Friday, August 17, 2012

Lefty's Lament

A few days ago, I logged onto Twitter to find the best piece of news I had seen in weeks: that day, August 13, was National Left-handers' Day. You see, dear readers, I am a proud lefty. And I feel that my fellow southpaws and I - our triumphs and our trials, our perseverance, our complicated relationship with athletic endeavors - are all too frequently neglected in this big, right-hand-dominant world. Left-handers' Day, then, came as the perfect launching pad for me to write this post: a lefty's lament. You right-handed people wouldn't realize it, but being left-handed is not just a charming Zooey Deschanel-esque quirk or a social disease akin to being born ginger. A left-handed life is difficult! Hundreds of the objects we encounter each day are thoughtlessly (and, admittedly, logically) designed for use with that other hand that 90% of people favor. Here, I will detail just a few of the many things that make lefty life so tricky. Left-handed readers, enjoy. Right-handed readers - so, most of you - read. Take note. By the end of this post, I hope that you will all have learned to love and appreciate the lefties in your life even more than I know that you, deep, deep down inside, already do.

Perhaps the most omnipresent and irksome problem for southpaws is that of writing implements. Right-handed readers, I bet that, at some point, you have received a note or card where the words are all smudged beyond recognition. You may have also noticed in your school days a classmate who seemed to always have a half-silver hand. These, my friends, are what the Twitter world would call "#leftyproblems." With the exception of those lucky lefties who write primarily in Arabic or Hebrew, left-handed people must deal with the reality that language is written and read from left to right. When writing, our left-to-right-written words are followed immediately by our hands - which, of course, leads to some problems. Writing in pencil leaves a lefty's hand adorned with a metallic sheen for hours. [Note: a fun game is to watch lefties coming out of the essay portion of the SAT. Silver everywhere.] Writing in marker leads to the kind of technicolor hands of which green-thumb gardeners can only dream. Writing in pen results in papers covered irreparably in smudges. And writing with the cool multi-colored gel pens that everyone loved in the early 2000s? Don't get me started. I would almost bet money that any left-handed girl in the US currently between the ages of 18 and 25 could tell you a traumatic story from her childhood related directly to these smudgy monstrosities. In my case, my love of gel pens and handmade birthday cards led me to learn how to write upside down and backwards. Gel pen smudges, I have defeated you.

In a similar vein, lefties also face countless problems with the notebooks in which we are forced to write. Throughout my school career, I have watched my right-handed classmates take notes on paper in three-ring binders, and I have envied them. Writing standard, left-to-right, front-of-the-paper sentences in a three-ring binder is almost completely impossible for lefties. If you don't see why, try to position your left hand on the right side of such a binder - between the rings, on top of a ring, etc. Now try to imagine writing while in that position. I know, I know; your brain just exploded. Then, of course, there's the three-ring-binder's deceptively "less difficult" cousin: the spiral-bound notebook. For most of the world, the biggest issue that could arise from one of these is a spiral catching on something and unwinding at the bottom. Big whoop. When using a spiral-bound notebook, a lefty's hand constantly rests on and scratches across the spirals. This is highly uncomfortable and leads, in combination with the silver pencil sheen, to some really incredibly strange-looking hands. There are solutions to this problem, of course. I've been known to take notes on only the backs of my notebook pages, for instance. And, if you know where to look (hint: the St. Mary's College bookstore), you can find the left-hander's equivalent to manna from heaven: the left-handed notebook. This magical school supply is fantastic on more levels than I can describe. [Note: Another fun game is this: Rip a page out of a lefty notebook. Leave those annoying spiral-notebook ruffles where you find them on the right side of the page. Turn it in to your teacher. Sit back and enjoy the fun.]

Of course, pens and notebooks aren't the only school supplies that challenge lefties. Everyone knows that left-handed desks are the social pariahs of the furniture scene, but normal desks leave lefties' arms completely unsupported while writing. And lefty scissors are a joke. I frequently overuse and misuse the word "literally," but I kid you not: I have literally never met anyone capable of using left-handed scissors. Art teachers of the world, stop asking if we want lefty scissors in class. We don't.

Then there's the complicated pairing that is lefties and sports. Learning a sport that involves a racquet, club, bat, bow, or other strange handheld object that isn't a ball is always a frustrating pursuit for left-handed people. From a purely statistical standpoint, the person teaching you the sport will be right-handed nine times out of ten. And in that tenth time, the teacher will have taught himself how to play the sport right-handed, so as to better teach it to everyone in your class who isn't you. Learning to throw a football with your left hand in a room full of right-handers is easy. You just do the same thing as them with your other hand. With unnatural sporting implements like racquets, however, you have to learn everything backwards. You face the opposite way. You make all your movements in the opposite direction. You do the exact opposite of everything your teacher tells your classmates to do. You die inside. Have you ever been to a driving range or archery practice field and spent the whole time looking down the row into the faces of everyone there with you? Your left-handed friend has. Of course, if a lefty actually like sports a lot and decides to try hard enough to learn them, his or her left-handedness will be a great advantage. No one ever knows what to do when there's a left-handed person on the other team, because no one's coach ever taught them how left-handed people play sports. But for the left-hander who is not athletically inclined, sports are forever impossible. I've mentioned in my last couple posts that I hate sports. I think you - and I, since this paragraph came off a lot more bitter than I intended it to - now understand why.

For now, I think it's wise that I leave this lefty's lament at that. I could easily write a book on this topic, but I digress. By now, you should all have an idea of why lefty life is so difficult. I've read in several books and lots of places on the always-correct interwebs that left-handed people, on average, die nine years earlier than their right-handed counterparts. That's because, as this has shown you, nothing on earth is convenient for us to use. Of course, our constant experience with overcoming adversity leads us lefties to great things. Five of the last seven US presidents (if you count the ambidextrous Ronald Reagan, which, speaking on the behalf of the entire left-handed world, I DO) were left-handed. To name just a few, Napoleon, da Vinci, Bill Gates, Oprah, and, oh yeah, YOURS TRULY are lefties, too, so clearly, we've got all the best people. I hope this post enlightened you all on my hard-knock, left-handed life. And hey - hug a lefty today.

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