Like Madonna (if the tabloids have managed to reveal truth), I have a body full of visible, proud veins. They’re impressive and decidedly not girlish. The backs of my calves have a few starting to poke out. My feet are a roadmap of blue pathways and beige flesh. My inner forearms, a streaky aqua. The backs of my hands, well, they’re the masterstroke: aggressive pale worms poke out under the thin skin like snakes in a sock.
When it comes to blood draws and plasma selling — pocket money in college — I’m a favorite patient for their needle. Blood draw folks LOVE me — sometimes a little too much. They would see the vein in my inner elbow and send over the noobs to practice on my willing tubes of fluid, only once ever to ill effect.
Accepting My Big Blue Roadmaps
It took a long time to like those veins, let alone appreciate them for what they do. It’s only recently that I’ve realized they are metaphors for much of my personality, in all its strengths and weaknesses.
For starters, I have low blood pressure, an inward mirror of my outward unflappability. Getting a rise out of me is nearly impossible, figuratively and literally. Sometimes I get dizzy standing up, as the blood struggles to get back up to my brain from my strong legs. In a similar way, my brain suffers a bit of existential pain when it realizes it’s along for some epic day (or days) my legs took us on out in the mountains. The low blood pressure directly contributes to the bulging calf veins: the blood *needs* pressure to get back up the body. If not enough pressure, too much blood pools down low and that stretches out the veins. Simple mechanical process, not a pretty aftermath. So, too, can my unflappability and slowness to action cause my whole life to “pool” in one spot, unable to progress onward and upward.
What makes the veins so visible? That’s a slightly different question. Perhaps my skin is thinner than average. In outward temperament I often look impenetrable, unperturbable, cold. But those veins stand out in the open, trusting, showing their hand without much apology.
Feminine Hands Contain No Veins
Then, there’s the prettiness or feminine aspect of having “man hands”. Since young I’ve always been not-quite-a-tomboy. Not wanting to be typical, I actually relished the descriptor of “weird!” as a kid. And yet still I wanted to be liked for my own strange brand of girl power. There’s vulnerability in showing off those strong veiny calves and downright masculine hands and saying, “THIS IS ME. I contain possibilities not yet fulfilled, potential still to be tapped out of this pulsing stuff of life.” Blood courses through me just like everyone else. The evidence of said blood is much more visible on my body through these bulging tubules of turquoise.
My veins are both me and represent me. They’re bold, unafraid, barely hidden, full of life . . . and sometimes prone to stagnation, weaker than they could be, and gender-inappropriate.
I think they’re pretty rad.
[Also published on Medium as Man Hands, Girl Power]