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18 June 2008 @ 05:57 pm
Knowing What's Right  
And I don't mean in a moral or political sense...

As a kid, I used to find it amusing that my father had trouble telling left from right. A grown man, for crying out loud!

Then, when I was in college, it started to happen to me. And it hasn't gone away. Two of my sisters have the same problem now too.

The common factor? All of us are to some degree ambidextrous.

This problem was at its worst for me in college and for about 4 years afterward, when I practiced the violin for two hours a day. My left hand was as strong as my right, and I lost all sense of the distinction between them. I write with my right hand, because it IS my dominant hand and it's what I've learned. But I can also write with my left hand. Not well, but I can do it.

When giving directions on how to get somewhere, I have to really concentrate and there's still a chance I'll screw it up. Right vs. Left? They might as well come from a random-word-generator, especially when I'm in a hurry. ALL of the ambidextrous people in my family have this problem, which may be one of the reasons my Dad gives useless directions like "go North" for city streets where almost no-one knows what "North" actually is. Maybe it's a defense mechanism!

I was trying to explain to my son the other day about "mirroring over" things to the non-dominant hand. That works pretty well, until you get to screws and screwdrivers. My instinct is ALWAYS to turn them the wrong way if I'm using my left hand. The mnemonic my husband hammered into his brother is crucial for me: Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Even though I have to take a moment to figure out which direction is "right," that still stops me from doing it backwards.

So, now I'm curious about how this goes for the rest of you. Hence, a poll:

Poll #1207175 How polar are your poles?

I consider myself...

Right-handed
21(72.4%)
Left-handed
5(17.2%)
Right in the middle
3(10.3%)

When it comes to using my hands

I almost always use my dominant hand
12(41.4%)
I do a lot of things with my other hand
11(37.9%)
I use the hand that's closest, unless it's something like writing
6(20.7%)

If you put on mascara, which hand do you use for the "awkward" side?

My dominant hand
18(69.2%)
What's awkward? I use the hand on that side.
8(30.8%)

How good are you at telling Right from Left?

Perfect, of course. How is this hard?
5(17.9%)
I almost never get it wrong
8(28.6%)
Pretty good, but I'm not always reliable
9(32.1%)
I have to concentrate to get it right
5(17.9%)
I can concentrate 'til the cows come home and still get it wrong
1(3.6%)


True story from work: Someone came over to take one of my hardware modules for upgrading. These all sit to my left, so I used my left hand to unscrew the thing from the rack. When the guy grabbed the screwdriver away after a few seconds, I said, "Geez! If I'd known you were in a hurry, I'd have used my other hand!" Maybe he just thought I was extra incompetent because he's a lefty himself. :0

ETA: Pet peeve here? Why can't someone make scissors that work with either hand?

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aeroport_artaeroport_art on June 19th, 2008 01:10 am (UTC)
I am jealous of your ambidexterity!! (is that a word?)

omg, I always rely on the "righty tighty lefty loosey" when i'm locking/screwing something. it is CRUCIAL. and when i need to know my left and right, i make L-shapes with my forefinger and thumb and the one that looks like the L is my left hand. it's good in a pinch :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 19th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
and when i need to know my left and right, i make L-shapes with my forefinger and thumb and the one that looks like the L is my left hand.
Hahaha! That's exactly how I taught my daughter right vs. left when she was younger.

My son not only knew it early on, but he could tell which was someone else's right or left.

But... we're starting to have some doubts about whether he's actually right-handed himself, though we tried to flush that out earlier. I told him that he needs to settle that now, before he gets any older. :0
(no subject) - aeroport_art on June 19th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on June 19th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - aeroport_art on June 19th, 2008 02:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - astrothsknot on June 19th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on June 20th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
Cass E. Pants: candy heart - spelchckcass404 on June 19th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
How good are you at telling Right from Left?

I have to turn and face east. Why? Because in kindergarten, the Right and Left signs were over the chalkboard on the east wall of the room.

I try to be subtle about it, but that's the only way I am sure which is which. And I had to take the written driver's license test today. I finally just turned so I could finally answer a couple of questions correctly.

Mostly I like being ambi though. I only write left because a teacher made me choose and I chose left to be difficult. Most things, I just choose randomly.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 19th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)
I try to be subtle about it, but that's the only way I am sure which is which. And I had to take the written driver's license test today. I finally just turned so I could finally answer a couple of questions correctly.
For some reason, I find this a huge relief. I've only ever talked about this with family members, but you have to wonder. My suspicion is that the closer you are to ambi, the less meaning Right and Left have for you. Which has its negative points in certain circumstances. ;)

I only write left because a teacher made me choose and I chose left to be difficult.
My former manager would say that's bad-- that you need to choose the one that matches your brain (which apparently corresponds to your dominant eye as well). Otherwise, it affects certain capabilities such as spelling.

My dad is a HORRIFIC speller, on top of all the rest of this, and he's of that "You vill be right-handed" generation. But we checked the dominant eye, and it's the right one-- which is also the one he uses for writing.

Now that my daughter is older, though, I think the spelling thing might just be genetic misfortune for other reasons: Marshmelos. Axedently. Memberes. Admittion. :0
(no subject) - cass404 on June 19th, 2008 02:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
Kimberleylampshade_days on June 19th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
Lefties for the win!

I actually mini golf/bat/play road hockey right-handed, you know, on the rare occasion that I actually do any of those things, but everything else is done with my left.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 19th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
I've run into other lefties that bat right, etc. The big determinant seems to be which hand you use to write with-- the one for the ultimate fine motor control.

But for some of us, the rest is pretty wide open!
brigid_tanner: Dean-scratching headbrigid_tanner on June 19th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
Mascara? what's that? LOL!! thank the gods for the righty-tighty, lefty-loosey rule. I can pretty much always tell my right from left, but still need to stop and think when doing/undoing screws. Wish I was ambidextrous. I think my niece may turn out to be. She writes and colors with whichever hand the crayon is closest to ;) She's only three, so who knows what will happen in a few years.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 19th, 2008 03:48 am (UTC)
Mascara? what's that? LOL!!
:D Hence the "if," because you weren't the only one that doesn't use it. I have long, very straight lashes, so I use it. :D

I think my niece may turn out to be. She writes and colors with whichever hand the crayon is closest to ;) She's only three, so who knows what will happen in a few years.
Three is too early to tell-- both our kids would use either hand at that age. I used to think Lauren was going to be a lefty, but that didn't pan out. :0

I discovered last week that my son's left eye is his dominant eye, which is usually supposed to indicate your handedness. He's been writing with his right hand all this time (and not very well, until he started cursive). But I see that his left-handed writing is... surprisingly good. :0

I asked him to make a real effort to figure out whether he might actually BE left-handed. Better to know at nearly 9 than years later!
cindytsuki_no_bara on June 19th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
sometimes i have to flap my hand in the appropriate direction because i can't remember the right word. i know the direction, just not what to call it. which is probably more a vocabulary failure or temporary brainfart and less an inability to give directions.

i'm a lefty but i mouse with my right hand - i can't do it with my left - but i can't do anything else with my right. except mascara, probably.... (i don't wear mascara so i don't know. but i imagine it would be even if i did each eye with each hand.) i checked "use the hand that's closest" but then i thought about it and... not so much.

my parents have a pair of ambidextrous scissors.... they're good scissors, too.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 19th, 2008 05:18 am (UTC)
i know the direction, just not what to call it.
I always know the direction, it's the label that gives me trouble. The right/left thing... a word arrives, and I say it. Often, it's the wrong one. :0

i can't do it with my left - but i can't do anything else with my right.
Interesting! I know a lefty who mouses right, but that's mostly out of convenience for other people. Most of the office lefties also mouse left.

my parents have a pair of ambidextrous scissors.... they're good scissors, too.
Whoo-hoo! I kind of want virtually all scissors to be ambidextrous. It's always a surprise when I try to use them and they don't work, and then I realize that I'm trying to cut with my left hand. :(
(no subject) - tsuki_no_bara on June 19th, 2008 05:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on June 19th, 2008 06:11 am (UTC)
I'm a total rightie. As a kid I used to never know where right (and for some reason being small all those "well it's the hand you would use for writing - But I'm not writing! How should I know which one I would use?") was till my mom told me that the right hand is where I make the Catholic sign of the cross (touch your forehead, belly, left shoulder, right shoulder). Now everytime I get asked where right is my mind mentally still jerks and wants to do the cross sign and I know immediately which hand I would use for it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 20th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC)
:D So that "helpful hint" is still locked in there, all these years later!

We finally told my Dad that the left was the side with his wedding ring, which came in handy while driving through England (on the wrong side of the road) and trying to make sure he was where he belonged and made the appropriate turns.

Most little kids struggle with left vs. right, but by early grade school they've got it. I just didn't expect it to go away later in life!
(no subject) - thelana on June 20th, 2008 11:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on June 20th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Clair de Lune: still moonlightingclair_de_lune on June 19th, 2008 06:47 am (UTC)
I always need to think twice to get it right. I would be a lefty if my grand-parents hadn't decided that coloring/drawing/writing with the left hand was a problem. So I do write with my right hand, but still do some things with the left one. I blame that for always having to think and refer to my writing hand before I can tell my right from my left ^_^
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 20th, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
Oh, that's too bad that you were forced over to the wrong hand!

I don't know how you'd do anything really well like writing/drawing with the wrong hand. It takes such fine motor control that I'd think it would be slightly sloppy or always a struggle, even years later.

Effectively, you were made ambidextrous whether you would have been or not! And now you have the same problem as some of the rest of us. ;)
heliokleia: PARUS CAERULEUSheliokleia on June 19th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)
I did your nice lil poll - and the results, so far - are very interesting, my dear Mme Venus!

Well, for writing, I use my right hand; for mascara and eye-liner both, also for working with the computer. Drawings only with my left one.

In my younger days, I never had trouble, telling left from right. But since a few years this has changed. Sometimes, I must think twice now, before making the right move...
*sighs*

The mnemonic my mother told me in my childhood is very helpful now. Translated, it goes like: "Left side is there, where the thumb is on the right".
For me, it still works.

You see, you're not alone, my friend!^^

P.S. Something new from the SQUIRRELS OF DOOM??^^
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 20th, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
Yours was probably the most amazing answer, because you write with one hand and draw with the other, and I'd think you'd use the same for both! Which means you really are equally divided between them!

You see, you're not alone, my friend!^^
Apparently not, including a childhood where it was no problem at all and then adulthood where the ability went away! I don't think anyone is prepared to get worse at a basic function like Left vs. Right.

The squirrels of doom have come close to suicide a few times, but thankfully not succeeded. Though last week, a little brown bunny of doom tried to throw itself under my tires. Thank goodness it was faster than the bicycle!
happy is as happy does: Sanaa Lathanhappywriter06 on June 19th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
I only ever have this problem with directions. I'll say left but my hand will go right. So I tell people 'Always follow the hand.' Jay finds it hilarious. He's ambidextrous - he was born left-handed but in school they made him use his right - but I don't think he has any problems. At least he's never said anything.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 20th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
I'll say left but my hand will go right. So I tell people 'Always follow the hand.'

That's the rule for me too-- the mouth is unreliable, but the hand always knows which direction to go.

Our kids have one of the new Twister games where voices tell you to do "Right foot red," "Left hand blue" and it gets faster and faster, and then finally becomes girly-voice-right and deep-man-voice-left. Hopeless. I was already in trouble once it started going to fast (and even when it's slow, sometimes the wrong side moves).

There seem to be a lot of people with forced ambidexterity, which I hope will go away in future generations with just letting people use the hand that works for them.
(no subject) - happywriter06 on June 21st, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
1aquaesulis761aquaesulis76 on June 19th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
At last someone with the same problem as me! I have always been hopeless at telling my left from my right - and shaping the 'L' with my hands has never worked because they both look correct! I normally end up waving the hand I want for directions and let the other person say left or right.

I write usually with my right hand, open doors/ turn keys with my left, and do many other tasks with either. I don't count myself as ambidextrous, but my great grandfather was. He could sign his name using both hands at once!

Fascinating subject! Thanks for the poll.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 20th, 2008 12:22 am (UTC)
open doors/ turn keys with my left
!! Have you ever run into doorknobs that really only work in one direction? As in, you can turn to the left, but the catch doesn't work? It's rare, but I've found a couple of those. They're annoying!

I wonder if you might be a little dyslexic, if the "L" looks good to you from both directions? That makes the challenge even harder.

normally end up waving the hand I want for directions and let the other person say left or right.
Yes-- this is very bad in the car, where I'm actually pointing in the correct direction, but the word that comes out of my mouth for it might as well be "Froghopper." There's no guarantee whatsoever that the word and the direction will match!

He could sign his name using both hands at once!
I aspire to this level of talent! Ooh! *is envious*
(no subject) - 1aquaesulis76 on June 20th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Princess Robot Bubblegum!astrothsknot on June 19th, 2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
I've always used scissors the wrong way up. I found it more comfortable as a child and still do. I use my left hand for work that isn't fiddly, like cleaning and things, but I can un/screw things equally well with my left.

Da Vinci was left handed, but used his right hand a lot. They've worked out that fiddly bits on his art is done with a left hand and the broad sweeps with a right hand, but it's the work of the same person.

I think we'll see more ambidextrous people as typing prevails over hand writing.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 20th, 2008 12:26 am (UTC)
I've always used scissors the wrong way up. I found it more comfortable as a child and still do.
I tend to grab them for whatever task is necessary, and get very surprised when they won't cut-- because I'm using the left hand.

I use my right for the detail work, unless there's no choice or the left is in better position. There's a task I run into at work about once a year that I can only do with the screwdriver in the left hand-- it doesn't work out the other way.

They've worked out that fiddly bits on his art is done with a left hand and the broad sweeps with a right hand, but it's the work of the same person.
I'm surprised that he didn't just do it all left-handed, given the nature of his work! I have always thought that his "mirror writing" made more sense though-- it's so much easier to write left-handed if all the letters are backward, so that you're pulling across the page rather than pushing.

I think we'll see more ambidextrous people as typing prevails over hand writing.
That seems to increase it hugely. It really strengthens both hands, and both get about equal workouts.