I’ve noticed a couple of instances lately, where people talk with their hands and are almost powerless to stop. The first: my physical therapist. He is a great guy, a top-notch PT, and a delightful conversationalist. But it’s nothing short of comical when we become engaged in a deep conversation. He wants to continue manipulating my shoulder joint to alleviate discomfort, but he also wants to respond to what I’ve said, and he can’t do both at once. He’ll silently manipulate for a couple of seconds, attempt to say a few words, stop manipulating so he can speak freely using his hands, realize that he’s not manipulating anymore, put his hands back on my shoulder, rinse, lather, repeat. I only laugh at him on the inside.
The second person: my wife. Fresh from a PT session, Kim recently drove me to my monthly writers’ club meeting. She had an exciting day at work and communicated as much to me in an animated manner. Her hands kept flying off the steering wheel so she could talk. I told her the funny story about my PT and begged her to keep her hands firmly in place. She did, but I’m sure it’s not a permanent fix.
I can’t remember if I was a hand talker in the past. If the stereotype about Italians is accurate, I probably was. But I’m clearly not anymore. I make no wasted, unconscious movements with my hands. No fidgeting. No fingernail chewing. Any movement takes planning and effort, so I’m aware of when my hands are in motion, which isn’t often.
However, if I watch you feed your one-year-old child spoonfuls of puréed carrots from a jar, I’ll open and close my mouth in unison with her. That can’t be helped.