The day I lost the gift of opposable thumbs

I woke up yesterday morning with that queer drifting into consciousness, where I think in indexicals – oh yes, I am me, in this place which I call ‘here’ and the time is now. Usually my first more complex thought is ‘I must make coffee’ but yesterday my first thought was ‘I am me, yet different.’ I had put on false nails the night before, as part of preparations for a New Year More Glamorous – and woke up with a more limited set of abilities than I had had the morning before. Kafka’s Metamorphosis drifted through my mind, and as I type, the sound resembles a family of beetles crossing a difficult and hard terrain. I had never before understood the sadness of turning into a beetle in quite the same way, the shame of realising that you like different things – in the beetle’s case, a new prediliction for eating shit; in my glamourously nailed form, an aversion to manual labour of even the mildest kind and a fear of hot soapy water. But most of all the sadness of having left your old body behind, of never having realised how good your body was to you, how dear it was and surprisingly adept, how much you took it, tired and plain as it sometimes felt, for granted.

Brushing my hand over my eyes was surprisingly painful, and simple actions such as opening a jar of coffee have had to be relearnt with these hard new additions to myself, my fingers not only harder and a centimetre longer, capable of being used as weapons – but also fragile – the first efforts at carrying on household chores, taking care of myself as normal, had snapped off the early efforts at extended nails, and I was running short on glue. Life has slowed down, and become complex in ways I could not have anticipated. Tying my hair back into a ponytail, which I was accustommed to thinking of as one, flowing, impatient movement, driven by a practical need to have my hair out of my eyes – is actually a series of curves, of angulations of my wrists, of tucking my hair in and out of the elasticated band. Doing up my zip and fastening the buttons on my trousers was almost impossible, in fact I almost made Jamie and myself late for midnight mass by taking so long to do myself up. What do women who normally have such nails wear? Tights must be a no-no, as well as anything requiring a bow. And yet the irony is they look so gorgeous – with their French manicure and little arc of silver. I feel gracious and feminine, even as I have to hand Jamie boxes to open because their folds are too complex for my elongated nails to penetrate. I have learnt to press switches by holding my hand flat and using the pad of my fingers, instead of prodding or poking. I stare besottedly at my elegant hands. But I wonder, is there any other example in the animal species of a female voluntarily semi-immobilising herself in order to be more attractive to a potential mate?

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