The Finger

My whole adult life I have given every one of my sisters — three in total—the finger. Sometimes as a group but just as often, individually. (I have never given my brother the finger because he’s older than me and has lethal weapons. Plus, I don’t really think he would find it humorous one bit.) But sisters? It’s one of the fun, cheeky things I shock their straight, proper selves with. They’re almost prim!

Our mother was always quite proper too. Not exactly priggish; just proper. It took a lot to make her laugh and God knows, the finger would definitely not have been the gesture she would have fancied. She never swore, used bad words, or even said anything unkind about anyone. Such was the environment I came from. Hence, my itch to harmlessly violate primness required expression from time to time. A middle child syndrome, to be sure.

OUTSIDE THE TRIBE 

There are many times in my life that I’ve wanted to give other people the finger and had I chosen to do so, maybe all of that use would’ve kept the joints limber and therefore insulated from arthritis. Needless to say, co-workers at some of the jobs I have held throughout my life, let alone drivers in Los Angeles and the San Diego area, would have not appreciated it. LA in particular could’ve been downright dangerous.

But the finger has been a kind of running joke at picture-taking time with my sisters, and occasionally my son. Sort of a lingering adolescent rebellion against all things within the confines of puritanical behavior. (The first time my daughter-in-law saw me give the finger, she was horrified. My son explained to her it was an inside joke but she didn’t sound convinced.)

KARMIC CONSEQUENCE 

In any case, I think karma is having its way with me because in only my middle finger do I have some serious osteoarthritis going on. All of the other fingers and thumbs are untouched but the middle finger on my left hand. It is starting to get gnarled and painful. I’m not sure I would care so much about the gnarled look but does it have to hurt? To add insult to injury, I recently burned that soft fleshy pad on the underside of said finger. Will karmic lessons never cease?

As I’ve aged (hoping to reached greater maturity,) I’ve lost that edginess to even use the finger to communicate with my loved ones. It is one of my few rebellions but after a while, it doesn’t have the same impact it once did. They all just roll their eyes and ignore me – – an insufficient response to say the least, as if I’ve become predictable. It doesn’t have the same impact over Zoom or FaceTime either.

So, I guess I’ll have to live with my karmic consequence of an overused arthritic middle finger. “Such is life,” my mother would say, though I never used it on her as it would’ve been sacrilege, not to mention totally lost in translation. 

4 replies
  1. Bob Rubin
    Bob Rubin says:

    I have heard it is the “sight gags” that are unfortunately amongst the most powerful weapons we have to break down relationships. By that I mean giving the finger or rolling one’s eyes. Like they say, a picture is worth
    a thousand words. The problem with the rebellious gesture is it is CONTEMPTUOUS. It is usually motivated by our lesser angels. I have my own large set of demons, the finger just happens to be way down the list. In this season particularly I would call the consequence not karma but Christ’s refining of your wonderful, funny, charming nature, which includes far more better angels.

    Reply
  2. Rosalie
    Rosalie says:

    Bob,
    Your perspective feels quite “Old Testament” to me (and therefore quite literal) and therefore may miss the spirit of humor and playfulness. The piece is meant to reflect how we all tend to take ourselves so seriously—me, sisters, the human race. If my sisters want to really act contemptuous toward each other, they would use words and be direct; not just eye rolls or fingers.

    Reply
  3. Jen Laffler
    Jen Laffler says:

    Ha! I too cherish the adolescent delight of a good finger-giving (and I wasn’t raised that way, either). Nowadays I usually reserve it for when Bob does something so deeply and intentionally irritating that my angst can’t be expressed any other way. Like most phrases in Yiddish, the finger given to someone who “gets it” implies an undertone of warmth and humor, of inside joke. I get you!!!! Flip me off anytime.

    Reply

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