On being a lefty

Thursday, February 2, 2012

About one in 10 Americans is left-handed.

Years ago being a lefty was considered a disadvantage, almost a curse.

I have three siblings and none of them is left-handed. But two members of my family have tendencies.

I learned this week that my dad could wield a hammer equally well with either hand. And my younger brother, who is predominantly right-handed, could swing a bat with either hand. He played in Little League until he was too old to play. I imagine being able to bat with either hand must have been an advantage.

Actually, I was born left-handed. But I became a convert and switched to writing right-handed while in grade school.

That's because my teacher wanted all her students to write with their right hand. I was made to feel guilty because my natural inclination was to use my left hand. I guess she thought I'd be living in a right-handed world, so I might as well adapt.

It wasn't easy to switch, but I did.

My daughter has four "lefties" in her third grade class of 20 this year. She says having left-handed students causes no problems in the classroom.

"It would be ridiculous to make someone switch," she says.

For several years I wrote proficiently with either hand. I proudly wore the name ambidextrous. I was able to use either hand quite well. I learned to compromise, but not entirely.

Not when it came to eating.

I just couldn't hold a fork with my right hand. Today I still eat left-handed. In restaurants I try to be seated so that I won't be bumping my left arm into my neighbor's space.

Also, I've never felt comfortable using scissors. I was grown before I discovered there were special scissors for left-handed people.

Hand-held can openers are a problem, too. And some kitchen tools, some serrated knives, and my hand-held strainer. For me, the strainer fits on the wrong side of a pot. And the blades on my pruning shears just don't seem right either.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out which hand to use in bowling, batting a baseball or pitching. I settled on pitching with my left and batting with my right.

During target practice I tried shooting a rifle, but the rifle butt seemed to fit on the wrong shoulder, and I invariably missed my target. I couldn't figure out which eye to use to see through the sight/scope. It just didn't feel natural.

Now I know that manufacturers sell guns for left-handed people. And there are musical instruments, such as guitars, made just for lefties.

Tying a bow has always been a problem. When I reach behind my back to tie a string belt on a dress, the bow winds up being upside down.

Some lefties have trouble tying shoe laces or neckties, too.

To tighten or untighten a screw, I invariably turn the screwdriver in the wrong direction.

Directions are a problem, too. I confuse my left and right and often when exiting a store, I go the wrong direction. Sometimes my brain doesn't know my left from my right.

When driving I often have the feeling I should be traveling in the opposite direction. I blame that on my brain, too.

It's true that the left-handed person's brain is different than the right-handed individual's brain. Experts suggest that a single dominant gene determines right-handedness. Lefties tend to be more creative while right handers are more analytical.

As a lefty, I'm in good company.

Among famous southpaws are former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Harry S. Truman and George Bush, senior.

President Barack Obama is also left-handed. So is Prince Charles. And Bill Gates.

Others are Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno.

Helen Keller and Marilyn Monroe were left-handed, as were Babe Ruth and Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin.

I wonder if they had any problems in being a lefty.