I share something in common with the following people: Bill Clinton, Richard Simmons, H.G. Wells, Martina McBride, M.C. Escher, Oprah Winfrey, Monica Seles, and Jason Kabakoff (my brother). All of the people listed above are fellow southpaws. Yes that’s right, I’m a lefty…in case you didn’t already know. I’ve had many experiences in my life that have forced me to look at things differently. Being Jewish living in the Bible Belt has been a challenge to say the least. Having to spell both my first and last names (maiden and married) for people has often made me wish I could just go by my initials at times. The one thing though that has been both a blessing and a curse is being left-handed.
Most people go through life not thinking twice about some everyday item they use or something as mundane as driving to work. These people are right-handed. Imagine trying to use a pair of scissors in a way that is comfortable for you only to find you have to switch hands because they DON’T WORK OTHERWISE! In order to drive a car, the ignition, gear shift, and accelerator all require either the use of your right hand or foot. When signing your name on the credit card machine at the store, many times they can’t be turned so that a lefty can use it without it looking like your signature was done upside down with your eyes shut. Don’t even get me started with the writing on pens that is always upside down when I’m trying to read it or the coffee mugs that always have the witty saying on the wrong side. Three-ring binders physically hurt unless you take the page out first before writing on it. Then when you do start writing, you end up smearing everything you’ve written…especially on a dry erase board! These are just a few of the examples of the day-to-day fun I have as one of yet another minority.
After all these years, I’ve come to embrace my lefty-ness and especially to have more of a sense of humor when it comes to it. I once saw a funny sign at a store that has a man with his arm all contorted trying to fill out a form of some sort that said, “Hire left-handed people because it’s funny to watch them write.” It still cracks me up to watch a right-handed person cut their meat at a meal. It seems like such a waste of time to switch their fork and knife when cutting only to switch it back when they are ready to eat. I’m not saying all right-handed people do this, but those who don’t are few and far between. I also tend to notice more often than my non-lefty friends and family when someone I’ve either met or seen on television are members of the handed minority. This trait came in really handy (pun intended) when I was in colorguard in high school and college. Because I am more dominant on my left, and most of the moves in colorguard are done using the right hand, I was able to perform with ease many of the same moves on both sides. This was especially helpful when teaching a routine or move to someone. Because I could face them doing it “backwards” in a sense, I would end up mirroring them allowing them an easier time for them to grasp what I was teaching.
What I have found is that most lefties tend to adapt to doing something that requires a bit of ambidextrousness a little easier than others do. I will never forget going to see my niece (who is right-handed) and noticing that she had only the nails on her left hand painted. When I asked her why she didn’t paint the rest of her nails she said it was because she couldn’t paint them with her left hand. I got a good laugh out of that one!
I know that statistics show that left-handed people live an average of seven years less than their right-handed counterparts, and it’s no wonder with all the dangerous things out there that could trip us up. Because we expect that we’ll have to adapt more often than not, I think it gives us little more of an edge in avoiding the hazards. For example, I know that unless you buy one specially made, a bolt-action rifle is set up for a right-handed person. Additionally, most power tools and gardening tools are made for the majority…and before you start to wonder, yes I have used both and have found them a challenge. There’s nothing like having the sawdust blown in your face because you’re using the tool on your terms. I can see how this could pose a threat to someone who hasn’t listened to good old Norm Abram’s safety speech!
I guess I’d have to say that the unique thing about this “club” is that you can only become a member if you are born this way or if for some reason you lose the use of your right hand. It’s not like converting to another religion or changing your hair color after all. I wouldn’t think it’s something that you would just choose to do on a whim. I look forward to the day when being a lefty gives me the advantage as opposed to the disadvantage over someone else. Of course, when all is said and done, I can look back on this unique trait I’ve inherited and rest easy knowing that most people may be born right-handed, but only the gifted overcome it!