I Throw My (Left) Hand in the Air

I'm reading The Thorn Birds right now. It's early in the book yet, and I already stepped on my soapbox.

Here's the thing: left-handed people are different. We know it; it's evident in just about every activity in which we partake. I myself am made aware of it most often when I'm driving, as almost all the important functions of the car, from turning it on to switching gears, are operated on the right side. (Someday, I will move to Europe and reach my full left-handed driving potential).

One of my favorite things is when we discover one another: "Oh, you're left-handed? SO AM I!!!" It's like meeting someone who has your same name or birthday; it might be the most exciting thing that happens to you that day (sad, but true).

One of the characters in The Thorn Birds is Meggie, who is four years old and starts school for the first time. It's a Catholic school, run by nuns, obviously, and these are not very nice nuns. One in particular, Sister Agatha, is a mean old witch who picks on the poor kids because she can. Meggie gets slapped on the hand with a ruler on her very first day (for tardiness--she was so excited and nervous that she threw up all over herself and had to change clothes). Things go downhill from there.

One of Sister Agatha's biggest gripes against Meggie is that she is left-handed. Though her handwriting is described as "beautiful copperplate," it's not acceptable to the Sister because, as everyone knows, left-handedness is of the devil.

So what is Sister Agatha's solution? SHE TIES MEGGIE'S LEFT ARM TO HER BODY! For the whole day, so she can't use it at all. She even has to go to recess with her arm tied down. I realize that rules were different in those days, and there was not a lot of study of genetics or self-esteem issues, even, but COME ON! Surely a Bride of Christ would know that was a pretty harsh punishment for a FOUR-YEAR-OLD GIRL.

That is where I had to put my book down and try to think of good (fictional) nuns, so I wouldn't have a complex about the Catholic church. Julie Andrews, Whoopi Goldberg, Sally Field ... they put me on track. (I am trying very hard right now not to think of the Magdalene Sisters; that is a whole other soapbox right there, and probably the maddest I've ever been when watching a movie).

Then I began reflecting, not for the first time, on what it's like to be left-handed. And I really think that being left-handed is something special. I would envy left-handers, if I weren't one myself. I love it; it sets me apart and automatically grants me membership in this exclusive little club. I have no complaints about being left-handed in and of itself; my problem is with The Man ... The Right-Handed Man who is keeping us Southpaws down. Dig it.

I hope, in the next chapter, that Meggie beats down Sister Agatha, Lefty-style.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

My oldest son is left-handed. It was obvious from a very early age, and I thought it was really cool--no one in my immediate family is left-handed. (My husband made the mistake of trying to teach him to bat and throw right-handed--he shouldn't have done that; he should have let him do what came naturally. He would have been a better baseball player.)

Anyway, I agree with you...left-handedness is cool.


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