i am moving. into a new apartment. deeper into a life in barcelona. i am using my hands. i am creating new calluses special only for my world here in catalunya. i am reminded of a piece i wrote not so long ago about hands.
On Hands, Hair, and Heart
Callus rubbing is my nervous tick. In times of stress, with confidense waivering, all eyes upon me, I find my fingers searching for the comfort of the hard, yellowed calluses on the pads of my pinkies, middle fingers, and inner ring fingers. Where I hold drum sticks and sheers. Where I hold heart, identity, profession, and second language. A badge of honor earned with time and dilligence, both tangible and conceptual.
College began the hand crusade. Somewhere in the density of The Chomsky / Faucault debate I became clasped in their agreeing plea to take pride in being part of a tradeskill, the importance of intentional alignment with the working class, and manual labor. At the time I was a college student, my hands reserved for computer keys, pages of algorithmic chemical equations, and turning page upon page of overly intellectualized theory. In this moment the idea blossomed and welded like a barnacle; there is endless power in the hands. A force in any and all capacities that is difficult to take away.
Hairstyling found me first. After recieving a degree in biochemistry I set out for New Zealand, dedicated to exercising my hands in farmwork. I picked strawberries for ten hours a day, back breaking work. Then picked whatever was seasonal. In the midst of living in migrant camps I became the onsite barber. My qualifications: being a middle school punk who found the best [strangest] cuts and color were always done by my (mis)doings and in college offering haircuts in exchange for beer and cigarettes. The haircuts were, ehem, ok. More attractive were the relationships I formed through haircutting.
Altering one’s appearance is no small matter. It is an exchange of trust, open, honest, constant communication, and understanding. Uninteruppted time. A uniquely universally safe space to exhange thought, energy, news. And no matter the setting, the magic of cutting hair which miraculously forces people to open all the way up.
When I returned to the USA, I enrolled in beauty school, got an education of a whole different kind, and began to incorporate myself into my community using my skill. Through cutting hair I got to meet people from all classes, genders, races. Even people who do not have hair, still have the idea of hair. It is rare to go a day without talking to at least two people about hair in some way, shape, or form. Hair is my medium for relating to people; a mutual platform to begin bigger, more complex questions and exchanges.
Hands becoming stronger and stronger with each snip and blow dry. I proudly flex my giant thumb muscles and toned biceps. I can cut hair anywhere, and certainly have– from museums to kitchens to posh salons all over the world to my local homeless shelter to the two minutes before my best friend is about to walk down the aisle. A skill all my own I can share and refine in any and all spaces. Empowered to be a woman who makes a living through a trade. Like all power (especially for us North Americans), exposure lead me to find additonal uses for these paws.
Drumming became my second mode of commanality. Music being as important as it is universal, it is no surprise these hands were drawn towards the drums. Making noise is simply another way of communicating your identity. Being a woman drummers for me has been a constant assertion that women not only have the ability to emotionally express themselves musically, but physically as well. To demand respect and attention through the rowdiest of crashes and most delicate of drum rolls.
Quite opposite to hairdressing however, the drum world is dominated by men. Even in this day and age, every other show someone still asks “You in the band? Oh the singer? Who is your boyfriend in the band? Huh sweetheart?” and other insulting cliches. In these moments I am frustrated, yes. Annoyed, dissapointed, absolutely. But simultaneously empowered. It is because of these stereotypes I find it so important to have a skill. If people do not assume the only woman in the band is the drummer, or do not think women are as capable of drumming– I have the dynamism to give my callused hands a soft pet, pick up my sticks, and prove them wrong.