My Left-Handed Life
A few weeks ago, I was in Memphis where I gave a speech to a class. You can read that story here. After the speech, a whole line of them came to have me sign their books and say hello. While this was, for the most part, a very intense and emotional thing, given the gravity and sensitivity of the subject, there were a few people who managed to lighten the air with humor at least momentarily. At the time, I was too emotionally invested to focus on it but, as is my want, after some time spent processing the more pressing events of the day, my memory wandered back to look again at the other comments made that day.
One guy handed me the book to sign and then said, with a big grin, “I’ve been surrounded by lefties all day.” I laughed at the time and that was pretty much the extent of my response. Until tonight, when I started searching memory for other snapshots of that day.
Yes, I am a leftie.
I have never given my left-handedness more than a passing glance. Unlike with the spelling of my name, which I always took a bit of pride in, I always looked at hand dominance like I looked at the color of my eyes. They’re blue and, I mean, that’s that. Holding a pen in my right hand felt unnatural… Okay, big deal, I’ve got another hand, problem solved, let’s move on. In other words, I’ve never really gotten why people inevitably find it worth talking about.
But then, this kid, this medical grad student, said his mom made him write with his right hand. I’ve heard that ridiculousness before, so I just gave a sympathetic whimper and moved on. Until tonight. Why would a parent force her child to use a specific hand to write with? Surely, there existed a reason for this. I decided to spend a few minutes looking up differences between left and right handed people. The few minutes turned into almost an hour.
I found lots of supposedly scientific stuff about the differences between right and left handers. I found articles that said that being left handed could in and of itself mean that such a person (me!) might have “a nasty habit, a mark of the devil, a sign of neurosis, rebellion, criminality, and homosexuality.” I just scoffed and kept reading. I read other things about how God “clearly” prefers right handed people since Jesus sits on His right hand side. This illustrated such a convoluted twisting of the Bible that I didn’t know whether to contact the author of the website personally to try to save his right-handed soul or to laugh (I mean, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t check to make sure the people He healed were right handed. And I’m even more sure He didn’t die just for the right handers of the all history). I hope I don’t have to point out to my intelligent readers that I do not have the mark of Satan anywhere on me, especially in my left hand. For the record, I also suffer not from neurosis, rebellion of any kind, criminal fantasies or the like. I am also not gay.
Eventually, I looked up the definition of “left handed” in my physical dictionary. I have two, an Oxford and a Merriam Webster. I grabbed the Webster first. It defined “left handed” in definition 4 as being “clumsy, awkward, insincere, backhanded, dubious.”
Luckily, the Oxford dictionary did not agree and left that fourth definition out. Smart people there at Oxford. Some sites claimed science shows research that proves right handed people are smarter; others said just the opposite. A few compared us to Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein, both of whom were lefties. A few compared left handers to Jack the Ripper and Osama bin Laden (no, I am not kidding), because they were left handed too. A couple compared us to Obama which I couldn’t decide from their tone was a compliment or not. Maybe it was a “backhanded” one?
Researchers recently conducted an experiment where they showed an 8 minute clip of Silence of the Lambs to people. The left handers showed more fear than the right handers which is supposed to suggest we’re more likely to be scared.
Also, I read that left handers are more likely to be:
alcoholics, schizophrenic, delinquent, and dyslexic. They are also more likely to have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or mental disabilities. Scholars note that despite these maladies, left-handers have survived because they are traditionally successful in combat.
This was in the same article that said we’re more of fraidy-cats than right handers. How can you be more afraid but be successful in combat? We’re also prone to asthma, allergies and we’re going to die 9 years before our right handed counterparts. On the plus side, we’re creative and 25% of left handers are richer than the same level of educated right handers. Or so they say but this was in the article that mentioned we’re witches. At least we’re smart witches.
I have Facebook friends and I teach children at church so I thought, in case any of these people or my readers were worried about me conjuring up spells to turn them into cats or something, I’d try to set the record straight.
First of all, I’ve never felt discriminated against for bring a leftie. Actually, that’s not completely true. When I was in 6th grade, I walked into my classroom and saw a left handed desk. There was only one, but there it sat. I ran to it. Suddenly, I realized how mean all my teachers had been all these years for making my arm dangle as I took tests in a right handed desk. In high school, there were two classes I took that had left handed desks in them. I would race to these classes and pull the left handed desk to where I wanted to sit, even if it was all the way across the room. Really, there should have been at least one left handed desk in all of my classes, from K on, don’t you think? They probably owe me money for psychological damage as I’m probably going to become schizophrenic this year.
I went to college, am adaptable to the point of absurd, deeply care about the lives of those around me and wrote a hundred books before turning 20. My hand does not turn inward when I write, although it’s true that my penmanship stinks. I love the water, creeks, horses, music, caffeinated drinks, reading, France and chocolate. I’m not afraid of much anymore, unless it’s bees we’re talking about, in which case I’m absolutely terrified. Contrary to statistics, I never get angry.
When I was a child and started learning to write, my doctor told my mother that she could force me to use my right hand. Fortunately, she didn’t. Because, as it turns out, I’m probably a creative witch in hiding. Which is probably one of the reasons I’m suddenly quite happy to be a left hander. 😉
Yes, I’m a leftie.
With Babe Ruth, da Vinci, a handful of Presidents and Einstein also being left handers, I’d say I’m in pretty good company. With a handful of unsavory characters also being noted for being left handed, I’d say I’m also just a flawed human. I’m not really endowed with magical abilities as the Incas believed and I’m not actually a sorcerer as the Eskimos thought.
I’m just me.