We need to talk about my left hand
Because I was once left-handed. It was in preschool, and when my mother saw me gripping an oversized Mongol no. 1 with fingers that didn’t belong to my right hand, she was appalled, and she at once sat with me and turned his son into a “normal person.” Around two decades later, I have mastered the art of not knowing how to write my name with my left hand.
I owe a lot to my right hand. It opens doors for me, it holds the bidet. I use it to show direction to strangers. It flips the pages of whatever book I’m reading, my forefinger turning a leaf I’ve finished from the rest of the story, sometimes folding a dog-ear. I use it to hold my phone, or a spoon, a violin bow, a badminton racket, my atm card when I have something to scrap from it. I tighten the propane tank’s lock with it when the burners are not in use. It is the hand that dives into a bag of chips and travels the distance to my mouth. I raise it to receive high-fives. Sometimes, to call attention to myself.
My left hand was trained to do some things as well. It holds the fork. I use it to scratch certain corners of my body, and it is the first to move when I feel the need to pick at my nose.
Most of the other uses I could think of for this hand involves the right one. Doing the dishes, slicing fruits, typing out an overdue paper, the gestures that match my words when compelled to explain something. I use both to cup the chin of the person I’m kissing. To do push-ups, or to make sure that I won’t die when I need to hang at the back of a jeepney.
I could do much with the right than the left hand. Sometimes it feels that the latter is an aberration. I couldn’t type proper words with it on the phone. My violin teacher noticed how I could have a decent hold of the bow but could never seem to press the strings when or where they ought to. When I tried to teach myself the piano, I would often catch my left hand replicating the movements of the right one as it banged on the wrong notes. I couldn’t even rely on it to bring food to my mouth without trembling.
It’s like a cursed end of my body. Sometimes I think that indeed my angel hangs out to my right, while the devil stays on the left, perhaps to make sure that the hand on that side remains useless. I’ve always wondered why a person in power calls a confidante his right hand. And why I use the right hand to do the sign of the cross, and to point at whoever’s at fault.
There must be a reason why they call “right” as “right.” But I look at my left hand and I’m quite sure that “left” doesn’t mean “wrong.” Left may refer to things that remain, perhaps as the rest of something has been gone. Or maybe it’s just is. “Left.”
All I’m is saying is that after all these years, I still don’t understand why the possibility of being left-handed had disturbed people like my mother. One of my best friends in high school was left-handed, and he was good in Math. I am right-handed, but until now I am not good at anything.
Sometimes I marvel at the way his hand would approach the line of words he just wrote on a notebook, as opposed to the rest of us whose pens would leave letters like a trail of ink that would never be returned to. The school must have expected all of us to be right-handed. I couldn’t remember my best friend sitting on an armchair fit for the way he writes.
I also like to defy expectations, not for the sake of standing out, but just to see how my life would change once my choices deviate from the axis of what others think as normal. Would I also prefer desks when writing through my left hand?
And when you think about it, there are things that we do because someone before us thought that it was the “right” thing to do. And we have to live with it for much of our lives because we are led to believe that we don’t have much option.
Would people be hurt if I hold my pen tomorrow with my left hand? Would I offend anyone if I switched the places where my fork and spoon should be? Would the meaning of a book change if I flip its pages with my other hand?
I now believe that as long as my choices wouldn’t get in the way of someone else’s freedom to choose, I could stick to it. I’ve long considered learning to use my left hand to write. I might even have the mastery for both hands, be ambidextrous.
There’s this website that offers tips on how to use the left hand when writing. The second item on the list involves the person being comfortable when holding the pen. There must be no tension, otherwise the squiggles on the page could never be read.
The people I know might take time getting comfortable seeing me write with the left hand. To make such thing possible, I must be comfortable with the pen myself.
George G. Deoso is a communication skills trainer from Quezon City. He took up literature from the University of Santos Tomas, and earned fellowships for poetry from four national creative writing workshops. His first book, a collection of short stories titled “The Horseman’s Revolt and Other Horrors,” was recently published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House and has been released in this year’s Manila International Book Fair. George wishes for “everyone to stay safe, sane, and to still find reasons to live and love in these trying times.”
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Posted by INQUIRER.net on Wednesday, February 13, 2019
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