One of the things that makes me feel old (besides goalies in the NHL who were born after I graduated high school) is my skin. Particularly the skin on my hands.
A friend wrote a poem about having her grandmother’s hands. At the time I could understand it, but not relate. I still wouldn’t say I have my grandmother’s hands; she had these wonderfully long-fingered, piano player hands, though twisted by arthritis and easily bruised. But they were thin skinned.
Somewhere in grad school, mine started to tighten. I blame my first dog, Kal. I’m allergic to dogs. And cats. And trees, grass, hay… what have you. But I got a dog. Puppies make messes. Between allergies and accidents, I started washing my hands a lot. That first winter, my hands cracked. Well, not quite cracked. Crazed, maybe. Like old china. I’ve always had dry skin — I’ve scratched my legs until they bled — but this was new.
That was many winters ago. I don’t need calendars to tell me the season because my hands let me know. When the world gets cooler and dryer, my hands get red. Hot water becomes my enemy. If I don’t heed the warning signs, my skin will split at the knuckles. The other day I hit my finger off my monitor at work and was bleeding without knowing it. Thin skinned.
There’s talk now of skin biomes, of healthy bacteria. I picture my skin as a dusty, dead terrarium. But, hey, even that’s protection.