My dad is a left-hander as was my maternal grandfather. My father managed to emerge from schooling with his left-handedness intact, while my grandfather was forced by his teachers to become ambidextrous (which was back in the 20s and 30s). The silver lining to his cloud was that he wrote beautifully – with both hands. I never heard either of them complain about being lefties, though, or the difficulty of being a lefty in a righty world. I do remember in school how there was always the one kid who was a lefty and had to fight with the other lefty kid for the lefty desk. I was firmly a righty since I first picked up a pen (apparently at the bank with my father and to this day, I still hold a pen the same way I did the first time), so I did not appreciate the difficulties that one might encounter being a left-handed person in a right-handed world.
But, this article the other day in The Washington Post got me thinking about the parallels between infertiles living in a fertile world and lefties in a righty world. The article was about how the next president of the United States, whomever he should be, will be a lefty, and that lefties have been overwhelmingly represented in that highest office despite their minority status. This line in particular got me thinking:
“Forced to ‘adjust to a right-handed world, [left-handers’ feel more marginal,’ Howard Gardner, professor of cogniition and education at Harvard, suggests in an e-mail. ‘Marginality has its costs, but it typically allows you to see the world different from other people,’ he explains, ‘and that can be a strength.'”
There is no doubt that you become a stronger person when you have had to deal with any major life tragedy or issue, be it cancer, divorce, whatever. But, while infertiles feel that same marginalization as southpaws, we probably have a harder time getting used to it since we were not born that way. Very few women or men grow up knowing that they will not be able to reproduce. Most of us don’t even find out until we are well into our journey to have a child, at which point it is devastating news. Kids who are born left-handed learn from an early age what it is to be a minority in that respect and most learn some type of coping mechanism. Indeed, there is a sense of pride of a lefty who manages to function in a righty world. Us infertiles, on the other hand, rarely feel pride at being infertile. It is most certainly not a badge of honor and in no way is something that we want to either advertise or glorify.
But, the marginalization is the same. That feeling that you are not like everyone else. That you are the one who is not like the others. And for as wonderful as diversity is, I’d just as soon be different for other reasons.