Or rather, are you left- or right-handed?
Quite a straight forward question for most people, and “officially” I would say that I am left-handed. However, there are a lot of things I do with my right hand and after O and I had had a discussion regarding this subject, I started writing down what I do with which hand (the funny thing is that I wrote my list with the “Right” to the left and vice versa):
putting on mascara
brushing / combing my hair
brushing my teeth
pulling / carrying my suitcase (until tired, then I switch hands)
putting cream on my face
starting exercises always to the left (causes problems when exercising in a group, probably why I hate it!)
eating with a spoon
play badminton & tennis
using can openers
putting on mascara
use the phone (I often grab it with my left and then switch to the right when talking)
cut with scissors (I have never been able to use left-handed scissors)
hair brush (both hands actually)
carrying my handbag on my right shoulder
drink (i.e hold a glass, bottle or mug)
I remember using the knife and fork in opposite hands (i.e holding the knife with my left hand and the fork with the right) when I was a young child, but I don’t remember when or why I swapped to eating like most people? The reason why I remember that I used to do it the other way is that I had a plastic table mat with a fork and a knife drawn on it and it annoyed me that I would have to put the cutlery in the wrong positions. Already at a young age I had a certain sense of order and symmetry, and maybe that’s why I changed hands?
When it comes to playing badminton, it is quite a funny story: I started taking badminton lessons when I was maybe 9 or 10. After a few lessons, my mother came to watch us play and afterwards she asked me why I was holding the racket in my right-hand? Well, because the coach told us to do it! Maybe that’s why I never became any good? 😉 However, in sewing class I was aware of the fact that I was left-handed, to my sewing teacher’s despair – as she couldn’t teach me how to crochet with my left! I also remember hating the left-handed pairs of scissors – there were always a few pairs in our classroom and some teachers tried to make me use them, but I couldn’t since I cut [with scissors, but not with knives] with my right hand.
Out of the 6 colleagues I shared various offices with in the European Commission, 2 or 3 colleagues were left-handed just like me. My Spanish colleague R was “more” left-handed than I, he always had the computer mouse to the left – extremely annoying when using his computer! I feel that there is a certain affinity between us left-handers and most of us point it out when meeting another left-handed person. When watching films I always notice who writes with their left; Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves for example are left-handed. However, you can know somebody for quite a long time before you are in a situation where it would be discovered (usually when writing) – long-time friends, who are right-handed, have been shocked (??) to discover that I am in fact left-handed.
A friend used to complain that when she and her left-handed boyfriend were visiting a place they didn’t know, they would instinctively choose opposite directions to walk in – he would want to go to the left, and she to the right! Maybe that’s the same reason why I sometimes get confused with which cheek to kiss when greeting people (in cultures where you don’t shake hands!) – my instinct is to go left first!?
For many years I had difficulties in telling left from right, which I have read is quite common when 1) you are left-handed 2) a woman… In other words I have two valid excuses! My family will still make fun of me, claiming that I don’t know which is which! But I have a trick (still!): you say hello with your right (as höger (right) starts with a h just like hälsa in Swedish). When learning English I thought right has a h, so it is höger, in French it is the opposite – gauche is spelt with h so it is not höger, in Italian the h-trick doesn’t work but I think of the word “sinister” and then I remember that sinistra is left (sinistrare actually means to injure or damage!). Phew, a bit complicated but it works for me!
Furthermore, it is quite interesting that in most languages (that I know, Swedish being the exception), right both means “not left” (as it is explained in the dictionary) and “correct” as well as a “claim” (a human right for example). No wonder the Italians call the left “sinister”. I also find it fascinating that in Spanish sordo (deaf) and zurdo (left-handed) are quite similar words (especially when not making the distinction between s and z, such as in the Puerto Rican accent)!
How do left-handed people do in cultures (Muslim countries, India etc) where the left hand is viewed as “unclean” (you should eat with your right hand and clean yourself after toilet visits with the left)? Or in countries, such as the UK and the US where many school class rooms are not equipped with real tables and just chairs with writing boards to the right? Fortunately I never had to deal with those silly, or rather discriminatory, right-leaning “chairs + writing boards” in Sweden, even though abroad it has happened quite a few times.
Read more about left-handedness here, where you can learn that left-handedness is more common among men than women (strange then that in my family it was my paternal grandmother* and I who became left-handed, and only one of my left-handed colleagues was male).
*) My paternal grandmother was forced to become right-handed in school, a common practise in many countries until recently. She always spoke about it as a very traumatic experience.