Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just Not Right

I never really had a chance. All any kid wants in school is to fit in and belong, but all the Schoolyard does is enforce a brutally efficient Groupthink that saws off anything - or anybody - that sticks out. And from first grade on I had long, red hair. Thus, being a GIRL, I would never be one of the 'in' crowd of boys.

Worse, I was left-handed. So there never really was any hope.

The hair thing I eventually got over, since I found out that actual girls dig it. But the lefty thing has hung in there as a lifelong pain. Sometimes, literally: Try using a metal fast-food french fry scoop with your left hand: You'll either pour hot grease all over your left forearm, or you'll catapult the fries across the kitchen like a hot, greasy fireworks display. Or both.

Try pulling on the yank cord of a power mower with your left hand. It won't work. All the pull cords are on the right side, and angled back for your convenience. Me, I had to stand ON TOP of the mower, grasp the pull cord with both hands, and then leap away like I was skydiving. This sometimes resulted in the hot, heavy mower landing on top of me, with a grassy fireworks display rainbowing across the backyard.

Telephone booths? Dangerdangerdanger. The gyrations of holding the right handed handpiece to your left ear with your left hand, in a confined space as you struggle to find more coins can result in inadvertant self-strangulation.

Am I complaining? Yeah, I guess so. And I really don't mean to. As a child all I wanted was to fit-in. Now all I want is to be.......left alone. 

Sociologists estimate that if the world WOULD leave lefties alone they would account for up to 1/3 of the world's population. And even that is a diminished figure. An examination of stone age tools from the Lascaux caves of France showed that 55% of them were fashioned for lefties. This is the area of those famous cave paintings, which is the world's oldest surviving art. Coincidence? No one knows, so the conclusion will be........left for you to reach.

What happened to make Port-siders so Universally Evil? Are we truly the spawn of Satan? That is, did we take the left-hand path? Or is it as simple as "Shake with the Right, wipe with the Left?" Again no one knows for sure, but by the time of the Roman Empire, we were unwelcome in the living world. The technical term for left-handedness, taken directly from the Latin is: Sinistrality. Righties get Dextrality. So, as a parent your child was either dexterous or sinister. And let’s get a tutor in here real quick, before our kid gets..........left outside the city gates for the wolves.

Thank goodness the Human Race became civilized and realized how ridiculous it was to punish children for their natural inclinations. Oh. Wait. That never happened. My grandfather related how his teacher would stand behind him with a metal ruler and each time he did anything with his south paw she would brain him with the ruler. When he complained he was sent to Slow Class with all the other kids who were......left back.

Today there are an estimated 500 million lefties in a world of 6 billion. Or about one in 12. Our ancestors then were very efficient amateur geneticists, carefully weeding out the Sinstrals and deciding which traits would be kept, and which would be.......left behind.

I'm bitching. Sorry. Let's try to accentuate the positives.

Is there any advantage to being a leftie? Sure. Highway toll booths are a breeze. Well, except that Lefties are partial to car accidents. Toilet handles are left-handed, and oh aren't we proud of that. (Shake with the right, wipe with the left!)

Women's blouses are no sweat (or 'glisten'), except that there are twice as many lefty boys as girls. Lefties can read backwards, and upside down and backwards better than righties, but I'm holding off putting that on my resume just yet. Well, we're supposed to be more artistic, which is an attribute that traditionally manifests as Depression and drug abuse. Sorry. Just feeling a little.......left out.

But really, it's not the big things. My handwriting is mind-bendingly illegible, but computer keyboards are fairly neutral. Cars with manual transmissions are statistically a danger, but neutral bicycles are more my choice. What bugs me is the little things. Restaurants? My entree is always on the wrong side. In fact we lefties can spot each other in restaurants by the annoyed spinning of our plates after they arrive. That, and our placement out on the outer spiral arm of the table so we don't assault our neighbors with our odd elbows. Pens on leashes at the bank? Always placed on the right. Measuring cups? Put the handle on the left and the increments are on the wrong side.

It's that kind of stuff. Pocket knives, made for that right thumbnail to open the blade. Watch stems, cameras, men's list is long. Except you can't read my list because the side of my hand smears the ink on the paper as I push my pen along. Coffee mugs apparently have cute sayings on them. I wouldn't know; all facing the other way. Imagine a mug or a measuring cup made specifically for us portsiders. Naaah. Surely an idea from out of......left field.

Which brings us to Sports! The great thing about Athletics is that there is always some sport that will capitalize on your weird, recessive genes. 8 feet tall? 4 feet tall? 350 pounds? 82 pounds? You're not a freak, you're a star! And being a lefty is no exception. In basketball lefties can block a righties shots better. In baseball a good lefty pitcher is invaluable. In tennis nobody wants to play a Southpaw, which is a good thing. It is really only in Sports where our affliction can be turned to an advantage, and often we excel, and sometimes we are the last one's.......left standing.

Every year at Christmas I get lefty presents from my mother. T-shirts, buttons, hats, books (open on the right), and page-a-day calendars (box opens on the right). I appreciate these gifts certainly (as I love everything she has done for me in my life), but she never seems to grasp the concept that Lefties don't want to be singled out and our disability highlighted for all to see.

Like every other minority we do not wish to have Special Rights but simply equal rights. We ask for nothing more, because really, there is nothing less. Like all the kids in the schoolyard, we just want to fit-in. We just want a place at the table with our Dextrous brethren - even if our place is forever stuck out on the corner. I am not Proud to be a Leftie; I am simply left-handed.

I'm also not good at remembering to turn my 'page-a-day' calendars. But I do eventually read them. For southpaws the vast majority of birthdays, trivia and quotes are from athletes. Oh, and Cole Porter and Gandhi. We get them too. My favorite quote from these calendars is this one from former Boston Bruin Wayne Cashman: "The key to a hockey fight is the first punch. When you're a lefty and they're looking for the right, it helps." Which, when you think about it is kind of a.......left-handed compliment.

Sorry. I'm bitching again. I should cut that out. Except, I can barely use scissors.

Angus McMahan


  1. Hello from a fellow Ginger and Leftie. I too have learned to love my Ginger hair and embrace it after all these years. Also with the leftie thing I always say lefthands are prone to being more artistic. I don't know if it is true of me. Found you on TFP today. Added to my reader you have been :-D

  2. Yeah, they tried to force my brother into right-handedness, seeing as how that's the right thing to do . . . I think it all reinforced his dyslexia . . .

  3. Two more negative examples, I'm afraid. First, house keys/locks wear to a pattern, generally rightie, so opening doors is difficult. And field hockey, one of my sports of choice as a youngster, only have right-handed sticks. Took two years to learn to play well enough to make a team. And I'm fairly ambidextrous. Ah, well.

  4. With ya, man. I apparently shoot arrows left-handed, which freaks out the folks at the Ren Faire booth to no end.