Thursday, May 26

two things i can't do

There are a lot of things, as a one-armed gal, that I can do. So many things, in fact, that I don't personally find it all that interesting or amazing. But there are two things (at least) that I can't do.

These two inabilities, though mundane and arguably inconsequential, are actually the two skills I miss the most.

Tearing excess paper off grocery list
1) I can't put my hair in a ponytail. I can pull my hair back in barrettes, push it back with a headband, and clip it up in all sorts of grabby paraphernalia, but put it back in a simple preppy tennis player tail?--Beyond my powers. I can even, if my hair is longer, rubber band two Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz pigtails, or if I'm feeling the 80's and don't mind a rush of blood to the head, manage a top knot or sidetail...but it's just not the same as a good 'ol fashioned pony.

Ponytails, though not glamorous, are essential to most sports or the average summer day; they are practical and suggest normalcy. And mommies the world 'round will tell you how necessary they are to saving hair from two-fisted toddler grabbing.

And it's OK to have your mommy put up your hair when you're a little girl, and even acceptable in high school, though somewhat stressful as you agonize over each bump that must be smoothed to your satisfaction and the tail situated in the perfect spot to suit your teenage image––a near impossible feat for any mother. Sorry, Mom.

But I don't live with my mother any more. I'm left to the obliging roommate, and it still makes me feel like a little girl to ask sheepishly, "Hey, would you mind...?" while holding out a Goody rubber band.

Thankfully, I haven't much need for ponytails, in general, though there's no real replacement for them when it comes to outdoor work, of which I happen to partake regularly. But I find ways around it with the aforementioned clipping...until my hair gets too long and I'm wearing twenty clips in a huge beau-font just to keep sweat from pooling at the nape of my neck. I can be frequently seen walking around the barn with an up-do that would be more appropriate at the prom. It reminds me of old movies and my grandmother, who used to "take down" her hair at night like a circus tent before it moved to the next town. 

Though it may seem even less significant than ponytail-crafting, even more disappointing to me is number 2) I can't clap my hands. Again, there are alternatives––the old knee slap or crossed-leg thigh clap––and Finneas can step in with a decent, though easily tired, close-to-the-ear-clap, most notably utilized to show polite appreciation when one can't be bothered to offer a hearty applaud. Sometimes a sympathetic friend will offer one of their palms, but if you've ever tried to clap with someone else, you know that you have to concentrate so hard on timing, you forget why you are clapping in the first place.

But honest-to-goodness hand-to-hand emotional expression is only a dream for me. I really do long to bring palm to palm in celebration or rhythm keeping. It's really an act of solidarity with others that you may only notice when you are unable to join. There seems to me something very raw and human about bringing your hands together--making contact--in a clap. It releases something in your soul that can't get out otherwise.

When I need an extra hand for coffee
Akin to clapping, I long to interlace my fingers behind a cup of coffee at the table, or clasp my hands attentively while listening to a friend. I often find myself fiddling with Finneas for a comfortable position when I'm feeling nervous or animated. I have to hand it to anyone who can keep a straight conversation going with eye-contact while I yank and wring my strange little hand.

My friend Dani stayed with me for a few days this week, and she was really good about grabbing the camera when she saw me doing something that looked different. She got some really great shots of some super mundane activities, which was fantastic––sorry, I was just seeing how many superlatives I could get in one sentence. I've included some of her art in this post because I thought it would be better than pictures of things I can't do, which I don't actually have, because that would be ridiculous.


So maybe next time I find myself in a clapping crowd, I'll pretend I'm a one-armed deaf girl and shake my fingers in the air. Where is Helen Keller when you need her?

I've recently imagined a hook-like device attached to the wall next to my bathroom mirror, that could act as a second finger for ponytail-making. But, as with most things, I'm a visionary and the details tax my patience and know-how. The mission is a bit fuzzy––step one, learn to use a power tool?

In the mean time, I just remind myself that God was merciful in giving me hair that does what it wants regardless of what I want to do with it and, as I know my grandmother would remind me, rapists target women with ponytails.

It takes the edge off.



  1. I miss ponying it up for you! I too was on the verge of suggesting the deaf "clap" until you beat me to it. ;)
    BTW, Finneas did a great job censoring the naked Grecian... That was on purpose, right? ;)

  2. This is priceless, though I admit a few tears!

  3. ponytails are over-rated & clapping is rarely done right

  4. I can teach you how to do your pony tail. ;o) And yeah...clapping...what is a clap is a form of cheering. And I bet you have an awesome cheer! ;o)

  5. Crazy to read this as those are two of the things that cross my mind every once in a while...

  6. I have a friend who uses 1-Up hair ties for her ponytail. You can find them at

    Check our the "method 2" video in the How To section.

  7. I am 14 years old and lost my left arm in an accident as a child.
    Amazingly, the two only things I can not do is tie your hair into a ponytail and clap. rsrsrsrs
    but I think I can live with it.
    I'm from Brazil and I am also opening a blog, your blog is great, congratulations.