May 18, 2005

One Thing About Me, In Ten Parts

1. I was completely ambidextrous as a child – could do anything equally well with either hand, including writing (printing). I’d start writing with my right hand, switch to the left when I got tired.

2. When we learned cursive in third grade, my parents and teachers told me I needed to choose which hand to write with. I chose righty. In baseball, I throw righty and bat lefty, but could easily switch with a little practice.

3. My father was lefty, my mother righty. I assume this was at the root of my ambidextrousness.

4. In addition, my father and mother argued incessantly throughout my childhood, tugging me incessantly back and forth. I believe that my innate ambidextrousness, plus environmental factors, created my ability to empathize with all points of view and my characteristic refusal to choose a side.

5. Being ambidextrous but having poor spatial sense combines for some minor, comical weirdnesses. Learning the tai chi form, which is righty, I privately taught myself to do it lefty as well, as feat that awed my classmates. On the other hand (pun?), I can’t tie a tie if I’m looking in the mirror – have to look down directly at the tie. In other words I neither know nor care what hand I’m using for what. Fortunately I almost never wear a tie.

6. As an adult I’ve tried to maintain my ambidextrousness by switching things to the other side periodically: putting my mouse on the left side of my computer, switching my wallet to my right-hand pocket and my keys to the left.

7. I’ve wondered whether ambidextrousness helps me artistically by keeping both sides of my brain active and connected. My sense is that my creative and critical faculties are well balanced and that I’m as intuitive and emotional as I am logical.

8. I’ve tried writing fiction lefty on occasion to see whether the results were any different. In the old days, this meant writing by hand with the left hand; nowadays it means keeping the mouse on the left. For a long time I could find no difference. However, a couple of years ago I went through a period of intense inspiration and drafted a novel in a few months which I thought would be the bestseller I’d been waiting for. It turned out to be a mirage: the inspiration was commercial rather than literary, the book had a high–concept premise that blinded me to many important drawbacks. I had consciously, and wrongheadedly, suspended my critical faculty – and had written it with the mouse on the left.

9. I think all this has something to do, too, with the fact that many of my primary interests are ones traditionally considered female, and that I enjoy female writers as much as male ones, female friends as much as male ones, and that I feel equally able to create both kinds of characters.

10. I think it may also be related to the complexity of my moods. Managing them gave me a lot of trouble until I realized something that cancelled out the whole equation: I am always happy and always sad.