This was my first choice for my website name, but darn, “I’m Lefthanded” seems to be popular.
I’m the only lefty in my family, including cousins, aunts and uncles. (Although I haven’t been able to keep track of my mother’s family; she had 9 brothers and sisters and I am still accumulating new cousins and second cousins every year.) Like many lefties, I grew up thinking there was a special reason for this oddity. When I started playing softball, for some reason I batted right-handed, until my father told me, “You should really try to bat left-handed, you’d be stronger at it.” And I did, thinking that I could have the special skill of the tricky switch-hitter.
I join Leonardo da Vinci, Mark Twain, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Jimi Hendrix in this club of rarities. I once lived in a country where I never met another left-hander; and in fact was asked about it by a stranger who watched me write. In a village in India I was warned to use my right hand to eat, rather than my left, since that hand was considered the washing and therefore dirty hand. So great have been the superstitions around left-handedness and sinister intentions that Joan of Arc, who in pictures depicting her dying for heresy and witchcraft, was frequently portrayed as left-handed.
But left-handedness has also been interpreted as a sign of creative strength. While history has often interpreted Biblical references to left- and right-handedness as being overly in favor of the right, I see it another way. In Song of Songs 2:6 the Bride says of her Lover, “His left hand is under my head; while his right hand embraces me.” I’ve always felt that this means the right hand–which is often always the strong hand, the masculine or commanding hand, the sword-bearing hand–is the symbol of embrace, while the left is the symbol of protection and feminine support. Closeness to the head, which in Biblical imagery almost always signifies authority.
I love being left-handed. We don’t realize how much we live in a right-handed world. When retail clerks want me to sign a credit card slip, they always push it toward my right hand. One lady in Europe even went to far as to hold down the slip as I signed, and when I tried to slant it in the other direction, she pulled it away from me. (For the record, lefthanders often write with with paper facing //// rather than .)