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On the left: Handedness still creates a stir

July 9, 2011
The Mining Journal

It still happens sometimes: Someone will see me writing out a check or note and exclaim, "You're a lefty!"

Like a head of flaming red hair, left-handedness gets noticed - though it's less of an attention-getter now that I'm an adult. You might think being left-handed isn't worth much attention in the first place. Well, you might if you were right-handed. We lefties know. Handedness matters.

It first mattered in kindergarten, when I struggled to manuever a pair of kiddie scissors during art time. My scissors chewed clumsily through the brown construction paper as I struggled to keep them on course. My efforts resulted in a gingerbread man with an octagonal head and a clubfoot.

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"Oh, you're left-handed," said my teacher, eyeing my gingerbread mutant. That was news to me, but being 5 years old, all it meant was that apparently I'd always flunk construction paper.

Throughout elementary school I continued producing ragged-edged art, enduring a painful, dark red dent at the base of my thumb caused by my awkward scissors grip.

When I was occasionally handed left-handed scissors I was amazed at how much easier they were to use. My projects still had ragged edges - the right scissors couldn't cure my innate arts and crafts ineptitude - but at least my thumb didn't suffer.

My classmates declared that I held my pens and pencils "wrong." While their writing instruments traveled smoothly ahead of their small hands, I led with my fist, smudging with my pencil, smearing with my pen.

"You hold your pencil upside down," declared one little girl. Had I been a less timid child I would have informed her that if my pencil was upside down the lead side would be pointing up and my worksheet would be blank.

Being a lefty didn't matter in junior high or high school. There was the occasional "Oh, you're left-handed" comment from teachers, but handedness counted for nothing in the teenage social hierarchy.

It was in a college classroom that my left-ness next caused a stir. I was sitting in the front row on the first day of a sociology class, and when I began taking notes the professor literally stopped in the middle of a sentence.

"A left-hander!" he announced. "Did you know that left-handed people are considered more artistic and are more prone to develop mental illness?"

How does one respond to that? At least he didn't accuse me of holding my Bic upside down.

From my own research I've learned that lefties are also more likely to suffer from nightmares and migraine headaches, and are more likely to become alcoholics. True, true and true; at least for this lefty. I've also read that lefties have a deeper appreciation for music, a fact I enjoy reminding my kids of, particularly when I'm breaking out my Phil Collins greatest hits CD.

Some left-handed folks actually complain about living in a world geared toward the ease and comfort of righties. Now there's a platform for an aspiring politician: Rights for lefties!

One supposed left-handed trait that I don't share is poor penmanship. I'm occasionally told that I have beautiful handwriting - considering I'm left-handed. I always say "Thank you," and attribute it to my parochial school teachers' strict enforcement of the Zaner-Bloser method. But then I wonder: Was that a left-handed compliment?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by email to Read her blog online at www.singlesobermom.blogspot. com.



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