Journal entry: December 11, 1990 (age 21): Writing Like a Lefty Makes Righty Feel Wrongy
This morning, I looked up from a table in SUNY Oswego’s Penfield Library to see someone walking toward me with a smile. An urgent message flashed through my sleepy brain: “Alert – CUTE BLONDE from my abnormal psych class!” The demure beauty sat down next to me and softly said, “You’d be great for my psychology study.” Entire sections of my brain fell back into sleep mode as the revised message flashed past: “Cute blonde FROM MY ABNORMAL PSYCH CLASS.”
“Um, okay. Why is that?,” I asked. She explained that she was conducting research on the differences between right-brain and left-brain development. She was seeking some subjects who write with their right hand, and some that write with their left. She had also sought out and found a few left-handed subjects who “cross-over,” or turn their wrist inward so that their handwriting looks like that of a right-handed person.
Her eyes started to widen as she came to a point. “As I watched you take notes, I realized you were one of the rare people who crosses-over their right hand, making your handwriting look like a lefty’s!” She seemed really excited about her discovery, and looked at me as though I were an unusually gifted gibbon. “Oh, that’s interesting,” I mumbled. I felt a bit ambivalent. I had not been aware that I was a statistical outlier, or what scientists refer to as “a freak.”
Feeling very much the gorilla in her midst, I obligingly wrote out a writing sample on a form she provided. Then I answered a series of standardized questions with a No. 2 pencil she provided. As I waited in vain for her to provide, say, a banana, or a pat on the head, my pretty scientist folded up the questionnaire, thanked me for my time, and vanished into the stacks.
I was left to wonder how I had developed this curious instance of handedness. It made some logical sense that a lefty would try to emulate the penmanship of a righty, I reasoned. I remember my father telling me that the nuns at his elementary school had rapped his left hand with a ruler for producing backward-tilting cursive. But why would any human eschew the evolutionary benefits of being a right-hander, and “slum it” as a left-hander?
I thought back to the time when I was learning to write. That would have been around second grade. A-ha! That was also when I broke my right arm, leaving me in a cast for quite a long time. This would have forced me to switch to my left hand during those first, key lessons in penmanship. Once the cast was removed, and I switched back to my right hand, I must have crossed over to match the look of the letters I had just learned to write.
With that mystery solved, my mind turned to a much more momentous matter. How could I get other women to talk to me in the library? I turned my book upside down and intently stared at the gibberish as I walked backwards to the checkout counter.