Peter O’Toole died today. I remember my mother telling me she had met him at a cocktail party in London in the 60′s and turned into a pillar of salt looking into his blue, blue eyes. She said he was ‘hyperbolically handsome.’ We were watching Lawrence of Arabia on TV; I was only twelve at the time. I asked her what that meant. “Some men are good looking,” she replied, ” and some men are so beautiful they fuck you up for life.”
I was left to look up the word ‘hyperbolic’ in a dictionary for myself. My mother always was a little self-absorbed and careless with language around her children.
For me, it’s not his eyes, or the face, or the pecs, or the ass… It’s the hands. Not any particular kind of hand, either. I realize Mr. O’Toole has rather long, graceful, feminine fingers. And, yes, they make me quiver. But I’m not a hand snob - it’s the belongingness of the hands to the man that counts. The hands need to speak to the man.
I’m just as attracted to rough, grubby, calloused, childlike, scarred-up hands. Short-fingered, hair-dusted, gnarled-knuckled, nimble-quick, tapered, blunt-ended, expressive or still. A man can alter a lot of things about himself; he can change what he wears, build muscle, get wiry running marathons… but the most he can do to change his hands is to get a manicure.
When a man’s words correspond to his hands, an evil little click goes off in my head and I’m gone. I don’t mean that if he has scarred up, calloused hands he should talk like someone who works with his hands. It’s more subtle than that. It’s a liminal agreement of form and content. Hand-to-mouth coordination.
Certain men’s hands become a great distraction. I’ll sit wordless and mesmerized. Yes, of course, it’s the full-sensory fantasy of those hands at work. Caught up in my hair, curled around my neck, full of my thigh, on me, in me, smelling of me. But, it’s also the less personal narrative of that hand slipping into a pocket, holding a pen, lifting a cup, using a knife, clutching a steering wheel. And, of course, possessively curled around the owner’s cock.
So, ‘handsome’ is not about beauty. Lithesome, winsome, loathsome, lonesome, cumbersome… The suffix ‘some’ denotes a thing or person in possession of that quality. You might think that the etymology stems from someone whose hand you might accept in marriage, but the ‘hand’ in question is a measurement of size, inferring largess, generosity and aptness to purpose.
When I look at a man’s hand, I think about the purposes to which they’ve been turned and to which they could be turned. History in a caress or a blow. It is the narrative that cannot lie.