To be clear, we have all been beaten to the seminal observation about Donald Trump’s hands by Spy magazine decades ago when it called Mr. Trump a “short-fingered vulgarian.” And, true to everything you ever suspected about Trump, it’s the part about his wee digits that stuck with him rather than the pointed suggestion that he could do with a bit of refinement in his manner of expression.
It should also be clear that it is wrong to make fun of another human being based on his appearance. However, Mr. Trump, having apparently been raised to be not just a vulgarian but the kind of vicious schoolyard sniper who never grows up to realize how much human saliva his restaurant orders contain, seems to have long ago signaled that such a basic rule of human decency does not apply where he is concerned.
And, honestly, I really have no desire to mock Mr. Trump’s hands. As he just made sure to announce to Politico, they are beautiful.
Just look at that little darling, peeking out of its cuff like it’s shy. How could I insult it? It’s pale, soft, and simply gorgeous.
You would expect a presidential candidate who wants to project himself as a builder or a tough guy — as Trump at first glance seems to wish to do — would hide hands like that. You’d think he’d do something to try to roughen them up, or at least extend his use of spray tanner. His hands are a dead giveaway that Mr. Construction Projects has never actually hung drywall.
But the persona Trump’s truly hoping to project isn’t tough guy or builder or even real estate developer. It’s not Can-Do Guy. It’s Rich Asshole who Has Never Had to Do Anything. And on that count, Trump’s diminutive, ivory-miniature, petal-soft hands serve him perfectly. This aren’t merely the hands of a guy who has never picked up a hammer; these are the hands of a man who has never rinsed out a cereal bowl.
But there is so much more that Trump’s unassuming, milky Jane Austen heroine hands are doing for him. Like all politicians, Trump relies on a stable of carefully practiced hand gestures during speeches and debates.
This is a personal favorite, the raised index finger with middle-thumb closure. First, take a moment to make that gesture and see how unnatural it is. Second, look at that exquisite little mini-muffin hand!
Hand gestures are tricky for politicians, because in a setting where people are watching you carefully, uncontrolled, natural hand gestures can make you look like a goon. But standing there clutching your podium or, worse, with your arms straight at your sides, will make you look stiff and untrustworthy. So most of them work it down to a few that they rotate through: palms up in trustworthiness, emphatic karate chops, or bold pointing.
But Trump’s hands seem to know that his speech in public is wilder and more uncontrolled than most, that his words threaten to flail over the Christmas tree and send the punch bowl crashing over. And thus they work overtime at being decorous in an apparent effort to suggest that somewhere in there are elements of precision, delicacy, and care.
How can you look at those tender little dumplings working away and not be moved?
I became fascinated with Trump’s hands during the last debate, happily to the exclusion of almost everything he said. They swoop and dance as he speaks, stopping at the crests of their arcs like fairies pausing to make fetching curtsies. If you really need to get back to where you can enjoy Trump’s presence in our politics again, watch his hands while he speaks and make a little ding! sound each time a hand reaches an apex.
They are marvelous, like wee sleeve elves trying to reassure us that everything will somehow be OK.
I’m not going to lie to you: Trump is going to be frightening us quite a bit over the next several months. But his hands seem to want to reassure us that, just as every good person has a shadow self, when someone seems to be all shadow, there must somewhere be an element of light.
Tiny, moving pinpoints of light.