Familial Waterfalls From My Palms!

How my sweaty palms caused me my biggest adversities but also strengthened my relationship with my father and shaped me into the person I am today.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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By Veronika Duvanova

The urge to inconspicuously dodge holding someone’s hand; the need to pretend that I dislike physical affection; the act of excusing myself as an introvert; all of the above are small but detrimental situations caused by my sweaty palms. Having sweaty hands seems like a small concern, and it is understandable to find this struggle insignificant in comparison to larger adversities faced by others. Yet, my sweaty hands were my biggest worry for the majority of my life, and I had suffered under their wrath since childhood. 

I was four years old when I had the pleasure of marrying the boy who sat next to me at daycare. At the climax of our playground time that day, we stared at each other, our eyes glistening under the beautiful sunset. I had cultivated my relationship with this boy for as long as  I could remember, and it was about to reach an all-time high. 

My friend was the marriage officiant, and she had decided that we would recite our vows, hold hands, and slide down the swirly slide together to confirm our marriage. “Do you agree to be husband and wife?” the officiant asked; we each responded: “Yes, I do.” The officiant nodded in approval, so the boy and I held hands and walked to the swirly slide, all the way on the other side of the park. We were inching closer and closer to the slide—closer to our blossoming life together.

Yet, just a few feet away from our bridge to eternal love, the boy forcefully let go of my hand. Heartbroken, I turned back and saw him shaking his hand profusely, as if he had just touched an infected zombie. He then asked to ride the swirly slide without holding hands. However, the marriage officiant had made riding the swirly slide while holding hands a requirement to seal our union, and he had already pried our hands apart, effectively breaking up our marriage before it had even started. That day, he ended up marrying my friend, and I became their marriage officiant. Although it gives me chuckles to think about this silly, over-exaggerated situation, it was a detriment to have such a reaction from a friend for something I couldn’t control. 

Even now, friends who try to touch my hands as a form of affection, thanks, or kind intention are often offended when I simply stare at their hand instead of offering mine back. I have never told them why I don’t accept their welcoming hands. Instead, I awkwardly sway my hand away from them without any explanation, causing the same disappointed response each time: “Why? Is there something wrong with my hands?” or “What’s up with you?”

These interactions inevitably manifest in my school life. I participate in Stuyvesant’s Oratorio Choir, which is notorious for its long, mandatory afterschool practices. Being stuck in a room for hours upon hours makes it natural for members to develop close friendships. At the end of one winter practice, I decided to go home with my friend. In contrast to the rest of my freezing body, my hands had started to sweat—something of little concern to me, as they were safe in the comfort of my pockets. 

However, my friend, who expressed affection through physical touch, wanted to hold my hand. I, as usual, did not offer her my hand when she lent it to me. Unaware of the subtle rejection, she instead reached into my pockets to hold my hands against my will. Panicked, I immediately took my hands out of my pockets and gave her a weird stare. She responded with a “Why would you do that?” reaction, to which I apologized and said I didn’t like physical touch, and we soon went our own separate ways.

Minor inconveniences similar to this situation manifest constantly through small gestures, such as handshakes and high-fives. Handshakes with friends are so common in hallways, yet I purposely avoid these situations to stay within my comfort zone. Although I don’t want to let my friends down and ruin the mood by not reciprocating such a simple gesture, I don’t want to acknowledge my sweaty hands, so I tend to mask it with the facade of having an introverted personality. If I could, I would choose to comfortably hold my friends’ hands and say yes to physical contact.

As with many nuanced problems, however, it is important to acknowledge the benefits of my sweaty hands. They helped me cultivate my relationship with my biggest support system: my parents, especially my father. My sweaty palms weren’t a miraculous creation—the trait is common among my paternal family. Since I openly talked to my dad about my hands interfering with my life, he has continued to support me, sharing his experiences, funny anecdotes, and genuine advice about sweaty palms. His simple stories about how his sweaty hands “cause his steering wheel to become slippery” or how “he slides off the floor when doing a push-up” are weirdly comforting.

Thus, my sweaty palms helped me become aware of the support I had, which helped build my confidence. Since childhood, my parents have assigned me to typical activities, such as violin and piano. Yet, due to its great emphasis on hands, I found myself extremely frustrated when the right chords wouldn’t play and I would feel a weird sensation within my fingertips after pressing each key and string. I was nervous to talk to my parents about this in fear of disappointing them. However, when I confided in my parents about this issue, my mother and father understood immediately and let me quit, allowing me to take charge of my own decisions. 

Still, my father put great emphasis on learning to overcome these adversities instead of simply avoiding them. After letting me quit the violin and piano, my father and I picked up a new hobby that encourages the use of hands: golf. By playing golf with my father, we would simultaneously spend time together and work on bettering our hand tolerance. Admittedly, golf is still extremely frustrating, even more so than violin and piano. However, knowing that I’m spending time with my father at the fields and range encourages me to strive harder to become better at the sport. He has taught me that not all adversities need to be bad, and one needs to willingly find the light in a mass of darkness; his company made it possible for me to see my biggest adversity as my biggest advantage. 

Even as I am typing this right now, I have to take frequent breaks to shake the droplets condensing on my hands. However, evaluating my struggles with sweat also revealed to me that other people could be susceptible to similar, unique struggles, but do not speak it out loud for fear of embarrassment or unrelatability. Hence, it is essential to find your own community, one that will give you the confidence to speak about your issues, no matter how eccentric or unconventional they might be. For me, my sweaty hand community consists of only my dad. Knowing that I found commonalities between my father allowed me to surpass my comfort zone; it is up to the point where now, I evolved to not only accept occasional high-fives, but I’m frequently the one to initiate hand-to-hand contact with my friends first. Since I could confide in my father, I know that I’m in good hands—no matter how sweaty.