Hands.

Elizabeth O'Malley - Ecuador


March 6, 2015

I spent four years of high school as a rower. Up to this point in my life, rowing had been the most demanding physical activity I had ever done. Rowing means using every muscle in your body, with all the might you have, until the race is finished. But crew doesn‰Ûªt just demand a huge exertion of energy, it comes with really great tan lines (not) and callused, blistered hands. The tan lines weren‰Ûªt that big of a deal, but the hands… the hands were a problem. During races, my palms would break open and bleed on the oar. And it’s crew, there‰Ûªs no stopping; you just power through the pain. Afterwards, your skin is torn apart, blood blisters and rougher skin forming. I remember one land practice where we were all comparing hands, talking about how gross they were and how no one would be holding them anytime soon. Then we started commenting on chubby fingers and odd shaped nails, and my coach says, ‰ÛÏWomen don‰Ûªt care what their hands look like.‰Û I recognized that he was hinting at our immaturity, and something about that stuck with me. Afterwards, I never felt embarrassed about my numerous blisters because I earned them doing something I love. The blisters became a source of pride; I worked that hard. Then, I move to Ecuador! The place where manicures cost less than $5! When I first arrived in the campo, I saw that no one had manicured nails. In fact, almost everyone has dirt stuck in every nook, or broken and cracked nails. Even with the intense clothes washing process, it is impossible for my mom to get the dirt out of her nails, even from her skin. There‰Ûªs also no point because the next day, she‰Ûªll be back in the fields. One night, I was sitting in front of the fire that cooks all of our meals, and my mom takes my hand and comments on how pretty my nails are. She shows me her hands, and says how her nails are ugly. My nails are white, hersåÊbrown. Mine are not broken, hersåÊare. This is when my crew coach‰Ûªs comment came back to me. I realize she doesn‰Ûªt care that her hands are the proof of her physical lifestyle. Her hands look like this because it‰Ûªs just how the look, nothing more. I want to tell her that I am amazed and kind of jealous. Her hands prove that she provides for her family every day. They prove that she is an absolute beast, and by beast, I meant that my mom works unbelievably hard every single day without complaint. And every time I finally think she‰Ûªs going to rest, she starts doing something else. She doesn‰Ûªt stop at the end of the race and bandage her hands; she keeps at it, from when she wakes up to when her eyes close for the night. I want my mom to be proud of her hands. I want her to look at them and see dedication and success. I‰Ûªm jealous because here, my hands prove that I‰Ûªve never worked this hard in my life, to some, that I‰Ûªm not capable. By the end of this, I will keep up with my mom, even if it means a few broken nails.

Elizabeth O'Malley