Left-handed eating taboos
One of the biggest thrills for me this past week, regarding the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, was not his closing of Guantanamo Bay (we hope that’s happening) or the restriction on lobbying in Washington (ditto) or national health care in the U.S (ditto), or the very fact that an African-American - heck, any non-white - individual was now the Leader Of The Free World. It was the discovery that President Obama is a lefty.
(Photo by scriptingnews)
Apparently this is not that unusual - five out of the seven previous U.S. Presidents have been left-handed (the rogue righties being Carter and Bush the Younger). As a lefty myself though, I felt a special kinship with the new President when I saw him signing a document in that typical crooked-wrist aiming-from-the-top way we have.
Something said in the comments for the previous Chopstick Etiquette post reminded me of the fact that, while I am a natural lefty and do things with my left hand most of the time, I use my chopsticks in my right hand. This is not a natural thing - when I was little, correcting the handedness of kids was a done thing, especially when it came to chopsticks. I still remember my grandfather (who was a rather imperious figure when he was healthy) complaining that my lefthanded chopstick use was 見苦しい (migurushii) - unpleasant to behold. The implication was that my mother wasn’t teaching me correct manners (躾 shitsuke, which means to discipline or teach manners). So now I do use my chopsticks in my right hand - indeed, I can’t use chopsticks in my natural left hand at all.
The Washington Post article also mentions that Mr. Obama “uses his right hand for certain tasks, including hand-to-mouth (eating a sandwich or pizza)”, connecting it with the fact that in Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent some years while growing up, touching certain things with your left hand is still considered quite rude.
Nowadays, left-handed children are no longer routinely disciplined to use chopsticks in their right hands, but the idea that it’s somehow rude or migurushii to do so still persists to an extent. On this page from Yahoo! Japan, the person says that while s/he doesn’t think anything of left-handed chopstick users, her friend thinks it’s a sign that “the person was not brought up properly”.
One good thing that came out of my early other-handed training: I can knit ambidexterously, so I don’t have to flip my piece over. I can always look at the front while I’m knitting! Other than that though, I don’t see any good out of my forced training. I still can’t really use chopsticks correctly, whichever hand I use. Maybe I should try to practice some with my left hand.
Now, I wonder which hand President Obama uses for chopsticks…did his white mother or grandmother try to change him while he was growing up in Hawai’i?
What kind of left-handed prohibitions exist in your culture?