Metro-East Living

Does talking with your hands help emphasize what you’re saying?

Michelle Meehan Schrader
Michelle Meehan Schrader

When I was a little girl, I used to wring my hands. Really fast. Almost wildly. Like the flapping wings of a bird, tethered to a wrist, but determined to take off in flight.

The more excited I got, the faster my hands “flew.” Once, while telling a joke to my brother’s girlfriend, I nearly hit her in the face when I got to the punchline.

“Stand back!” my brother said. “Michelle talks with her hands.”

I still do. The affliction has progressed.

Not the wringing. I pretty much have that under control. These days, I only wring when I’m alone and worrying about something. The other 50 percent of the time, I use my hands to accentuate my words. They also come in handy for knocking over wine glasses in restaurants and karate chopping flies in mid-flight.

There are witnesses to the fly chopping. My niece Angela Zang and Mandi Graham, the Belleville Area Humane Society volunteer coordinator, were with me at the time.

It was a Saturday afternoon at the shelter and that darned fly had been buzzing everywhere.

“He’s sooo obnoxious!” I said waving my arms in exasperation. As if in slow motion, I saw my hand slice through the air and my pinky connect with the fly. A nanosecond later, in the same fell swoop, I karate chopped him against the doorway.

“Unbelievable!” I yelped. “I couldn’t have done that if I’d tried.”

Well, actually, I wouldn’t have tried. I would have waited for someone else to do it.

“Please tell me you aren’t upset you killed him,” my niece said.

It wasn’t me. It was my hands.

I long ago accepted they have a mind of their own. I don’t mind. But my husband does.

“You need to learn how to control them,” he tells me, “especially when you’re out in public.”

At home, all bets are off. When our son, Sam, was home on Christmas break, he called me out for “hand talking” when he couldn’t even see me.

I was on the upper level of our house, shouting a funny story down the stairs. Sam was luxuriating on the basement couch. We often converse in this manner.

“Are you talking with your hands again, Mom?” Sam asked, without looking up.

“Why, yes, I am. But how could you know that?”

“I can hear your bracelets jangling,” he said.

Someone else might have been embarrassed. But I was just glad he was listening.