Thursday, August 2, 2012

Well isn't that sinister....

Today while I was cleaning the bathroom (yes this is a cleaning fumes blog, haven't you missed those?) I was having a hard time getting the angle right on a corner of the tub I was scrubbing. See I made a mistake when I bought my new scrub brush, I didn't hold it in my hand at the store to see how it fit. And I ended up buying a brush that was angled for right handed people. Ugh. I hate that.

Yes, I'm a leftie. A southpaw. A left handed girl in a right handed world. I am not as strongly left handed as others. I can do a lot with my right hand. I use right handed scissors. I bowl and hit a ball equally well (which means not at all) with both my right and left hands. When I wore a watch I wore it on my left wrist instead of my right like many lefties do. I don't do that weird hand wrap thing when I write. Though I do have truly awful handwriting. And when I realized the reason I couldn't get the angle right was because of my left I switched hands and kept scrubbing.

Only 7-10 percent of the population is left handed. And the majority of lefties are men so being a left-handed female is fairly rare. When I meet another left handed woman we always share that "Hey! I'm left handed too!" moment of recognition. When I am watching a movie or TV show or the first time a President signs a document I always watch to see what hand they use, and I'm always thrilled when it's the left one. Eight US Presidents have been southpaws, by the way.

I can remember the first time I was in a shop that specialized in left handed products. We were in San Diego at Seaport Village and there was a little lefties boutique. My dad was with me and we are both lefties. It was like a kid in a candy store moment for both of us. Look! Soup ladles for lefties! Notebooks with the binder on the right hand side! Scrub brushes that are angled to be held in the left hand! For me it was a novelty, for my dad it was even more.

See in my family it is my Aunt Dorothy, one brother and one of my nephews that are left handed, and my father was left handed. Family dinners are orchestrated things of who sits next to whom. It doesn't matter with Brent and I, we have been married for a long time and neither of us wings our arms out so we can sit on either side of each other, but if you are a lefty sitting next to a winging righty eating becomes a combat sport. My dad and my aunt though are both of an age where being left handed wasn't just an inconvenience at the dinner table, it was something to be fixed.

The first time I can remember my Aunt Dorothy talking about being left handed it was to ask me if I had gotten any grief in school about it. I said no, of course not, why would I? Then she told me stories about her school experience. Of teachers tying her arm to her side to try to force her to use her right instead of her left. Of getting whacked in the knuckles with a ruler if she reached with her left hand first instead of her right. I thought she was making it up but my dad said he had the same experiences. Being left handed wasn't okay, it was something that needed fixed. So they could be normal. Well my Aunt Dorothy was stubborn enough that she persevered and my dad was so strongly left handed that they finally gave up so they both made it out of their childhoods with their left handedness intact.

By the time I hit school it wasn't something that needed fixed anymore. It was something they didn't really know how to deal with, but not something they needed to fix. Remember those little elementary school desks? Those are designed for right handed kids. You got to rest your right arm on the desk while you wrote while I got to have my arm flapping in the wind. Though sometimes there would be one or two left handed desks. which was great except usually some right handed kid took it because it "looked cool" or if you did get it when everyone was getting in and out of desks you got out to the "wrong" side making a traffic jam in the aisle.  And finding left handed scissors that didn't suck? Forget about it. I just learned to cut with my right. Though I still can't cut a straight line, I wonder if I could blame the scissors? Oh and writing papers. First off most teachers are right handed so even learning how to write, especially cursive, was a chore. Then actually writing. Check the left hand of any lefty in school and you will see the tell tale smudge of ink from pinky to wrist. See when we write we then drag our hands across what we just wrote smearing the ink and smudging our hands.

And I already mentioned that weird wrapping thing that lefties do when the write. You've all seen it. Either the page gets turned almost perpendicular or the hand is wrapped around the top of the page and you end up writing almost upside down. We do that because right handed people trying to tell us how to write don't make sense. It's all backwards. The angles are all wrong. MC Escher was a lefty and I swear that left handed wrap is how he came up with the ideas for most of his pictures!

The world is designed for right handed people, as a lefty you learn to adapt. And you learn to not be offended when someone is offered a left handed compliment; when something is described as gauche or even better, sinister; when you discover that there are 25 negative references in the bible about being left handed or having something on the left. Compare that to the 6 negative references to homosexuality and I am amazed that I was allowed in to my private Baptist school at all.

But though I am in the minority I am thrilled at how far we have come. When my father and my aunt were kids they were treated poorly because of their handedness. People tried to fix them. When I was in school nobody tried to fix me, they just didn't make it easy for me to be left handed. Now kids have computers and type with both hands and can use a mouse with either their left or their right with just a flip of a switch. It gets better. Each generation figures out a little more. People are born the way they are born and even if they are in the minority they are still people just like you. Left handed or right.

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