I think I was 8 or 9 years old when I realized that there were men in this world that actually were right-handed. I’ll never forget that moment of “Aha!” because I was watching The John Davidson Show one afternoon. I loved watching shows like his and Mike Douglas’ – there’d be something interesting going on all the time: talking, then some music and then cooking and then some more talk – something for everyone. Perhaps it was my innocence and now-hazy memories but it didn’t seem like everyone appeared on those shows to flack their latest project or product back then. Anyway, Davidson was singing. I don’t remember the song at all but I remember what he was wearing (a beautiful cadet blue suit) and I suddenly noticed that he held the microphone in his right hand! Wow! There are men who are right-handed??
All the men in my “family of origin” are lefties: my dad, my 2 brothers, even my grandfather. I say “even my grandfather” because my dad was adopted. Growing up in a tiny town in the wilds of New Hampshire with a even tinier but close-knit Baha’i community, the other Baha’i kids were closer than my cousins, and Michael P., who was my age and in my class at school, was left-handed too. I think my cousin Tom (or maybe Mike? Aunt Cyn, help me out) is a lefty – but I couldn’t swear to it. So I think for me, guys being left-handed was just part of “the way it is” – like gravity and the sun coming up every morning.
As for me, I’m right-handed by default or “right-handed – mostly”. I started out fairly ambidextrous, but over time and the fact this is a right-handed world, I’ve become more right-hand dominant. Some folks are truly ambidextrous and can write with either hand – that isn’t me. I’ve never been able to write at all with my left. Then again, if you’ve seen my handwriting, you could make a good case that I cannot write at all with my right hand either! But it is strange; every now and again, I’ll go to write down something and I’ll pick up the pen in my left hand without thinking…
I think I must sort of gravitate towards left-handed people. Out of my three best girlfriends growing up, 2 are lefties. Out of my 4 best girlfriends now, 2 are lefties. My husband is one and so is his mother. All of my children are right-handed and I regret (just a little) that we didn’t end up with at least 1 lefty. I’m always noticing lefties out in the world because I know there are regular challenges for them since we’re so right-teous. Heck, even orangutans are affected: I read a number of years ago that in the wild, orangutans are overwhelmingly left-handed, but raised in captivity, they are right-handed. I don’t know if that is true, but it is believable to me, having observed lefties for so long up close and personal.
I’m a little comforted by the thought that my heart surgeon is left-handed. I noticed it when we met with him – he was taking notes with a beautiful fountain pen. I was rather impressed by the fact that the left cuff of his superbly pressed shirt had no inkstains on it -not easy to do when writing with a ballpoint, much less a fountain pen. I mentioned his left-handedness and I think he was a tiny bit surprised – perhaps his patients don’t notice that very often? He said candidly that he does all of his surgeries with his right-hand because surgery is all right-handed (all the clamps and things), but it does “come in handy occasionally” to be a lefty.
It occurs to me that maybe he had to try just a bit harder to be a good surgeon because he’s a lefty, and perhaps that contributed to his becoming the chief of cardiac sugery at Vanderbilt. I think about what it might be like to go through lots of years of schooling to be a doctor and then get to the actual slicing and dicing and find that one has to do it with the less dominant hand? That’d be a shock and rather a significant disadvantage I would think. Perhaps he’d figured that out years ago and it was no biggie to him. If I had to suddenly play guitar for the rest of my life and every performance left-handed…. well, let’s just say it would be bad, and I would be more than a little unhappy about it – and I’m not much of a guitarist in the first place. I don’t know if I would’ve chosen a profession that would be all about my less dominant hand. Still, I am happy that my surgeon didn’t let that deter him, and I’ve got no qualms about putting my heart into both of his skilled hands this coming Monday morning. Even though he’ll be cutting and carving, sewing and stitching with his right hand, I think I feel a little better though, knowing he’s really a lefty.