“Your parents let you use your left hand? They did not flog you? No child of mine will try it. I go beat am comot for em body. ”
“Wait O! Na that hand you go take cook for your husband?” “If I marry u eeeh, I will break that hand and tie it to your back!”
“Are any of your parents left -handed? No? Then who come take am resemble?”
“Them still they talk say you be Lawyer, u come they use left hand on top. This girl u sure say u wan marry?”
It is 2016 and when some people find out I am left handed, they look at me as if I am a creature from outer space or a hydra headed monster they have not come across before. There are those who like it and want me to teach them how to use theirs, there are those who admire it, there are those who want to marry me because of it. These people as few as they are, are not the problem.
The problem is that man, that woman, whom I think is enlightened and exposed and supposed to know better. It is that elderly man who sits next to me at a Restaurant and scolds me to use my right hand to eat my own food. It is that taxi driver who will refuse to collect his fare from my left hand even though it is physically impossible to reach him with my right. It is that woman who tells me I will not marry a “good” husband because all the eligible guys do not want wives who will cook their food with her left hand. The BIG problem is that Young person who treats left-handed people as second class citizens just because that is what he or she has seen others do. It is that young man who threatens to break the left hand of the girl he is dating. It is that young girl who walks in on her friend cooking and makes a nasty comment about how the food may not taste good because of the hand being used to prepare it.
Left-handed people are bullied, abused, threatened, and made fun of the world over because of their hands. There is no safe zone. It is the same treatment from Church to Mosque to School to Playground to wherever we go. The home is the headquarters of everything. From when we are babies and try to suck our left thumbs to when we begin to do homework and chores, we are put down, smacked, starved and scolded by our family members. It never stops. Even now in my twenties, some of my aunts and uncles still make snide comments when they come to visit. My mum still talks when I try to open canned tomatoes in the kitchen ( i do it counter-clockwise and the knife or tin cutter comes towards my hands and not away like they do for “right-handers”).
It took my leaving home and moving away from the constant criticism to build my self esteem to the level it is today. Being picked on from babyhood and told there is something wrong with you leaves scars no matter how thick skinned you think you are. In my case it was “na so her Mama people dey do” and not “who you take am resemble?”
It all boils down to the same thing – using the left hand was bad, was wrong , was rude, was disrespectful, was not supposed to be used by a woman and was not our culture. Ask any of these people what is bad, rude, disrespectful about using the left hand and they do not have any answer. They continue with the chant – “it is not our culture. ”
Some people have a worse time with their own struggle. One of my friends growing up is Ambilevous today because he was not allowed to use his left hand. Both hands are not well developed. His handwriting on any of his hands can best be described as “fowl-scratch”. His case can even be said to be not so serious because he is a man. Growing up left-handed as a girl in Nigeria is not easy. It is more difficult than being a Nigerian Coach for the Super Eagles when everyone is clamouring for a Foreign Coach.
As a child growing up and being introduced to the Internet, one of my first search terms was ”left-handed people”. The things I read blew me away. I learnt that the Arabic word for left-hand A’asar translates as loser. In German, it is linkisch and means awkward. Canhoto in Portugese means incapable. In Japan, being left-handed was a ground for divorce up to the 20th Century.
Well, I also found out that left-handers are more likely to be geniuses (Marie Currie, Aristotle, Albert Einstein, Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Michangelo). We are more creative (4 of the 5 original designers of the MAC computer are left-handed), we have higher IQs than our right-handed counterparts, We excel at multi-tasking (I can laugh at the joke in the book I am reading and still tell you your last statement verbatim). I realized that this discrimination is practiced all over the world and not just in Nigeria. It made the criticism easier to accept.
Now when people comment negatively on my use of left hand, I picture myself in a circle with Prof Charles Soludo, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopie Goldberg, Barack Obama, Marie Curie, Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar, Steve McQueen, Tony Blair, Queen Elizabeth and many other great people and I smile.
I have a Superpower you cannot take it away from me. I AM LEFT-HANDED!
(About the Author: Winnie wants to live in a safe world with books that come with chocolate and a force field around her journal that repels intruders. When she isn’t scribbling in a book, she’s reading one, whipping up treats, or blogging at http://waltzwithwinnie.blogspot.com )