Text: Dr Liz Conor, AnyBody contributor
It is never the done thing for a woman to extol any part of herself as
worthy. It is the done thing to be neurotic and thereby of especial
remunerative value to the beauty industry. But I must say, lately my
fingertips have been in very fine form.
They are smooth, unblemished, wrinkle free, and with enviably even skin
You see, every time I smear eye gel and wrinkle softener and bio-oil and
paw-paw ointment and sun-screen onto my face, it first gets gobbed onto the
ends of my fingers which then prep with a little digital frottage. My
fingertips probably absorb more Jurlique that the myriad Œtrouble spots¹
that occupy the increasingly uneven terrain of my over-40 face.
By rights my plump little pads should be showing all the signs of having
become the principal beneficiaries of a lotioning regime that no woman with
a duty to beauty would ever dare to let lapse.
Thus it is surely our fingertips that should be held up as living proof of
the virtues of moisturizing. They should be celebrated for their suppleness
on the covers of Vogue and Madison and the fingertips of celebrities praised
for their age-defying firmness in weekend magazine features.
Yet fingertips never appear full-frontal in cosmetic advertisements, even
though, all of us unguent junkies are mostly treating these outer
extremities. Sometimes they do make an appearance in those instructional ads
that show with arrows exactly in which direction you need to apply your
liniment for maximum firming impact. But as if resisting the paparazzi and
the eye-focused world it panders to, fingertips are always coyly turned away
from the camera.
Paring off the disproportionately over-represented and over-attended and
frankly perfectly spoiled realm of Nails, why have we given so little
attention to our fingertips when they have such a hand in our beauty
maintenance? With every other part of our bodies, except perhaps our toes
(as distinct from toenails), singled out for extreme makeovers and zoned for
modification, improvement and treatment, how have our fingertips, the
cats-cradle bridge between bottle and body, been so flagrantly cast aside?
If you were a dreadful cynic, and daily witnessed your brow furrowing under
your wrinkle softener, you might think of two reasons.
Fingertips are unmodifiable.
Fingertips are in fact over-treated, yet unable to evince any sign of it.
As such fingertips are an audacious affront to the billion dollar cosmetic
industry. They prove that our bodies are largely impervious to the thing
that this incalculably opulent industry really sells. Lotioning. (Sun-screen
aside - though I¹ve never seen a freckled or sunburnt fingertip).
If we paid proper attention to fingertips we¹d notice that they soak up a
greater proportion of the oils, unguents and serums that are more expensive
by the gram than uranium and thereby, if you follow the logic of the
beauty industry, are the most alluring part of a woman¹s body.
Fingertips are on the pulse of beauty culture charlatanism. Forget
statistics and a poignantly portrayed personal history of anorexia. Naomi
Wolf needed to look no further than her most far-flung appendages to
demolish the beauty myth.
For who has heard of fingertips being too fat, thin, disproportioned or
aged? Aside from puckering quite becomingly in the bath I suspect our
fingertips carry us through to the end of our mortality looking much the
same on our deathbeds as they did when we clawed our way into life.
And, in the interim, what a service they perform! Have they ever been
acknowledged as a sex-organ? Or, since the predominance of the keyboard,
credited as the Membrane of Communication? In this ocularcentric world, once
again doing the rounds of Golden-Globe and Oscar mania, is there an awards
ceremony for excellence in touching and feeling anywhere that prizes
fingertips rather than solar-plexes?
We are mesmerized by Nigella¹s cuisine but never consider the role her
pinkies play in all that saucy tip-to-tongue action. When it comes to
Nigella all senses are reduced to that overstuffed and overrated organ of
taste that doesn¹t bear mention. But having excited so much controversy, not
to mention fantasy, surely Nigella¹s fingertips deserve their own agents?
The same goes for adored musicians of every genre. Habitually sensorily
reductive we limit all aural pleasure to the ear, but forget the mechanics
of music. The sheer haptic virtuosity of a pianist or harpist or violinist
depends on the strike and stroke of their fingertips.
With all this brushing off, I¹m surprised fingertips haven¹t sought to annex
themselves from the human body altogether. But as the croupiers of the
digital world, they could also provide a perfect alibi for the world¹s
present economic crisis. A complete set of the finger prints of all the
unregulated Bankers of Wall Street and we¹d soon have our crooks with their
The point is fingertips are all over everything and yet most of us are
stumped about whether fingertip is one word, or two, or hyphenated. We
should never forget that it is the insouciantly moist fingertip that gives
us the finger, and deservedly so.
Dr Liz Conor
Honorary Research Fellow
Department of Culture and Communications
University of Melbourne