Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On Being a Lefty - the depths of influence

Who knew there was an International Left-Handers Day? Okay, I didn't know that yesterday was the 2007 Left-Handers Day. I have to admit that the idea that there could be a day to celebrate left-handedness never crossed my mind. But since discovering this trivia item at ABC at about 6:30 this morning I have done a lot of reflecting on my life as a Lefty; well reflecting is probably putting it nicely and venting would be more accurate.

Unfortunately my reference to venting will probably have all of you assuming what I think about the inequalities relegated to lefties in our righties dominated world. Of course this spell checker has no issue with lefties but thinks righties is wrong - whatever! But you would not be completely right because even I haven't gotten to the bottom of what I think about my status as a lefty, yet.

Just trying to carve out my thoughts into some kind of cohesive post has kept getting detoured all day. I just had no idea that inside I thought or felt so much about the whole issue. I am the only solely left-handed person known in either side of my family. One of my aunts was clever enough that if her right hand got tired she would switch to rest it but would move back to the right after a couple of sentences. My oldest son did the same thing in kindergarten and first grade to the point that one of the teachers called me at home and insisted - no, demanded - that he had to choose and stay with one or the other. I said I was sure he would make a decision before he graduated and hung up.

The thing that is starting to bubble to the surface though is the formerly unnoticed influence that being left-handed has left on who I am, how I think, my coping mechanisms, and my approach to life. Hmm, did I miss anything? I am talking beyond the mis-crossed scissors, the right-oriented desks, and the right-centric store layouts - you did know that stores are typically designed assuming customers walk-in and turn right, and that's where the spontaneous purchase merchandise is displayed but anyway. Those things are not free of influence but I'm thinking about things that have left their mark that had little to do directly with physical environment.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I did not grow up in a very encouraging home environment. Beyond the irregularities in the general family relational aspects I received what would seem to be an inordinate amount of "can't do" messages. Some of those messages had to do with the fact that I made a pretty sorry oldest son, but through trying to write about growing up left-handed I unwittingly flipped on a few reels of tapes I remember well but hadn't heard in a long time. But just because I have not being hearing them in my audible memory does not mean I think they have been non-influential in the intervening years.

The first memory I wrote down about being left-handed in grade school was the dorky lefty scissors. The scissors were definitely an issue because they were different, ugly, and failed to cut anything. But the issue that has me chomping is not so much the scissors but the teacher's attitude. If the scissors didn't cut it was because I wasn't using them correctly, of course. But she never tested them to see if she could get them to cut instead sending a note home that I needed to practice using scissors at home. Let's not talk about how well that did not go over because I was a cutting machine at home so the assumption by my parents was that I was goofing off.

Throughout the day I have had these sound-bytes resurfacing about this, that, or other issue from the past. I remember wanting to learn how to crochet but everybody said a lefty couldn't learn from a righty. It was the same with quilting and peeling apples and so on. I finally quit asking people to show me how and instead started to surreptitiously watch them head on. Later I would work through a mirror-mimic of the ways their hands had operated the needle or hook, or the knife or whatever. Of course when I would feel I was proficient enough to do these in public a righty would move in for a critique and proceed to stand behind me while declaring that my hands were all wrong. I learned to ignore this but it still hurt nonetheless; and some activities I did get fairly good at like crochet so that I made several baby layettes in my heyday.

But this post is not going to be a neat tidy package with a beginning, a middle and an end. For the time being it is a collections of thoughts both current and from the past; thoughts about who I am and how one aspect of my neuro-physical capacity has been influencing what I do and what I think I can do without my awareness. And that leads me to wonder what other hidden influences are in need of unmasking and being dealt with?

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Tim said...

Deb - Considering all the similarities you and have already discovered I shouldn't find it surprising that we are both left handed. But I did.

I also grew up in a limiting environment, at least to the extent of being discouraged when I wanted to try things nobody else understood. Exploring art was fine but making money by means other than a regular job as insanity.

Anyway, back to being a leftie. When I started school, my parents and teachers tried to force me to learn to write with my right hand. Eventually they gave up when the realize I didn't -want- to change, besides the fact that I was finding it hard to do so.

I know where you're coming from and can identify with some of the ways you were treated, as described here. It sounds like you've also go the same determination I developed at an early age. Mix of 'I know I can do it' and 'I'll show them'.

Scribbit said...

The biggest thing I've wondered about being left-handed (I'm right handed myself) is having to drag your hand across your wet ink. It must make writing on a board with a dry eraser marker annoying, you erase your words if you're not careful. :)