I am a member of one of the largest minorities on the face of the Earth. For the most part, we keep our mouths shut and deal with the problems which we face every day of our lives. We have no special interest groups supporting our ’cause’, we do not lobby Congress crying about our disadvantage in society, and there are no government grants funding any studies into our predicament nor how to diminish it. Unless you are one of us, you cannot begin to fathom how hard life can be, but allow me to tell you a bit about us and enlighten you of our plight.
I’ll begin by telling you that we were born this way.
We come in either sex (no, not gender), all races, and we can be heterosexual, homosexual, or transexual. We can be either rich or poor, midget or monster, homeless or president. Things are neither ‘fair’ nor ‘equal’ in our world. We are discriminated against in the workplace, military service, manufacturing, goods and services, and in education. In some societies, our class is looked upon as ‘unclean’ or possessed, and laws have been established depriving us of exercising our sway openly, forcing us into a way of life that is neither comfortable nor natural.
But today, I am coming out …as a left-handed individual.
I’m coming out against the baseball coaches who stuck me out in left field, the jackass who told me that if I wasn’t right I was wrong, and especially all of those who told me “You’ll never be able to do it that way.”
I am coming out against the ‘instructors’ in academia who’ve had the audacity to try and change me and who have ignored my requirements. I’m coming out against those corporations who view me as a ‘second-class’ consumer, who pretend to offer me ‘special order’ items which are, in actuality, half-assed second run pieces of crap, all the while charging me freaking extra.
Here’s the short list of my grievances:
1) I’m tired of reading my own coffee cup. 2) I’m tired of the numerical pad being on the right-hand side of my keyboard. 3) I’m tired of having to crane my neck across the shrapnel to see whether or not I’m cutting on the line when using a Skilsaw. 4) I’m tired of having to operate an ice cream scoop with my index finger. 5) I’m tired of reaching across a rifle to operate the bolt, 6) I’m sick and tired of so-called ‘left-handed’ scissors. 7) A steel tape measure, for instance; if I grasp the body in my left hand and yank the tape out to measure and – oh, look! This one must be defective, all of the numbers are upside-down. 8) And I’m tired of books being made backwards. Take a book and flip it on its face, open it from left to right. That is the way I want to read a book.
You right-handers probably never have stopped to think about any of this, have you? You’ve all been raised to think that it’s all about you and your needs. As Southpaws, we’re forced to work through these and other handicaps every day of our lives. And has anyone ever thought to devote a special month, even a single day, to our continued struggle? Hell no. But let us open our mouths to complain in the presence of a right-hander and all we get is a moment of hesitancy, a dumb stare and the inevitable “It’s not that big a deal…just turn it around.” Insensitivity abounds.
Oh yeah, and 9) I’m tired of being offered colour choice ‘options’ of black, white, or sunburst by every guitar maker in existence.
When I was seventeen, I’d been writing lyrics for a few years before deciding that learning to play guitar had become a necessity. I began shopping around for an affordable instrument but was basically blown off in all of the music stores. Predictably, they’d have rows of right-handed instruments but I was lucky to find a single left-handed instrument in the lot. One salesman suggested that I just learn right-handed. “They don’t make many guitars for left-handed people,” he told me. “There just aren’t enough who want to play.” Well, no damn wonder.
Finally a good friend scored an old used Harmony acoustic and he let me have it for five bucks. It was right-handed, to be sure. I didn’t know the first thing about how to tune it or anything. It only had five strings, and they were so high above the neck I could limbo under them. It made my fingertips so sore to chord it, I resorted to fumbling around, attempting to play slide using a Bic lighter. I held the guitar left-handed, however. I was told at the music store that there were no left-handed guitar teachers and that most teachers wouldn’t even accept left-handed students. Nobody has to tell me about discrimination, I’ve lived it.
Over the years, I traded up to better guitars and learned a thing or two about adjusting and tuning them, but as I kept learning, I continued adding to my original and convoluted approach of playing a right-handed guitar left-handed, (strung right-handed) until finally, in 1996, twenty years after starting, and while working in a music store myself, I bought my first left-handed guitar, a Fender Telecaster. Now I could learn to play properly, I thought. It was hopeless. I couldn’t play anything on it. My unconventional angle had become too ingrained in my fingers to overcome. Two days later, I was at work early, filing a right-handed nut for the neck. After adjusting the intonation and restringing my new guitar right-handed, I was good to go.
And I can’t begin to express the kinship that I felt when I learned that Albert King, Paul McCartney, and several others had all been impelled to learn as I had. I realised that I was in good company, and more importantly, that I wasn’t alone.
In school and college, all of you right-handers were given the opportunity to pull your pencils across the paper while I had to push mine, which took considerably more time, but all our papers were due at the same time. As a result, my work was never completed and I looked ‘stupid’. If I had things my way, left-handers would all be allowed to write from right to left so that we could actually read what we’d just written. They didn’t even consider us when it came to desk design. Desks, whether you realise it or not, were made to comfortably accomodate right-handed people only. As a result, all left-handers’ arms hung off of the desk. We would compensate for this by leaning forward to meet the receeding edge of the desk and then curving our hand back toward ourselves in the cramped space in order to see what the hell we were doing. When I asked for a left-handed desk, I actually got laughed at.
Finally, after ten years of being forced to write backwards, I rebelled in high school. I began in the back of my spiral notebooks, writing on the opposing page so that I no longer had to lay my wrist across the metal spiral. While everyone else was going around wearing peace symbols on their T-shirts and supporting some mass ‘movement’ that they seemed to know aught of, I was writing my term papers backwards, in cursive, so that the teachers would have to read my work in a mirror. Ineluctably, they’d moan. Then I’d start in with my diatribe. I reminded them that they had nothing to complain about. This was my war.
I’ve mellowed out a little bit with age; however, as a assertion of my independence, I still sign my name backwards.
On one of the occasions that I was in the process of renewing my driver license, I signed my name as I always do. The big, fat, black woman behind the badge behind the desk, taking notice, said, “Ay, you cain’ do dat!” which flew all over me.
I looked hard into her eyes and said, “Prove it.”
Off she went, shortly returning with her supervisor, another black female.
“He cain be signin’ his name like dis, can he?” she asked in proclaimation as they returned, shoving the form at her supervisor. (I imagined how she would have reacted if I’d informed her that she shouldn’t be speaking like a character in a Joel Chandler Harris* book.)
The other woman looked at the form. “What is this?” she asked, staring blankly at my name.
“It is my name written in my own hand,” I answered.
“But you s’posd to stot ovah heah!” the fat black woman gesticulated with her finger at the ‘X’ on the form.
“It doesn’t state that I’m to start there, only to sign there, which I did, what’s the difference?”
The other lady gave me a notepad and asked me to sign my name, which I did. “Oh, you write it backwards!” her eyes widened, “why do you do that?”
“I’m left-handed,” I replied, “and that’s how I write.”
Her Fatness says, “Wuh, my sistah’s lef-handed, but she don’ write like dat.”
I looked at her. “I’m not a slave to a right-handed world.” I stated flatly.
You could’ve heard a pin drop. They looked at one another. The supervisor walked off and Rotunda processed my application.
That is what I call ‘respect’ and I earned it, I didn’t demand it.
Now, about that National paid holiday for left-handers only…
*Joel Chandler Harris is better known as ‘Uncle Remus’, his pen name. A great deal of history has been re-written by politically correct whitey apologists, painting Harris in bad light, subsequently stirring up a pseudo-ruckus in the black community and causing his work to be pulled from school libraries as ‘unsuitable’ and ‘offensive’.
In actuality, as a child, Harris would spend a great deal of time with the black slaves that his family ‘owned’, although he was firmly reprimanded for doing so. He was captivated by the lore and legends that they would tell him. Years later, Harris recounted these stories in many books, capturing the sound of their voices through phonetic spelling while maintaining the colorful colloquialisms they had used. The majority of slaves were illiterate at the time, so Harris did a great deal to preserve these tales for future generations. However, Joel wasn’t black, so naturally, when the aforementioned self-defecating apologists over-corrected, they careened headlong into Harris, accusing him of bigotry.
It pains me to see Harris’ material passed off as some sort of ‘racist’ commentary these days. While modern American blacks, all of whom have been granted the ability to read and write, butcher their own English into the semi-recognised (and wholly artificial) pidgin known as ‘Ebonics’ with pride, they are concurrently coerced into trashing Harris’ work, which was actually a keepsake of their own ancestors vernacular.