Menachem's Writings

I'm left-handed
but nobody bothered to tell me

I am left handed, a southpaw, sinister* [it's meaning 4 and the etymology that you need to look at]. But it's only a short time that I have known it. I just thought I was dextrous**, right-handed, like most "normal" people.

I probably should have realized it earlier in life -- my teachers should have realised it -- where were they coming from, what were they thinking, or were they in on a conspiracy?

I had by far the worst hand writing in the class. From the day we learned to write the first letter, until we knew all the alphabet, in printing and in script, right through to the end of high school.

I couldn't draw. I always wanted to draw, to paint, to create, but the art teachers ignored me, never tried to help me. I was a lost cause as far as they were concerned and they let me know it.

They only wanted to spend time with the talented few. While I was not the only one ignored (Dickens?) in high school art classes, I was certainly the most ignored. Totally ignored. They didn't even bother trying to teach me. [Shame on you Fred Lanker and your pathetic public school staff.]

How did it start, or more exactly how did I find out? finally, formally find out? I had an inkling over the years: I would always kick a ball with my left foot, look through the camera view finder with my left eye, breath on my left side when I swim, thrown a ball with my left hand and other things that I don't remember anymore. I remember playing ball and soccer with my father, "Why are you kicking the ball with your left foot, thowing the ball with your left hand? Use the right! It's more efficient, stronger." But I would naturally, to his frustration, go back to the left leg after a vain, right sided attempt."

You say I should have realized that I'm at least left somethinged. Well my brain was trying to tell me something, but it was not heard above the background din of "you're normal like the rest of us, Mr Right-handed Person . . . . .

Over the years I suspected I was sinister***. I sort of confronted my mother, timidly. Emphasis on sort of. It wasn't easy being a second [Holocaust] generation child. You were not able to confront that Holy generation. And holy they were, initiated by fire. We mortals stood in their awe; we feared treading on their emotional ground, lest we be swept up in the tempest. We didn't really know what we feared, but we feared it none-the-the-less. To accuse a survivor of messing with Nature, with God-given talent -- this was too much for us to handle.

We played their game, by their unwritten rule book. We had to live up to their expectations, beyond their expectations. My brother the doctor, me the lawyer [poor guy really is a doctor, and good at it too]. We had no choice. Doing well at school was only met by comparisons to others in the class who did better. Coming second in the class was gross failure. And topping the grade was met with, "it had better be the same next term", not in an overtly threatening way, but in a way that you understood what was expected.

So how did I eventually receive parental confirmation of my left-handedness? Well, I was talking to my mother one day last year [as usually each day via Skype] and she was complaining that she was having problems with her right wrist -- it made her hand useless -- and what a bother it was.

I replied, quite innocently, "use the other hand" to which she responded, "that's OK for you to say -- you're left handed" and I responded, "Whaaaa-a-a-at???"

She just repeated her statement again, "you're left handed" and I repeated mine. She [tried to] explained that from where she comes, left-handed people were looked upon as abnormal, decidedly weird. She did it because she loved me, she cared for me, she wanted what was best for me.

I was worried about what this has done to me psychologically, physically, physiologically, mentally. Was this the cause of all of life's problems? I spoke to a psychiatrist. He ummed and ahhed and said that's terrible. (Really? $250 later) Eventually I figured he didn't know too much about the topic, so I dropped it.

So I spoke to a psychologist. He was bit more sympathetic. He explained that the human brain is good at compensating, though compensation did not necessarily come for free. He suggested speaking to an occupational therapist. They deal with this kind of compensation. I obviously have compensated over the last fifty years, but what has been the cost?

Since then I have using my left hand more and more: writing, mousing (actually I have two computers on my desk and use one hand on each mouse simultaneously). I even played table tennis with my left hand. I need more practice, especially on the serve; but I held my own.

I could take a feather out of cap of the Biblical Ehud. He killed the obese King Eglon by pulling his knife on him with his left hand. The palace guards didn't think to search his right side, because "normal" people carried their swords or knives on their left side so they could draw with their right hand. The Book of Judges describes how the knife was sucked further and further into the fat Eglon's intestines by the surrounding blubber. That and the demise of Agag are my favorite Biblical stories.

This is actually the basis for people shaking hands with their right hands, to indicate openly that they come in peace, carrying no concealed weapon in their hand.

Maybe I can become truly ambidextrous*. Is that useful?

P.S. my mother has two left-handed grandchildren. Both cousins are normal, well adjusted, talented, acceptable . . . . .

* Sinister adjective
1. Suggesting or threatening evil: a sinister smile
2. Presaging trouble; ominous: sinister storm clouds
3. Attended by or causing disaster or inauspicious circumstances
4. On the left side; left
5. Heraldry. Situated on or being the side of a shield on the wearer's left and the observer's right
[Middle English sinistre, unfavorable, from Old French, from Latin sinister, on the left, unlucky.]

** dextrous from Latin dexter
1. Of or located on the right side
2. Heraldry. Situated on or being the side of a shield on the wearer's right and the observer's left

*** ambidextrous adjective
1. Able to use both hands with equal facility
2. Unusually skillful; adroit
3. Deceptive or hypocritical
[Alteration of archaic ambidexter, from Middle English, double dealer, from Medieval Latin: Latin ambi-, on both sides + Latin dexter, right-handed.]

Join the Samaritans celebrating Pesach. See the Pascal lamb being sacrificed just like the Jews used to do in Yerushalayim on Passover. Not quite like being there, but enjoy it, especially the blood and the guts. You can almost smell the action.

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