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Was born right-handed. 41%
Struggled to become right-handed. 0%
Persist in my left-handed lifestyle. 58%

Votes: 12

 Memoirs of an Ex-Southpaw: a Report from the Trenches

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Jul 16, 2001
There is a difference between left-handedness and being a lefty. When someone struggles with feelings of left-handedness, that does not make him a lefty. To have left-handed tendencies and to acknowledge them is one thing, but to invest your entire identity into your manual preference, is another. That is being a lefty. It colours the way you relate to society, because the traditional way that things are put together, with right-handed scisors and doorknobs and the like, is everything that you are not.

That is my story.


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Like most Americans, I am proud to say I'm now right-handed. I cut my steak with my left hand, and I participate in the national pastime with my left hand wrist-deep in a leather baseball glove, but that is the extent of it. I sign my creditcard slips with my right hand, and I diaper my boy exclusively with my right hand.

You don't have to go far back in human history to find suspicions of lefties. The Latin word for left is "sinister", a word that should be readily recognizable to any speaker of English. The old Saxon word "lyft" meant "worthless", and French's "gauche" implied clumsiness. Even the word "ambidextrous" contains a hidden seed of anti-southpaw sentiment, as it literally translates as "right-handed on both sides". Outside the linguistic domain, left-handedness has suffered from a mysoginistic supersitious association between the left side of one's body and with femaleness, typified by the absent right breasts of the Amazons. Even today, Islam condemns the left hand as suitable only for handling excrement and other unsanitary practices. The list goes on.

But how much of this historical antipathy towards left-handedness is indeed steeped in superstition? There are numerous rational reasons for opposing the perpetuation of this deviant lifestyle:

Senseless redundancy
Redundancy can be a beautiful thing, sometimes. In a world of changing needs and expectations, widespread redundancy of methods can be the difference between survival and extinction. But not all forms of redundancy are equally sensible. Some take the form of difference for the mere sake of itself, like the Academie fran¨aise's insistence on forestalling the inevitable evolution of the French language into yet another dialect of English. Some forms of difference, real or imagined, can have catastrophic consequences for all of human civilization: both World Wars were incubated in a memetic nest of racial and national differences.
No rational benefits
It would be one thing if southpaws could point to some sort of actual benefit that results from their lifestyle, but they cannot. Southpaws can perform no more with their left hands than right-handers can perform with their right hands. Indeed, because of the obstacles their hand preference unnecessarily subjects them to, they are usually less capable than their right-handed counterparts.
Compliance costs
In the workplace and in academic environments, lefties must be accomodated with special tools and special instructions. A pair of scissors can run as high as $112. A typical computer keyboard will cost you $88.

But beyond the equipment costs, there are terrible training costs. Left-handed penmanship is generally abominable in this country, partly because of lefties' intrinsic competence, but equally if not more so because of the inability of teachers to adapt their teaching styles to southpaws. And why should they? If the pupil is different, then he should be the one to change; not the teacher whose methods have had a long successful track record with the rest of the population.

Incompatibility with established cultural institutions
The simple fact is, we read and write from left to right. The right hand is well equipped to perform these simple tasks without a hitch, but use of the left hand will perpetually ensure smudged ink and characters that slant the wrong way. Inventive southpaws may try to contort their hand positions in weird shapes, but it's a poor solution and its poor ergonomic arrangement probably encourages deleterious health effects.

It is impossible to change such a fundamental characteristic of our language. It is possible to change one's handedness. The choice is clear.

Entrenched prejudices
It may seem like circular reasoning to argue that we should give in to cultural "prejudices" simply by the very existence of those prejudices. But this response fails on two points:
  1. As I've shown, those prejudices are rooted in rational reasoning and fact.
  2. The hostility exists in the world, and only a fool would pretend he can escape its effects.
There are causes worthy of blazing trails and burning bridges. This just isn't one of them.
Southpaws are to right-handers what Canadians are to Americans: they are 10% as numerous as we are, and they look like us, but deep down inside, they are different. They don't want to be like us. They want to hold themselves apart with special organizations and cultural affiliations, and they despise assimilation.

It took years before I could understand any of this. Everyday that I struggled with my left-handed proclivities, I searched for role models I could look up to; people who led happy and productive lives in spite of their deviance. But alas, not only could I not find a single such hero, I found numerous villains who truly embodied the word "sinister". Would you want to be associated with Jack the Ripper? The Boston Strangler? Phil Collins? Those are the company you must share as a lefty. Those are the role models southpaws must admire. I wanted something different.

Through consultation with my minister and a local support group for ex-southpaws, I have managed to live lefty-free for just over six months now. Sure, there have been times when I was tempted back to the lefty path. There were times when I was sorely tempted to shave with my left hand, after turning the bathroom sink a rosy shade of pink with all the blood dripping from my face, but I bore down and overcame the siren call of deviance. There was that time when an inebriated squabble broke out at the neighbor hood pub when I quite nearly slugged a fellow with my left hand, but I managed to regain my composure and turn the other cheek. I've learned that no lifechanging event can transpire without significant pain and discomfort, but I've also learned that worthy endeavors are worth pursuing at great cost.

I am living proof that southpaws can change. I am proof that they can amend their ways and join the rest of society in a healthy realization of His plan. Just last week, I met my spiritual soulmate at the group meeting, and this weekend, we're going to play tennis at the club together. Right-handed, of course.


Doh! (none / 0) (#17)
by theR on Mon Jul 16th, 2001 at 08:40:04 PM PST
I cut my steak with my left hand, and I participate in the national pastime with my left hand wrist-deep in a leather baseball glove, but that is the extent of it.

A right-handed person wears the glove on the left hand, not a left-handed person. It's ok, because the site is still young, but inconsistencies like this could come back to haunt you in the future. Be thorough!

It's all right to cry,
Crying takes the sad out of you.

-- Rosey Grier

Are you thinking of a golf glove? (none / 0) (#18)
by seventypercent on Mon Jul 16th, 2001 at 09:22:20 PM PST
As a righty, I wear my golf glove on my left hand, because of the intrinsic qualities of the basic golf grip. However, I wear a baseball glove on my right hand, because the notion of catching a pop fly left-handed is completely alien and strange and will not be tolerated in a decent society.

Red-blooded patriots do not use Linux.

re: Are you thinking of a golf glove? (none / 0) (#19)
by sputnik on Mon Jul 16th, 2001 at 10:06:12 PM PST
So if you have the glove on your right hand, you must throw with your left. And *that*, my friend, is deviant and will not be tolerated in a decent society.

no, he's right (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Jul 17th, 2001 at 02:23:40 PM PST
Righties with any couture hold their knives in their left hands. Righties wear a glove in their left hands. He says he's a righty now, so it's all good.

Jimi Hendrix was not really left-handed (none / 0) (#20)
by motherfuckin spork on Tue Jul 17th, 2001 at 06:49:34 AM PST
it was all a giant publicity stunt to show how liberal he and his music was. same with Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Joe Perry, Kurt Cobain, and Tony Iommi (sic?).

Also, Napoleon wasn't left handed either, it was all a ploy to fool you. Same goes for Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, former Presidents Jefferson, Lincoln, Bush, and Clinton.

Leonardo DaVinci was also in reality right handed - he was just trolling everone with fooling them into thinking he was a lefty. Same goes for Michaelagelo - hell, he didn't even paint the Sistine Chapel - it was sub-contracted.

In reality, left hands don't even exist - we imagine them so that we don't feel non-symmetrical.

I am not who you think I am.

Chuck, congratulations on resisting this sin. (none / 0) (#21)
by Adam Rightmann on Tue Jul 17th, 2001 at 10:07:33 AM PST
The sin of lefthandedness, and it's fortunate that your minister is so perceptive.

Keep up the good fight!

A. Rightmann


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