body confidence hands

Illustration: Samantha Hahn/

5 of 8
Magic Touch
Susanna Sonnenberg on all we hold dear.

How well you know your hands, how they sew, stir, snap; how they grab, pry out knots, press piano keys. You have studied the topography of your knuckles, the finger pads roughed by garden dirt. Your hands tell the story of your life.

Your friend's hand in yours, you dab her nails with polish, hold her fingers steady. You remember when you met, the kickball-game high five, the spark of kinship.

Seventh grade, and you sit beside your crush in the movie theater. His hand is clumsy on the armrest, and he lets his fingers slip over, dangle to reach your hand in your lap. He strokes a centimeter of tender skin inside your palm, over and over, with his fingertip. You stay like that until the movie ends, dazed by first arousal.

Your lover's hand is on your belly, and you lift it to your mouth because he likes it when you do. Your fingers are laced with his everywhere you go, even in summer when you're both sweating, because you don't want to undo from each other.

You clutch your toddler's hand to keep her close in the store. When she was just hours old, her fingers curled like tiny feathers around your thumb. In the numberless repetitions of daily care, you've held her hand to know her—by her pulse, her squirm, and the primal rightness of your fit.

You have your hand on your father's as he dies. Your expert, industrious hand, a woman's, now still, just holding, being strong. You remember: You are 5, and your father's hand gloves yours as you cross a busy street on a winter morning. Your hand disappears in his, and you, all trust, prize your own smallness as he warms you and guides you forward, onward.