My mom looks at her hands with distinct dissatisfaction. It’s a stern look. I am grateful that for once this is not directed toward me. She gets up and grabs some Curell and, from the kitchen, a box of sugar. She mixes the lotion with the sugar, slowly and methodically.
I am five or six years old maybe and this is something I remember her doing on special occasions, mixing together the sugar scrub for her hands like it’s one of her recetas. I know that there’s some hatred involved in the cooking process for her. She thinks cooking is useless and redundant because everything gets eaten anyway. My smart, mean madre diciendo la pura verdad and perfectly explaining the concept of feminist immanence years before I ever read about it in The Second Sex. But the sugar scrub is a more sacred process.
My tias do the sugar scrub too. They also frown at their hands and get up, with purpose, to perform the scrub ritual. (As a five year old, I mostly lounge or bounce around. I have yet to do anything with purpose.) My tias complain about their hands being dry and about their eyes being tired.
“Son los quimicos que nos ponen a usar,” say the older tias to the younger tias. It’s the chemicals they make us use, they say, referring to the women whose houses they clean with brutal chemical cleaners.
My tia Lupita uses the sugar scrub more often than the others and the lotion she mixes in is extra expensive. She really cares about these things. My tia Felix uses it a lot too, but she does it absentmindedly, while she is doing a million other things so that some corners of her house have a sharp sugar crust where she has accidentally brushed against them.
Compared to her sisters, my mom almost never uses the scrub. She seems to save it for special occasions, when she wants to look extra nice or when she’s done a lot of cleaning work and wants to relax.
For me, the sugar scrub is a rare occasion. The sugar box comes down from the top shelf where I cannot reach it. In the mixing process, the sugar box is left unattended, waiting for me to steal a generous spoonful. I lurk around the house while my mom goes to wash off the scrub before launching my attack. I eat the sugar slowly, trying to crunch the grains before they dissolve in my mouth in too-sweet glory. My mom regañars me, but not too much. She understands the sugar’s hold on my five year old brain.
I never think to put it on my own hands. I just assume that the time will come, in the near future, where I will need this scrub for my hands to be soft.
But my hands are pretty much always soft. “Tienes manos de computadora,” my mom says over the phone, fifteen years later.
You have computer hands. Your hands only touch computers. She means that I will never do physical labor. There’s a kind of a reverence in the way she says it.