Sunday, June 17, 2007

WoW! Has Cristina ever got me thinking! Her blog on being left-handed has me motivated to devote some time to pondering being in my right mind.

I was/am the anomaly in my family. I am the only left-handed person in our little family of four. I was the only lefty amongst my parents and siblings. My maternal grandfather was left handed. He very matter of factly told me the very short story of his very short-lived left-handedness. Once he entered school, the teacher tied his left hand to his pants and he was forced to use his right hand. Sounds brutal and cold, doesn't it?
We do things differently now. I was able to watch, first hand, a little girl being taught to change her dominance to her right hand. She was born with a cleft hand, her left, and her natural inclination was to be left handed. As she approached school-age, she was having more and more difficulty with everyday tasks. On the advice of several specialists, her parents were encouraged to help her become right-handed. After ten months of half-day preschool in a Montessori classroom, she was well on her way to being comfortable right-handed. It seemed to be a very gentle and seamless transition. Certain Practical Life activities require an increasingly dexterous pincer grip. As the little girl progressed through the encouraging and self-correcting activities, she nearly naturally chose to use her right hand to complete the tasks. Imagine that, no tying of the arm to the belt required! Have we ever made progress in the last 80 years.
When I was a middle schooler, I became more and more interested in my left-handedness. Being one of the only lefties in my circle, it gave a particular uniqueness to myself. Typical preteen: wanting to fit in and be unique at the same time. My mom found a neat-o little shop in Toronto that sold only left-handed items. I found a few of these tucked into my Christmas packages. For my birthday once, Mom was able to track down a copy of a Lefty magazine. There began my discovery of left-handed writing and bookkeeping.

I became quite adept at writing right-to-left across the page. That particular note-taking technique irked my conservative history teacher to no end. By Grade 9 History, I'd been doing it for two or three years and could do it effortlessly. I put dividers into my binders upside down and filed things back to front. I thought it was cool as well as practical. I finally could use erasable Papermate pens - all the rage in 1989 when I entered Grade 9. I was so cool.
My penchant for such de Vinci-esque behaviour petered out by the time I hit hair took much more time to do and there were all those boys...and the gym...I was busy. I was on to using bigger and better antics to define myself: Lifeguard Extraordinaire, Fitness Class Guru, Rollerblading Queen.
I remember being surprised in England. Upon College graduation, my parents decided to treat us all to a trip to London, England. Besides the obvious right-hand-drive and all it's implications (reversed traffic, leading to 'opposite' placement of road signs, leading to 'reversed' pedestrian behaviour, etc.) there were other strange little English things that led me back to my left-handed thinking. Many places we stayed in sported the peculiar Right Hand Flush. This was amazing to me. I held up many a family adventure because I absolutely had to stick my head back out and announce to the fam, "Hey, another right hand flush!!" It was especially announcement-worthy if a right-handed pull-chain was the culmination of the rest room activities.
It wasn't so much that these things surprised me because they were 'backward' to our Canadian habits, the surprise to me was that I naturally adapted. It was so comfortable. I was amazed that I didn't find my regular way of doing things awkward - and yet these 'backward things in a foreign country didn't seem awkward.
Once back in Canada-land, I was quick to mentally catalogue my daily actions. I still do it to this day. Oop, that's a right-handed door. Oh, that light switch is a right-handed reach. Arrgh...stupid scissors! They must be right-handed. Why doesn't this can opener work? Hm, this is a stupid layout for doing dishes. Try it and you'll see what I mean. You right handed people can go through your day without crossing over yourself. Lefties are constantly reaching across themselves to use their more prominent left hand. You either learn to use your right hand (and quite quickly, you can bet. After all, I'll only whack my arm so many times when opening the microwave with my left hand. After a good bruise has developed, it's just easier to use my right hand to push the door release to avoid more bruising.) or maim yourself using your left.
Seriously....Open a door sometime when company comes calling. With your left hand. You'll grab the door knob with your left hand, turn the knob and then...what? Pull back, step back and shove the door to the right. Your left arm has to go across your body to achieve your objective. Awkward. And don't think you've got me by saying that going in a door is easier. Try doing your own front door left-handed sometime. Notwithstanding kids and other baggage, put your keys in your left hand, grasp the handle with your right. Turn key, turn handle and then push the door open with your right arm. A hefty shove is most convenient, trust me. Otherwise, you have to step in with your right arm crossing your body, opening the door to the left so as not to smash it against the wall.
Doing such things 'right-handed' becomes second nature for us lefties. It makes us think more. We're adaptable. Our dexterity is increased. I like to think that anyway....the other side of the coin is that we're sometimes tripped up easily and find simple things awkward. Like a strange carrot peeler. I have a left-handed veggie peeler. Trust me, it's easier. I also have a left-handed paring knife. Brian hates it. He can't make it cut anything. I laugh at him like all those nasty kids used to laugh at me when I couldn't get the kindergarten scissors to work. I had a left-handed can opener, but was so ingrained to the use of a right-handed one, I found the use of it difficult. My mom was recently showing off a newly acquired, hard to find, fancy-schmancy quilting measuring tape. I nearly hyperventilated when I discovered the ingenious placement of the numbers. Perfect for lefties!! "I have to get me one of these neat-o things!" I exclaimed, sounding like Junie B. Jones. It was like the invention of refrigeration: suddenly, life looked so much easier. No more craning my neck and turning the tape around trying to read the numbers right-side-up without my hand being in the way.
So, thanks to Cristina waking the lefty beast in me, You can look forward to more Tales from the Right Side. I'm so excited. I think I'll even add a 'Lefty Wish List' to remind me of which miraculous inventions it would be so cool to have. Maybe I'll collect some lefty out some lefty bloggers. The possibilities are endless...


oom said...

What a pile of information us righty's don't know about! Actually...thanks for posting this. Many things I wouldn't think of - but it helps, considering half of my family is left-handed (including the littlest). I can guarantee I will be watching her a little differently, now.

oom said...

Oh...and I was thinking of you today as I watched lefty dh reach aross and nearly take himself out just trying to swipe his debit card at the hardware store LOL!

Bonni said...

Lol! Thanks for sharing. Told you it's not easy being Lefty!

jugglingpaynes said...

I'm so glad to have given you a cause you left handed rebel you!
I agree with oom on the debit card swipe. Gas pumps also involve a lot of contortion. You're right (correct)it didn't occur to me how much I cross my arms to reach things. Even this computer monitor has its power button on the right.
I couldn't believe all the comments I've gotten on that entry! Even my mother didn't realize how hard I had it growing up in an all righty family.
Thanks for the plug!

Peace and Laughter,

oom said...

It's my challenge for the as much stuff as I can (aka anything that doesn't require a knife or heat) with my left. Get an very basic idea of the obstacles my dd faces each day. Oh..yeah...and dh, too LOL!

Dang...already having an issue...the computer mouse!

jugglingpaynes said...

I'm back to give you a coveted Femme Philosopher button for writing this up. I made it up over the weekend. Use it wisely. I thought it might interest you that I drew the buttons right handed with the computer mouse, because my left hand couldn't operate the mouse.

Peace and Laughter,