Teleprompter vs. hand. It's not a debate that got a lot of attention until last week, when, in a remarkable confluence of events, no sooner had Sarah Palin dissed President Obama as a "charismatic guy with a teleprompter" than she was caught reading notes off her hand in a Q-and-A session at the Tea Party convention.
The words she'd palm printed? "Energy." "Tax cuts." And, most importantly, "Lift American spirits" — which she did. At least, she lifted mine, because finally a hand scribbler has made it to the national stage.
Yes, I, too, scribble notes on my hand, and for too long my people have been covered in shame (and ink). Ridiculed as "fifth-graders," "dum-dums" and even "cheaters," we are none of the above. Well, except for some actual fifth-graders, of course. And some cheaters. My point is: You can be smart and grown-up and still write on your hand.
"I encourage my students to do this!" says proud hand scribe Melissa Hart, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon. "I really do believe writers get their best ideas when they're exercising or taking a shower." That's why she jogs with a pen in her ponytail and keeps wash-off crayons in the tub.
"Good ideas are like fish; they'll get away," says Josef Brandenburg, a fitness guru. Write them on your hand and they don't immediately disappear.
They might smear, however, which is why a lot of serious self-writers have honed their techniques. Jewelry designer Jenn Dewey draws her ideas with fine-tip markers so they'll last through a hand wash or two. Those with sweaty palms often write on their wrists instead. (And you can hide whatever's there with a cuff or watchband.) There are even those who keep their hands completely clean and write on the sides of their fingers.
Hope they don't eat a lot of KFC.
Novelist Mark McLaughlin is one of them. Pondering Palin's palm, he said, "I can't call her an ignoramus because I do the same thing. At least she abundantly realizes she has a problem and she's dealing with it."
Commentators have suggested her real problem is stupidity: Anyone who can't remember three things about America is too dumb to run it. But whether you are pro- or anti-Palin, you have to admit it's harder to talk off the cuff (so to speak) than it is to read aloud a whole speech you meticulously wrote out beforehand. (Also so to speak.)
"I'm not a Palin fan, but at the same time, she is human and needs to remember stuff. I don't see what the problem is," says Laura Spaventa, a recent college grad whose guidance counselor told her to stop writing on her hand if she wanted to find a job.
So she quit for a while. But now that she's employed, she's inky again. And there are, indeed, some downsides. Working as an editorial assistant, Spaventa jots notes on her hand to remember what she has to edit next. One day, before she moved out of her parents' home, she was working on a sex story and wrote "SEX!" on her palm. She slept with her cheek on her hand. When she went down to breakfast, her parents demanded, "What is going on?!"
She looked in the mirror. And moved out soon.
The fact is: Hands are so handy they even have an adjective named after them. Those of us who write on them don't waste paper and don't lose our notes (usually). If we need a little help remembering things — "buy milk," "save the economy" — please don't point fingers.
Unless they have the answers on them.
Lenore Skenazy is the author of "Who's the Blonde That Married What's-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can't Remember Right Now" and "Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry." To find out more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.