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THIS MUCH I KNOW; OPINION.

Byline: Lynne Barrett-Lee www.lynnebarrett-lee.com

Late news, I know, since it actually happened last Tuesday, but a belated Happy International Left-handers Day, one and all.

Are you happy about your left-handedness? I know I am. Being left-handed, for me, has always felt rather wonderful. You s get gifted things at birth, obviously - glorious eyelashes, incredible brain power - and there always seemed something particularly special about having been randomly selected in the great DNA lottery, to have been one of the chosen 10%.

Which is why, having read about International Left-handers Day, I first found myself chuckling. The laughs came easily, almost as soon as I started reading. As you might expect, International Left-handers Day, which was created back in 1976, was/is a day with a mission. Its plan was to 'promote awareness of the inconveniences facing left-handers in a predominantly right-handed world'.

Inconveniences? Really? They're that BAD? It did then harp more joyously about 'celebrating uniqueness and difference' but swiftly reverted to what appeared to be type, pointing out that 'many left-handed people are discriminated against in today's society, forced to use right handed tools, drive on the right side of the road, and even get harassed'!!! (Yes, those exclamation marks are my own).

It ended on a note that made its ethos very clear. That 'International Left-handers Day is made to end this discrimination'.

It then continued with the observation that there was also 'a more serious side to the day' (Eh?) but by this time something important had occurred to me. That since some watershed moment, be it in 1976 or whenever, left-handedness had stopped being seen as a mildly interesting genetic variation and quietly morphed into being seen as a disability.

OK, I'll come clean here. For me personally, for a brief time, it was. You'll doubtless have a memory of your one or two primary school 'leftie' classmates - they of the scruffy work, on account of having to write to the right, thereby smudging all the words that went before. This was magnified for me by a factor of about - oh, what shall we say, eight million? - on account of our school having mistaken itself for a 15th century monastery and insisting we all learn italics. And not just as a stand alone calligraphy lesson, either. This was how we were taught to write at all times. Which meant using italic pens, which formed the thick strokes and the thin strokes, which meant that a left-handed person COULD NOT DO IT.

So it was challenging, yes, and also mildly expensive for my mother - who had to go out and buy a special left-handed italic nib, from a posh pen manufacturer called Osmiroid - but here's the thing. I was not scarred by this experience.

Neither was I emotionally traumatised by cutlery issues, scissor husbandry, or screws. (I added screws there, but in truth, 'screwing things' is clutching at straws. I can think of precisely no more issues of disablement or discrimination as a result of being left-handed).

The fact is that I felt special as a result of being left-handed; loved the uniqueness of my special pen nib, loved how it was rather coveted by my friends.

I was a rarity. I had something that virtually no-one else I knew had. I was the only one of my blood family (and that now includes my children and my in-laws) who had this quirk, this genetic marker, this special gift. And when I found out that left-handers were apparently proven to be 'more creative' I felt even more excited to be me.

If you know anything about psychology you'll know that it's a normal human behaviour to become (in so far as one is able to, at any rate) the thing others (peer group, family hierarchy, society in general) deem one to be. And that applies to the negatives as well as the positives, and whether the person in question is aware of it or not. Hence the moment of reflection that followed the initial amusement. Did it benefit anyone to place such a negative emphasis on something that requires only the smallest of adaptations and which, most of the time, impacts hardly at all? I wonder. And then, just 24 hours later, I read a much more current - and deeply relevant - piece of news. That one in five boys in secondary school 'is now classified as having a special educational need'.

One in FIVE. I'm still mulling over that. Let's talk next week.

@LYNNEBARRETTLEE

The fact is that I felt special as a result of being left-handed
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 17, 2013
Words:762
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