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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Live and left live

It has recently come to light in my own head that I am way more controlling and a super tight ass than I have let myself believe. In my head I am pretty laid back, non-judgmental, open-minded, yada, yada, yada.

Since becoming a mother, I have been so intent on ensuring a happy and carefree childhood for Annika I have taken over the job of controlling everything around her and forgotten that I am not the only parent here.

Last week Toyin and I began having this same old argument we've been having on and off for some months. I don't even remember when it started. But a while after Annika was born Toyin mentioned something about how he hoped Annika would be right-handed. Not only did he hope this, but he intended to go about "encouraging" her to be right-handed because in some cultures, specifically Nigerian culture, left-handededness is seen as a negative trait.

Now, I am left-handed, a huge minority in the world, to be left-handed, and even more of a minority to be a left-handed female.

Toyin is right-handed.

It pissed me off royally that Toyin would try to sway her handedness. I worried that if he was successful she might have learning difficulties. And even more so, I guess there is a little part of me that hopes she will be left-handed because I think being a lefty is just the bees knees.

But Toyin's take on it is different. He says that we should encourage her to be right-handed because it could potentially ease some cultural divides. He says that Annika already has a lot of strikes against her being a Black woman and all, so we should try to ease the things that we can.

At first I tried to reason with him by telling him he was being stupid. He refused to see my point.

Then I tried to use reverse psychology on him.

The conversation went something like this.

Me: "So you want to sway Annika to be right-handed by trying to get her to use her right hand more?"

Him: "Yes, I'll encourage her. I'm not going to try to force it. But I've done some research on this. Handedness is mostly genetics, but it's partially environmental. I think that it would make life easier on her, especially in Nigerian culture since it is still seen as rude or bad luck to use the left hand. Did you know that in some cultures they will throw you out of their house if you try to shake hands using your left hand?"

Me: "Oh yeah? Well if you do that, I'm going to start straightening her hair! Maybe I'll even bleach her skin!"

Him: "You aren't going to do that. Be reasonable."

Me: "Go fuck yourself!"

After that particularly enlightening conversation I started doing some research, which mostly consisted of me reading the Wikipedia page on left-handedness.

Here's some of the information that struck me as the most interesting.

It is considered rude in Semitic cultures to shake with the left hand. In Muslim and Indian culture the left hand is traditionally used to clean oneself after defecating. In Christianity the left hand is used as a metaphor to shame society.

Language has tons of negative associations about the left hand.

The root of the word sinister originally meant left, but eventually was changed to mean evil.
Left is often used to describe awkwardness, example: two left feet. In Mandarin, left means improper.

The word ambidextrous comes from the root word, dexter, which, ironically, means right.

Then after I learned everything I never wanted to know about being left-handed, I started writing this blog, determined to find some sort of meaning in this potentially useless and time-consuming-waste-of-space argument.

It took me a couple of days, then I found the significance of this argument.

I started out by telling Toyin that he should just live and let live. Then I realized that I was not doing that.

I told him that he needed to leave it alone and let Annika be who she is going to be.

But as much as I'd like Annika to turn out to be a carbon copy of me and wonderfulness that is ME, she is not just my daughter. Toyin is her dad and that means he will have just as much influence on her life as I do.


1 comment:

  1. This entry is gold. I feel like I was there (in fact, I'm pretty sure I have been present for similar arguments).
    You two crazy kids!
    I hope Annika is equally good with both hands. And feet.


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