The land of the left hand

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By Norma Kirkpatrick

I recently discovered that August 13th was International Left-Handers Day.  Seven to ten percent of the population of the world is left-handed.  As far as I’m concerned, this is not about being ambidextrous, it’s about being incurably left handed.  My first grade teacher tried to force me to print with my right hand; I had to wait until she wasn’t looking so I could cheat with my left hand, and make a few marks on the paper.  Education has come a long way since the stone ages.
I would call myself left-sided.  To my brain, things should go to the left, instead of the right.  I should be able to tighten a bottle cap to the left, and screw in a light bulb to the left. The wiring in my brain is backward from that of a right-handed person; but we live in a right-handed person’s world.  Therefore, I must constantly adapt to tools, appliances, designs and equipment; like plugging in the cell phone for a charge.  Try it with your left hand, and you will get it; turn the phone over with the wrong side up, and the cord plug also.
We have had eight left handed presidents: Garfield, Hoover, Truman, Ford, Reagan, G.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama.  There are a huge number in the entertainment world and in music, from Carl Philipp Bach and Rachmaninoff, to Bela Fleck.  Numerous historical figures include Joan of Arc, Charlemagne, Queen Victoria, Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Buzz Aldrin.  It seems that lefties are especially outstanding in baseball; like Ty Cobb, Reggie Jackson and Mel Ott.
I listen to the phone with my left hand to my left ear.  When trying to learn to play the guitar, I realized I would either have to play it upside down, or have it restrung; so I just stuck with the piano.  When a right-handed person is lost, they will turn to the right; a leftie will turn left.  Like so many things in life, if it pertains to you, you pay more attention to it.  If it doesn’t, you don’t think about it.  So I will remind you that about ten percent of us out here are adapting and trying to outsmart equipment that works backward to us, and turns in the direction of our least muscle strength.  Try to tighten a cap on a jar with your left hand.
I took a fencing class a number of years ago, and the only person I could practice with was the instructor, who was left-handed.  I had to purchase left-footed fencing shoes; with sliding tracks on the left food and traction tracks on the right foot.
A left handed-person is automatically left-footed  It works pretty well when slow dancing backward with a right footed man.
There are some studies that point to special gifts coming along with the left-handed package, especially with music and words.  But even that isn’t positively proven.  There are mysteries about left-handed DNA; babies in utero choose to suck their right thumb or their left, exclusively.  After they are born, they will reach with their right, or left hand.  New parents often don’t notice it early on, because the baby is mirroring them as they face one another.
This isn’t original with me, but it has been said that only left-handed people are in their right minds.  It is nice to have something good said about us, since we have spent our lives sitting at the end of the table so we won’t bump your elbows when we eat.
Kirkpatrick is a guest columnist for the Opelika Observer. She is a wordsmith who has contributed to teaching materials, magazines and newspapers. She also collaborates with authors on literary projects and writes an occasional poem.  She can be reached at normakirkpatrick@gmail.com.

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