Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Left is Right!

In Hebrew, as well as in several other ancient languages, the term "hand" was a symbol of power or custody. The left hand symbolized the power to shame society, and was used as a metaphor for misfortune, natural evil, or punishment from the gods. This metaphor survived ancient culture and was integrated into mainstream Christianity by early Catholic theologians. In many European languages, "right" is not only a synonym for correctness, but also stands for authority and justice.

Even the Latin based English word "sinister" originally meant "left" but eventually came to mean "evil"! The left side of the body is often seen as clumsy, awkward and unclean. Some cultures see the left hand as being used for cleaning up after bodily functions.

In many sports a left handed person is known as a "southpaw". For some this is an advantage but it will also usually require more specialized equipment for that player.

In the 18Th and 19Th century "left" handedness was often treated as a curse of the devil. Sufferers of this "affliction" were often thought to be possessed and they were beaten whenever they used their left hand. Well into the twentieth century, it was fairly common practice to tie the left hand behind the back to force the use of the right hand.

Being left handed can certainly be a challenge! I should know, as I've been left handed my whole life.

Learning to tie shoelaces was incredibly hard. My mom tried teaching me several times and even tried having me watch her in the mirror so I would see it in reverse. I couldn't get it. She finally asked a family friend, who happened to be left handed to try teaching me. I learned it in no time!

Penmanship was never my strong point. Trying to write without smudging the ink or getting ink and pencil markings all over the left hand and wrist was almost impossible. I even tried doing the twisted backhand to avoid the mess but that only made my scrawl worse!

I was in 4H for many years as a kid and took a couple of courses in sewing. I also took Home Economics in high school - half the year in cooking, the other half in sewing. I hated sewing. Not only could I not see well enough to thread the needle, but I basically had to do most of the stitches in reverse. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress as was my mother. They could sew anything. Grandma tried to teach me several fancy hand stitches such as for embroidery, needlepoint and cross stitch. I was never able to master it and grew to hate even the thought of picking up a needle and thread for something as simple as sewing on a button. Over most of my adult life, I have managed to barter baking for minor sewing repairs.

Kitchen tools can be a nightmare. Have you ever tried using a manual can opener with your left hand? It can't be done! I finally manged to find a left handed can opener, but even it takes getting used to. Most knives and scissors are also designed for the right handed. A lefty can injure themselves quite easily using these items. Most measuring cups are designed so that you can read the quantity while holding the cup in your right hand, so a lefty has to switch hands or set the cup on the counter to read it. Many pots and containers with pouring spouts are also designed for the right handed, although there do seem to be improvements in this area.

Manuel and power tools are also for the right handed. I've never been able to figure out how to use one of those power screwdrivers!

Every time a left handed person turns around there is something more to confuse them or potentially cause bodily harm, as these things were not designed for the lowly lefty! There are several companies out there that do produce tools for lefties, but the increased cost for such a limited item isn't always worth it. My manual lefty can opener cost almost $8.00 when I bought it 10 years ago. Whenever possible I try to buy products that are ambidextrous in nature. They are a bit more expensive, but not as pricey as specifically lefty items. Another advantage to ambidextrous products is that ALL members of the household can use the same items.

Not everything I do is specifically left handed. Many lefties wear their watches on the right wrist, I wear mine on the left. I just have to be careful not to turn my wrist to check the time while doing certain tasks! I learned to play guitar right handed, meaning that I chord with my left hand and strum/pick with my right. My strumming has never been great but I got by. I also prefer using my right hand for dialing the phone, using a calculator, remote control and the computer mouse.

In many respects, I was lucky to have understanding parents and teachers who didn't try to "Force" me into using my right hand. They knew I already had enough challenges with my vision and that trying to force me into right handedness would only lead to anger and frustrations on both sides!

So lefties of the world, unite and know that you are not alone and that you are unique! How unique? Studies have indicated that about 10% of the adult population is left handed. It is also slightly more common in males than females.

I'll close this post with my favourite saying:

The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body.
The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.
Therefore left handed people are the only ones in their right mind!


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