In case you didn’t know, and if you are in the 90% who are not, you wouldn’t, but August 13th was the unofficial holiday to celebrate the 10% of us who are beautifully left-handed. That was a mouthful. Oh, to be left-handed in a right-handed world. So, only 10% of us. And we get one day that isn’t really even a recognized holiday, but we’ll take anything made for lefties. Left-Handers Day was founded in 1992 by the Left-Handers Club. I didn’t know there was a Left-Handers Club until I googled that. Shame on me.
Growing up I was considered weird, different, or just not right. Ha. Pun unintentionally intended. Now, rarer is the fact that I also have a brother who is left-handed. That was a topic in our family for years. “There are two of them” my family used to say when it was apparent one of my younger brothers was a lefty also. I didn’t even meet a lefty outside of my family until I was almost out of grade school.
Now, speaking of school, yes, the rumors are true. Back then school didn’t really cater to left-handed people. We were always shown the right-handed way, and only shown the right… correct… way for us after we completely botched the task and then asked what happened. Well Mrs. Wellman, I am left-handed, and I don’t know how to use these tools with my right hand. Is there a manager I could speak to? Ha ha, yeah right I would never speak up in school. I would just fumble and rage myself through the task at hand as best as I could. But everything from the desks (do you remember those tiny one-sided desks, how were we supposed to work with those??) to all of the tools and machines in the art room, it was all for right-handed people. If I did ever ask if there was another desk or another way I could do something it was always met with a shrug and a sorry kid. So I stopped asking.
Maybe the stigma of being left-handed has never gone away. Just because being left-handed comes with this superstitious, unlucky, negative connotation doesn’t mean that’s how we actually are. We aren’t sinister or malicious. Well, not intentionally. You pay someone a “left-handed compliment” when you are actually being a jerk to the person. Why is being left-handed so bad? I don’t think it is. Other than not being able to write without smearing ink all over my hand, or never use a three-ring binder… seriously, why does it always have to be a three-ring binder?… the day to day isn’t that much different.
Sure, we are more prone to disease, ADHD, and dyslexia. But we also have a tendency to win if we run for President. We will always have smudges on our hands, but we will be better at solving math problems. We are more creative and will have the advantage in sports, even though we may not be able to find the proper equipment.
But, ugh, the worst is trying to figure out dinner seating arrangements. THE WORST! I have to announce to everyone I am left-handed, get the whole “oh, you are” repeated to me 5 times, then explain to everyone why every seat is terrible for me and get stuck eating my meal on the wall so I’m not leaning too far over and touching the person next to me. Ugh. There really isn’t a good spot. If we are at the end by the aisle, we get hit by the waiter. If we are on the inside by the wall, we are basically having to lean against it the whole time. If we are anywhere in the middle, we are trying to keep our arm as close to the body as possible to not hit our right-handed neighbor. Lose-lose-lose. But, oh, the joy when there is the rare occasion that there is a fellow left-hander at dinner! You can sit next to each other and have a joyous time!
But back to celebrating left-handers! So we get one day, okay, fine. There aren’t a whole lot of us, so I get it. But we have had four of the last six Presidents to be able to claim, so we have that going for us. Some other famous lefties include Oprah, Tina Fey, Babe Ruth, and Bill Gates. Though we are seen as clumsy or having butterfingers, it’s not our fault. Since everything in made for right-handed people, we just have a harder time trying to learn and navigate the tools we have to use.
There are personal struggles. The toilet paper never seems to be on the proper side. Restaurants, businesses, buttons, zippers are all set up for right-handers. There’s always a new surprise that something is on the wrong side, or that something isn’t made for my people. It’s for sure never boring being left-handed. It’s no wonder we are generally more intelligent given the fact that we have to problem solve constantly. Also explains why we tend to drink more than our right-handed counterparts, having to struggle through a world that never remembers to make room for us unless we shake our left fist in their face.
We are rare, exotic, mythical creatures that always get a second glance when we write something down, get a head tilt when we hand out our left-hand to grab something offered to the right. There’s always that bit of surprise I get when someone realizes I’m left-handed. Like I have a special power. I never fail to mention I have a brother who is also left-handed. It’s a badge of honor almost, a sense of pride that comes with it, a sense that we can do anything because we are different. As long as we have the proper type of scissors.
“Are you really left-handed?” Mr. Marshall asked.
“No. I’ve just been pretending to use my left hand my entire life because I enjoy never being able to work scissors properly.”
~ Courtney Milan (1976- ), The Suffragette Scandal (published July, 2014).