have a generous soul, dear Chantel, and um, next time you have a dinner party, please will you invite me along? I'll bring wine..

Mary: said...

Hey, remember the song, "I Whistle a Happy Tune" from The King and I? This entry reminds me much of that song, and of all the self-talk we would do when I was coaching a competitive speech club to high schoolers. There is certainly something empowering about getting your body under control. It's funny how easy we slip back into our old patterns, though, even when we're practiced (ugh!)
I will rub my face, put my fist to my mouth or on my cheek and parade a number of other tell-tale gestures that my mother could certainly list better than I. You're right on, again. I love reading your posts. Kisses from Spain.

"Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I'm afraid.

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows
I'm afraid.

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well!

I whistle a happy tune
And ev'ry single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I'm not afraid.

Make believe you're brave
And the trick will take you far.
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are

You may be as brave
As you make believe you are."

Anonymous said...

One of the first things I notice are a woman's hands. I like them.

Lo said...

Wonderful blog. I, too, love people watching. Sometimes I laugh thinking that if people knew how much they reveal about themselves with just body language etc. they would all take to wearing burkhas.

Thanks for your lovely comments on my blog. Please keep visiting.

Mandy_Fish said...

I clench my jaw. My mother and my husband know to look for it. That's my tell.

Chantel said...

Shrinky--you are on the list!

Mary--I love those lyrics, "I fear I fool myself as well." Oh, I am trying indeed! xo

BamaTrav--you can tell much from a woman's hands; look for old burns, then you know she cooks! (either that or she welds?) lol

Lo--I shudder to think how much I parade about for all to see...

Mandy--I can see you doing that, at least your closest loves know when it's time to leave!

Anonymous said...

Nothing I have ever controlled appeased anything else in the long run. ~Mary