A Sinister History

I am a 3rd generation molly-dooker. A lefty. A southpaw. As was my father, and his father before him.

Lefty

More correctly put, I’m ambidextrous. I use both hands for different or sometimes the same tasks. I used to practice writing with both hands but not so much these days. Living in a right-handed world, however, writing remained with the left, but for just about every other task I instinctively reach with my right hand. Like the one-drop rule, though, I guess people will always see me as a lefty.

History has not been kind to my people. Then again, history has often alienated and derided anything that deviates from the norm. Tarred and feathered, beaten and tormented, drowned and derided — and that’s only in the 20th century — anyone afflicted with left-handedness was singled out and punished.

Who are these people who decided that because someone favored their left hand more than their right should be shunned by society, beaten, tormented, and otherwise made to feel less than normal? As a result, victims of this treatment have reported emotional isolation and social problems, which then led to misleading reports that lefties either die earlier than righties or that lefties are prone to mental instability. Well, anyone would if all their lives they were constantly being forced into unnatural behavior as punishment.

And thanks to several modern languages, these adjectives have been created to make us feel even more awkward than we already are:

Left-handed Synonyms, Left-handed Antonyms - Thesaurus.com.clipular

Thesaurus.com

 

Historically, left-handed people were never to be trusted. We were sinister (Latin) and wicked (Sanskrit), and today we’re just clumsy (French/Spanish/Italian). And in some eastern countries, do not dare to eat with or shake left hands with anyone, because that’s traditionally the hand you use to wipe your…well, the hand used for “personal hygiene,” no matter what your dominant hand is.

In my own life, I’ve known people who said that they started out using the dominant left hand but was soon beaten out of that habit. An old friend of mine had lamented to me the fact that, being a travelling salesman, he was unable to “discourage” his son from writing with his left hand, as his own grandfather had done when my friend was a child. So many children have been beaten on their left hand or the hand itself tied up to discourage its use.

What a messed up world we live in.

Imagine all the creativity we could have been robbed of if these famous people had not been allowed the use of their left hand:

  • What if Paul McCartney had been forced, at the point of a good battering, to use his right hand? Or if some well-meaning and misguided aunt had tied up Jimi Hendrix’s left hand as punishment? They might never have made it to the forefront. Their musical prowess never revealed.

 

  • Lewis Carroll may not have been motivated to take us “Through the Looking Glass” and into Wonderland with Alice.
  • The Simpsons” and “Futurama” may never have seen the light of day if creator and cartoonist Matt Groening had been forced to suppress the use of that all important left hand. Good news, everyone!
  • The great writer, painter, and mathematician, Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most famous lefties in history, may not have presented us with the “Mona Lisa” smile or we might not have had a taste of “The Last Supper” if he had ever been forced to stop using that left hand.
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Leonardo da Vinci: The Last Supper (1495-1498)

 

And for all the famous lefties that we do know, imagine how many others have been beaten, killed, tortured, or marginalized through history, just for the sake of favoring one hand over the other.

I suppose I’ve been lucky. I’ve never experienced any personal bias while I was growing up. At elementary school, the lefties were seated on the left side of the 2-seater desk. I wrote my checkmarks backwards, but I was never teased for it. But then I also had to adapt. The mouse, scissors, toothbrush, and coffee cup are all held in my right hand. I will dial a number on the phone with my right hand, but hold it next to my ear with my left.

One of my children is a leftie. More power to her, I say! She loves to draw cartoons and I’m happy and grateful that she lives in a society that overlooks her handedness.

And don’t sweat it: we’re not sinister or evil. It’s not witchcraft. We just favor one hand over the other, as everyone does. It’s really not such a big deal to us.

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2 replies

  1. Yeah, what’s next: left handed marriage?
    Actually, I find most left handed people I know to be highly creative and often very smart. Also, when I studied psychology, I was taught left handed people tend to have a better chance of recovery in the even of brain damage, because lefties’ brains are more lateralized than is the case with us right handed people;)
    On the other hand, I also heard left handed people are more prone to injury in a world where pretty much everything is designed with right handed people in mind:S

    Like

    • Hey, if there’s some discrimination to be done, we humans will do it!

      There are still some people saying today that lefties die earlier than righties because there is a higher percentage of younger lefties than older ones. But I don’t think it’s occurred to them that older people were probably bullied out out using their left hands and that’s why it’s a smaller percentage.

      I was always aware that some people wanted to change the way their children wrote and that they would go to any lengths to “cure” them of left-handedness. But the ridiculous way that people were persecuted historically (and today in some societies too) was just amazing.

      I guess a left-handed wedding would be completely out of the question! 🙂

      Like

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