Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I Can't Tell My Right from My Left

At some point as a child, I discovered that I couldn't tell my right from my left - when all my friends could. I also became aware this was something "everyone" knew. Wow, something was really wrong with me. Of course, I did not admit this to a soul - that would be like announcing you were an idiot. So instead, I developed coping skills.

When I discovered this major deficiency, I was attending a Catholic school, although not a Catholic. My parents thought I was smart and wanted me to go to the best schools, which at the time were the Catholic schools. I certainly couldn't let my parents know I really wasn't smart since I couldn't even tell my right from my left. I couldn't let the school know, because they might have kicked me out - I thought you had to be Catholic or smart to go there. I just had to cover this up.

If there's one thing you learn well in a  Catholic school, it's how to make the sign of the cross. I discovered that I always made the sign of the cross with my right hand - without even thinking. Bingo! Thereafter, whenever I needed to differentiate right from left, I quickly made a sign of the cross. This led to the mistaken belief that I was very religious, since I was always making the sign of the cross at strange times.

Although this technique was a little weird, it covered up my disability. It worked quite well until junior high school, when I was given a ring, which I always wore on my right hand.  The ring served as a very good coping mechanism. It is a lot quicker and less noticeable than making the sign of the cross.

I lost that ring while swimming one time, and I was hysterical with grief. I was quite certain that my stupidity was now going to be exposed to the world. Fortunately, my parents quickly bought me a new ring - just to shut me up.

I kept up this charade until I was in college. I was taking a psychology course and discovered there were other people with my same problem. This was exciting! I found out that this condition is not related to intelligence at all - what a relief! It is far more common in women than men. It has to do with the way you make cognitive maps in your brain. People with this disorder tend to be more creative, are better at multitasking, and can more easily solve complex problems. Hey, this is pretty cool!

I decided to come out of the closet. I publicly admitted that I couldn't tell my right from my left. People looked at me very strangely - after all, I was an adult. But then I looked down my nose at them and told them about my superior skills. What fun! What I noticed is that people (mostly women) began coming up to me and admitting they had the same problem. They felt so much better when they learned the reason. We laughed with each other at the ways we had tried to hide this.

I notice now that lots of people admit to not being able to tell their right from their left, without the least embarrassment. But when I was young, no one admitted it. I feel like a trail blazer - bringing the directionally challenged out into the mainstream.

PS  At no time did I ever confuse right from left politically.


Elizabeth said...

Wow, that's an interesting post. I didn't know there was such an affliction. Thanks for enlightening us.

See you in Natchez soon!

Will be available for lunch on the 9th of March (hint hint). going to the pageant on the 10th, can't wait.

Gwen said...

Elizabeth, I'll be open for lunch on the 9th of March and posting on my calendar. So looking forward to your visit.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming in late to this post, but I just wanted to say, I do this, too! Maybe it's genetic? It's not a debilitating problem for me, but, as John knows, it can make it difficult to follow driving directions. I usually use the callous on the middle finger of my right hand (from holding a pencil) to keep my hands straight.