I have a pair of Italian black leather gloves lined in cashmere which are not only quite cozy, but, I feel, the height of chicness and sophistication. They reach halfway to my elbow and shrug elegantly at the wrist. I’ve never been able to find women’s gloves large enough for my elongated hands yet which honor the feminine daintiness of their shape, and have historically worn gloves best suited for mountain men whose paws have beefed up with much lumber-chopping and the regular strangling of bears. These gloves, however, are long enough to suit my aristocratic fingers, on which the nails often grow to form delicate curves beyond the fingertips (which are soft from unfamiliarity with manual labor), and manage to appear trim and ladylike as well. They both fit the size and reflect the personality of my legendary El Greco-esque hands. These gloves look best when accessorized with pearls, a blonde mink stole or perhaps a silver fox capelet, dark sunglasses and black leather shoes with T-straps and french heels.
Recently I noticed that the fingertips of my favorite gloves had hardened and seemed to be lined with some thin film of concrete. For a while I was puzzled over this phenomenon. The gloves looked the same, but the inside tips, as well as the lining of the outer edge of the index fingers, had grown hard and rough. I began to fear for my nails, which might split against their new shells, and for the silky skin which would surely callous in its harsh new environment.
Then one very cold day, as I strolled past Carnegie Hall, I saw a tall dark-haired man walking towards me. When our eyes met, I recognized him as Broadway star Liev Schreiber, Tony winner and director of Everything is Illuminated. I gave him my heartbreaking shy smile (which consists of a tiny hint of a smile with eye contact followed by a quick lowering of the eyes but sustaining of the mysterious smile. This is dubbed my “heartbreaking shy smile” because it indicates that though I am gracious enough to smile upon such a mortal, I know that sustained eye contact is vulgar, plus my thoughts are far too deep and spiritual to allow some stranger unrestricted access to them. This is to be distinguished from my “ball-breaking sneer,” which includes an eyebrow arched in silent judgment and just a trace of a downward curl of the lips in what otherwise appears to be a smile. This suggests a worldliness and disappointment to which I’m too tactful to give name, but which, to the unfortunate recipient, is presumably unmistakable. Both the smile and the sneer, incidentally, can be termed “heartbreaking,” but for different reasons: the former for its poetry, the latter for its implied rejection.). Schreiber rendered his own version of the heartbreaking shy smile (which would probably be more aptly termed the “celebrity-feigning-humility-in-the-face-of-assiduously-sought-after-public-recognition smile” or the “celebrity-grinning-foolishly-at-the-unfamiliar-sight-of-a-more-beautiful-and-fascinating-non-celebrity smile”) and ambled past. Suddenly stretched inches taller with triumph, I still felt compelled to examine every expression and gesture that I had displayed in my passing acquaintance with the actor, and also to dissect his reactions to them, expecting to ascertain his instantaneous bewitchment with me. I was bewildered to discover myself lowering my hand from my nose and caught myself just as I was about to wipe it on my Scottish tweed skirt.
My god, had I been wiping my nose on my hand as I locked eyes with Liev Schreiber? In a moment of self-examination, in which the unconscious is made conscious, had I beheld a hideously childish and uncouth habit of mine, to which, for all I knew, I had been unwittingly subject all winter long and last winter in New York, the first and only winters I have ever spent in a climate cold enough to induce random post-nasal drippage? The slick evidence was right there on my fingertips.
Here is my scientific theory on the phenomenon of the hardened gloves: I wipe my nose on my gloves in a moment of obliviousness, the glazure seeps into the leather and settles in the fine knitted mesh of the cashmere lining. Here it freezes in the arctic chill of a typical December day in New York. At the end of the day when the gloves are resting on my kitchen table, the trapped moisture evaporates, leaving only the solidified mucus in the fingertips and, of course, the outer edges of the index fingers, where it is so convenient and natural to wipe one’s nose as needed. The rock-hard barriers at the tips of my glove fingers and along the edges are in fact petrified snot.
The ace up my sleeve is that I can still wear my favorite Italian leather gloves with mink and pearls and French heels and look impossibly, devastatingly elegant, and no one is the wiser as to the secret of my mysteriously crisp handshake. No one, that is, but Liev Schreiber.