Monday, January 28, 2008

A Child’s Right To Be Left Alone

Were you a persecuted leftie when you were a kid?

I was. My parents made me favor my right hand, especially with writing and drawing, even thought I was naturally a leftie.

The other day I was talking with my eye doctor and he asked me if I was right- or left- handed. When I told him how my parents had trained me, he commented that they had to be Roman Catholic. He was right.

Someone else might have offended by his comment but I wasn’t. He mentioned the word “sinister.” He didn’t have to explain the connection.

According to the dictionary, “sinister” has its origins with ancient augurs. The left hand ended up meaning bad luck, though originally it was associated with good luck.

As explained in Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th Edition): “Early Roman augurs faced south, with the east (lucky side) to the left, but the Greeks (followed by later Romans) faced north.”

Because of this, sinister ended up being associated with left hands and bad luck – and evil.

By forcing me to favor my right hand, my parents were preventing me from being “evil” as such.

I’ve heard that such forced training can cause dyslexia. I don’t suffer from that, at least with words, but I do have a tendency to flip around numbers, e.g., 82 becomes 28.

And when I’m tired or distracted, my left and right sides get mixed up. Cross your arms, putting your hands in reverse position. That’s what it’s like for me when I’m not completely focused. For example, I’m driving a car and someone tells me to make a right turn. So I make a left turn.

I blame it all on The Cult of Dexter.


dr.alistair said...

interesting. i grew up with a jesuit father and an anglican/yoga mother.

the only ritual persecution i can recollect was my mother trying to get me to eat rice with a spoon with my right hand....she gave up and dumped the rice on my head....

i was sanctioned at school for using my left hand by placing a small black star on the back of my left hand.

my father freaked and went down to the school and had a word with the headmaster. i don`t know what he said, but i didn`t get another star after that.

i tried to play bass guitar in the school band left-handed but the teacher insisted that i play it "correctly" and after a few minutes i adapted.

i`ve played the guitar for the last 25 years that way, but still play air guitar left-handed.

X. Dell said...

Schoolteachers have a bias against southpaws. I know, because my dad was a schoolteacher, and every year he would complain about them with his teacher friends.

I also went to Catholic school. One of the nuns caught me writing with my left hand, so I know how you feel.

I don't think that the modern-day fear is of being evil, however. I think it's about being different.

Ray said...

Dr. Alistair:

Do you have problems like I do, sometimes getting your left and right mixed up?

X. Dell:

But how much of that concern by righties against lefties has its origins back to ancient superstitions? Traditions are established and people throughout the ages follow them without question. Most people don't wonder about the origins of Xmas, why Jesus was supposedly born on December 25th or why they put trees in their house to decorate. They just do it because that's the way it's been. Tell some of them about the pagan influence with Xmas and Easter (eggs and rabbits) and they are offended. But that doesn't change history.

Or maybe the prejudcie against lefties goes back to the early days of man. People with superior intelligence and creativity are usally persecuted by their lessers. But mental superiority doesn't stop persecution. After all, might is "right."


Regan Lee said...

I'm married to a leftie; his family didn't try to change him but school did, and he's had all the usual problems living in a right handed world. One of my siblings is a leftie, and sadly, she suffered a lot, both in our family, and Catholic school.

Ray said...


ThanX for your comment.

I overheard someone the other day talking about being left-handed but being forced to use his right hand. He was in his early to mid twenties, not that old. I thought such practices died out in the "dark ages" when I was a kid.