In our right mind

“Right-handed people use the left side of their brain, so left-handers are the only people in their right mind.”

Thus read the message on a T-shirt I once owned. I picked it up at a yard sale in Columbia, Mo., in 1974.

Except for dining with members of my wife’s side of the family I don’t pay much attention to my left-handedness, certainly not thinking of it as a handicap — despite what much literature and public opinion say about it.

As for Bonnie’s family, well, her late mother, Velma, her sisters Donna and Beth are all left-handed. That means that when we’d sit down to dine, we needed to choreograph an elaborate dance to place us in such a way that we didn’t bump one another.

When Bonnie’s father, a right-hander, was still with us, and I joined the dinner table, that meant four of the seven of us will have been left-handers, and that kind of proportion is unusual. We represent only 10 percent of the world’s population and 57 percent of those at the dinner table.

In the following paragraphs, I’ll be introducing a host of terms to avoid repeating “left-hander.” But I warn fellow southpaws, those of you in your right mind, that some of the terms fail to compliment.

Look up the term in a dictionary and you’ll find “sinister.” Well, what do we have here? One dictionary says of sinister, “giving the impression that something harmful or evil is happening.” Now compare that with the corresponding word for right-handed: dexterous. That means handy, able to perform deeds. What are we sinister people, awkward? Chopped liver?

Yes, exactly. That’s yet another word that falls under the rubric. We’re now awkward. That makes one wonder whether Webster or some other dictionary compiler once observed sinister people doing chores clumsily and simply assumed we sinister fellows were all thumbs.

But wait — there’s more: “clumsy.” That’s one additional connotation to the condition that the majority of the world believes we suffer from. I like the argument that “Everybody is born right-handed, but on the other hand, lefties are the ones who recover.

Let’s poke around more dictionaries: We are seen by dictionarians as “gauche.” Anything one says in French by necessity is elegant, poetic, flowing. Anything you call another person in French is construed as a compliment.

Except for “gauche.”

And what does the dictionary say about gaucherie? We “lack ease or grace; we’re unsophisticated and socially awkward.” Well, on the one hand, I can concede that point.

In the past I’ve written about my underwhelming performance on the dance floor, that time when I escorted Vivian Arvizo, the then-Miss Indian America, to a banquet in Gallup, in her honor. I went there expecting to enjoy a meal and pleasant conversation. Instead, the emcee asked Vivian and me to have the first dance. And that era, the early ‘60s, came shortly after dancing switched from a graceful, rhythmic partnership to the individual gyrations of two people simultaneously seized by fits. “Awkward,” “clumsy,” “gauche”: all those terms applied to me that night.

The only dance I ever enjoyed I called the “Y-Dance.” I liked walking the woman to the middle of the dance floor, holding her and … and “Y-Dance”?

Let’s pursue a few other descriptions the rest of you conform to. You right-handers are, according to one dictionary, adroit, which means “clever or skillful at using hands or mind.” And the rest of us are not? True, we can all praise the pianist “whose adroitness comes through,” but we’re hard-pressed to find a complimentary word for a left-hander who plays as well.

Notice how the right hand does most of the “dexterous” and “adroit” work on the keyboard, whereas the “sinister” hand gets relegated to endless “oom-pahs.”

One dictionary even calls us “dubious” and “insincere,” but there isn’t an abundance of words to describe “adroit” people, probably because not much needs to be said of the person who does everything “right.”

But yet, the world, especially the baseball world, concocts terms like southpaw and portsider. And notice how many people have been given nicknames based solely on which hand they use to throw a ball, pick up a fork or write.

On the one hand, we lefties are accustomed to harmless comments: “You’re signing that check with the left hand; I don’t think it’s legal.” We’ve been implored in school to attempt switching from our “sinister” hand to the “dexterous” one.

One classmate of yesteryear, whose penmanship made even mine look pretty, was urged by our homeroom teacher, Sister Mary Escriba Bién, to use her “orthodox” hand. We’d heard that such a switch often caused speaking problems. Months later, when I asked the young girl how everything had gone, she was speechless.

The fact that four of our last seven presidents were gauche doesn’t seem to appease those not in their right mind. We still get verbally eviscerated by terms like left-handed compliment. And we usually play left field.

International Left-hander’s Day ended on Aug. 13. Out of curiosity, I invited Facebook friends to identify themselves if they were of the “dubious” persuasion.

Almost immediately I received posts from Amanda Pacheco, Mark Cassidy, Adam Anthony Crespin, JoAnn Martinez, Barbara Dorris, Sherrie Doke, Robert Duran III, Jennifer Williams, Julie Kowalski, Christian Montaño, Connie Trujillo, Lorilee Heron, Mike Price, Christella Vallejos and Ben Moffett.

Moffett claims to be such a lefty that he chews food on the left side of his mouth. And Jody Stege asked if being a “leftist” qualifies.

Sorry, Jody!

To my fellow members of the gauche and sinister coalition: We know our lefts, so let’s get left down to work and do the left thing.

Even if we appear sinister in doing so.

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