The Waterman pen I won on Temptation didn’t sell on eBay (I was undercut by some vile poltroon selling them in bulk!), so I now have it in my hot little hands. Nice pens are wasted on me however, as my handwriting resembles Linear A and needs a crack team of handwriting experts to decipher it. Or so everyone tells me.
Which brings me around, in an obtuse manner, to today’s discussion: Why Left-Handers are Discriminated Against on a Daily Basis.
You may laugh. Although there are several hundred nerdish sites like this (of which Ned Flanders would be proud), the left hander is a put-upon creature. I once participated in a study at Uni (run by one of those ponytailed, long black woollen-coated creatures so beloved of the early 90s), which highlighted how there are different stages of ‘handedness’ for everyone.
I write and draw with my left hand. Thus, I am a left-hander.
However, I use scissors, cut with knives and bowl with my right.
My left side prefers: pointing, pinching bottoms, using chopsticks, fencing, answering the phone and holding a telescope to the eye to bellow, ‘land ho!’
My right side prefers: kicking a ball, brushing teeth, playing tennis, giving an ‘up yours’ and using a hammer
We all cover the full spectrum of handedness, from being entirely geared to the right, to ambidextrous, to using the left hand for random things like throwing a paper plane. There are loads of interesting studies and speculations about what creates a left hander: an excess of testosterone in the womb, ultrasounds, stress at birth, growing up with other left handers, genetic predisposition and learned handedness, where a child has difficulty with both hands at first, and eventually has success with the left for some tasks, and takes it up from there.
But there’s no conclusive evidence of any of this. I deduce that we have been touched by the pixies. Lefties are well represented amongst geniuses (Da Vinci, Einstein etc) as well as mentally retarded and autistic people. And polar bears. It goes without saying that we have a higher representation of creative, intelligent and brilliant people, and thus, over the centuries have been maligned, disparaged and treated with suspicion for our ‘devil’s hand’.
Cop the etymology if you don’t believe me:
French = gauche means left or awkward
Dutch = twee linkerhanden hebben, or to be clumsy, have two left hands
German = links is left, and linken means betray or cheat
Portuguese = canhoto means a left-handed person, but once referred to the Devil.
Even the word ‘sinister’ comes from the Latin word ‘sinistra’, or ‘left’, and later took on meanings of ‘evil or ‘unlucky’.
Sometimes I am irked by minor annoyances, which are usually squashed, never to see the light of day. Today I vent. Door handles are always on the right (fridges, houses, toilets, cupboards etc). Likewise the indicator in a car, the position of a glass in a restaurant, the cold tap and the measurements on a ruler (reading left to right). Those little desks at Uni with a side table – I think the government has decreed only one ‘left-handed’ one per institution. Binders. Exercise books. Even the goddam Metcard machines.
When I first learnt to write in cursive at school, we all went to the Bookroom and dutifully bought the Regulation School Fountain Pen, some blotting paper and a small supply of cartridges (which would explode, in the regulation manner, all over our pencil cases and clothes). Of course as I wrote, my hand ran from left to right over the fresh ink smudging every single word I wrote, which was immediately looked down upon as ‘messy’.
A standard nib is (I find out, oh, 22 years later) not angled in the correct way for a left-hander, which means the pen snags the paper rather than skating over it smoothly. I wound up holding my elbow and hand up in the air, so that only the nib touched the paper. For much of my school life, teachers knew my work as ‘messy’, ‘grotty’ and me as ‘that messy grotty girl with the terrible handwriting’. We were not allowed to use biros back then (for the same reason we could not wear our pullovers as an outer garment, wear hair past our shoulders or loiter too long at Glen Iris Station: because it was ‘common’).
When I hit 15, everyone decided it was incredibly cool and mature to kiss people hello and goodbye. Did you know that handedness plays a part in cheek kissing too?
To this day the whole process is fraught for me with tension and potential social catastrophe. You think I am joking! Whatever cheek I offer, or cheek I aim for, IT’S ALWAYS THE WRONG ONE. I go here, I go there, and if the worst comes to the worst, there’s an accidental pash! Old bosses, people’s new partners, acquaintances, old friends, you name it. Gah!
Can you imagine me in the company of European types, where every country has an elaborate system of one peck, two or three? How about Aussies pretending to be immensely cosmopolitan? A part-Italian friend wants two kisses. A Montreal mate insists on only one. Pals who are 1/16th Dutch think anything less than three kisses is an insult. And which cheek is the pioneering cheek? Double gah!
And after 6 months in West Africa, I lost count of the times I offended people by offering money, accepting food and waving with the left. They shake hands over there like it’s going out of style. Someone could be elbow-deep in millet and they’d still offer a smeared wrist to be shaken. A leper would give you his stump. What am I saying – everyone’s obsessed with shaking hands all over the world! Let me say that I DON’T WANT TO SHAKE YOUR RIGHT HAND. IN AN IDEAL WORLD IT WOULD BE THE LEFT, AND ALWAYS THE LEFT!!
What is the moral of this rant? Left handers have been discriminated against for long enough. If I pash you accidentally, don’t hold it against me. Particularly you, Mr Depp.