It was a beautiful Spring day. My friend Donna and I were outside of her parents’ home, sitting in her brother’s (my ex-boyfriend) parked old Cadillac. Despite the fact he and I had broken-up, Donna and I remained quite close. As we sat together on the leather seats that began to stick to my shorts, I watched as Donna pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “Hey, Meg. Wanna try one with me?” This would have been our first time. Donna was a year younger than I, and attended the High School across town. Her friend at school had provided the Marlboro Lights.
At first sight, I was intrigued by them. Yet, I felt immediately guilty. While I knew smoking was bad for you, I began to convince myself that perhaps it was actually okay. After all, I was pretty sure my parents had smoked cigarettes at least at some point in their lives, but it had been years. As I further reflected, I instantly recalled my Dad in his home “study,” smoking a dark brown pipe at least for a short period during my childhood. Unlike the smell of a cigarette, I loved the blend of what seemed like vanilla and smokey flavors when I would get a full whiff of my dad’s lit pipe.
I turned and looked at Donna. She was really pretty, and flashed a somewhat mischievous grin in my direction. Before I could formally respond, she offered the now-opened pack for me to select my choice smoke. As I tried my first puff, my first thought was actually, “This is kind of interesting.” In that moment, I couldn’t help but remember the first time I tried bubble gum cigarettes as a pre-teen. Each pack was designed to look like a real pack of cigarettes, and when you blew on the candy cigarette, powder would come out that looked like smoke.
But unlike blowing on candy as a kid, this was real. And so, with only an initial, slight hesitation, I took my first real puff….and then coughed. Before I could try again, I noticed Donna taking a similar drag, and felt mightily impressed. It wasn’t what she was doing but rather, how she looked doing it. Donna held the cigarette seamlessly–almost elegantly. Yet, somehow she also seemed sort of edgy as the cigarette rested perfectly between her two fingers. As I began to wrap my right finger around the white, thin object, I caught a quick glance of myself in the rearview mirror of the car.
In a word, I looked utterly stupid.
I suppose somehow I imagined myself looking like Donna as she held her own cigarette so divinely, so cool. But instead, with my one finger holding the cigarette rather awkwardly at best, reality struck quickly, and I looked merely like an awkward idiot. As it turned out, my first attempt at smoking was my last…..thanks to my hands.
Lately I have been thinking about how grateful I am for so many things. My family, my health, my job, this awesome “Don’t Hide It Flaunt It” community. But, I started thinking that to the outside world, strangers might take one look at me and let’s face it, take pity. Or even if not, they wouldn’t want to trade in whatever their challenges are for mine. Given the fact that, when I was a child, homeless people in the Middle East used to beg my parents for money until they would see me and run away, it is not surprising that someone’s pity at the mere site of me is a practical reality.
But there have been so many experiences in my life where my very differently-shaped hands have actually served me incredibly well. And so, it is time once again for me to provide you all with another list of Top 10 Reasons I think it is simply amazing to have two fingers. As I come to think of it, Letterman might be on his way out, but my Top Ten List will live on.
TOP TEN REASONS IT’S AMAZING TO HAVE TWO FINGERS
10. You will be the one everyone always remembers at a reunion—no dorky old school photo from the past necessary;
9. Wherever you go, people who see you for the first time throw loads of smiles your way (usually because they are unsure of what else to say);
8. If you decide to post an inspirational quote, you have instant credibility;
7. When you visit your kids at school or camp, and they also have your condition, you don’t have to sign-in anywhere. Everyone takes your word that they’re your kids;
6. You are the go-to person anytime something falls in between the seats of a car and it’s nearly impossible for anyone else to reach into the long, narrow space to retrieve it;
5. You learned quick addition and subtraction without counting on your fingers;
4. You can type wicked fast. With no other fingers to get in the way, speed is on your side;
3. Your career as a stand-up comedian could be launched with just a fraction of the weird things people have said to you over the years;
2. You always get an automatic callback on interviews. Let’s face it–they want to know more; and…..
the #1 reason it is amazing to have two fingers is…………………