Not a narcissistic outsider

I have an unusual habit. At work, whenever I finish using the computer, I would move the mouse from the left, to the right hand side. Most of the time I would remember this left-to-right move. I’m conscious about moving the mouse to the right because I’m aware that most users in the office are right handed.

Sometimes some colleagues would joke about the mouse being in the wrong place. “Janet was sitting there earlier.” We would joke about life being miserable because I forgot to move the mouse to the right, or the horror when they found two mice were placed next to each other, and they grabbed the wrong mouse for their computer. I have wonderful, supportive colleagues and we often joke about trivial matters like this.

In the glorious left-handed world

Once in a college, I was in a modern computer room full of sleek iMac computers. I was excited but all the computer mice had extremely short cords, and they were all positioned to the right. The technicians had also secured the cords so that students could not mess about with the cords. Their decision meant that I could not use the computer efficiently because I could not move the mouse to the left, and with my right hand, I could not click the mouse correctly and easily.

Anything Left-handed London Shop

Anything Left-handed London Shop (now only an online shop)

As a left-hander, I grew up using tools designed for the majority competently. I never had a problem using the scissors. I believed I had trained myself to grip the scissors tight enough that the blades would bite. However, in the old days, I could never work a peeler and a tin opener. My left hand just couldn’t control the blade of a peeler and the twisting motion of a tin opener.

I only learnt about the existence of left-handed tools 15 years ago when I was in London. The idea of a dedicated left-handed world was so refreshing that I even visited Anything Left-Handed London shop in Soho, London. I was mesmerised. Pens, scissors, knives, sharpers, and many tools were specifically designed for the left-handers. There were books on the pride of being left-handers and humorous slogans too.

I saw a left-handed clock for the first time. However, I do not understand the point of having a left-handed clock, where the numbers 1 – 12 run on an anti-clockwise hand motion. Is a left-handed clock a gimmick or a necessity? Has there been any proof that a left-handed clock enhances a left-hander’s ability to read the time? Or, is a quirky and ‘different’ clock a fashion statement for a left-hander?

When nothing goes right, go left -- a sign

Go left

As a left-hander, life can be a little bit inconvenient, but most of time, I am very comfortable. I don’t expect the world to change for my left-handed ‘needs’. Recently I’ve been given some expensive left-handed scissors, but I feel frustrated as I don’t know how to use them. They feel like fake scissors as they don’t cut. Surely left-handed scissors are designed for me? No. I’ve adapted into the right-handed world that I’ve lost my natural ability to cut using left-handed scissors.

Some people are convinced that left-handers are more artistic or intelligent, and that many famous world leaders are left-handers, but I feel it is important not to fall into the narcissistic trap of self-indulgence. Being a left-hander is not a gift. It is nothing to be proud of nor to be ashamed of, because it is just a fact of life. I do not derive joy from mocking the right handers, or wearing a T-shirt spotting “Of course there are more right-handers than left-handers. You need to make many rough drafts before the masterpiece!” or “I may be left-handed but I’m always right!”

Why is understanding our differences important?

What is Uncanny Valley?

For many years, I avoid certain animated films. The root of my aversion started in 1996, as I was petrified by one particular scene in the animated film, Toy Story. The animated naughty boy in the film personified evil and his acts of dismantling toys with evil eyes filled me with revulsion. In later years, glimpses of modern animated films, such as The Incredibles, Shrek, The Polar Express, and the latest half-animated Alice in Wonderland, would trigger my similar repugnant reactions. The facial features in those images simply terrify me and I would recoil.

You may wonder why I was frightened by these animations. I was puzzled too. I had enjoyed watching old-fashioned hand-drawn cartoons, and my favourite cartoon is Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’ve never taken my son to the cinema to see these ‘children-friendly’ films, and friends think I have missed out on ‘great’ animations that everyone ‘must’ watch with their children. I must admit I used to feel so out of place when friends regale me with their happy family bonding over animations in the cinema.

One day, my husband showed me a brilliant explanation on my phobia of modern animations. He explained to me the scientific theory of my repugnance for those images – Uncanny valley.

According to the Wikipedia,

“The Uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers….The “valley” refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as subjects move toward a healthy, natural human likeness described in a function of a subject’s aesthetic acceptability.”

Source: Wikipedia: Uncanny valley

It was such a huge relief to understand my phobia and my aversion to these films: my brain actually could not process certain motion capture images. Though I have never watched these popular films with my son, he has watched them with other friends’ mothers, or sometimes with his father, or at school.

With this understanding, I know that I don’t have to feel guilty about not watching these high-profile films with my son. We have different worlds and different tastes in films. I don’t have to follow the norm. Parenting doesn’t mean cuddling over animations. My son has also learnt about my phobia and he would screen films for me: “Mum, this film has uncanny valley and I don’t think you’ll like it.” He understands me better now and he often looks out for films that I may like. This shows how much he cares.

This post was inspired by Blog Exercises: The Outsider by Lorelle VanFossen. You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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18 thoughts on “Not a narcissistic outsider

  1. Lorelle VanFossen

    There are lots of Jewish Clock jokes about the clock moving from right to left instead of left to right, but their clocks move clockwise, it’s just the numbers are letters as Hebrew uses letters to represent numbers like A = 1, B = 2.
    In the ancient world, when carving words into plants and stone arose, the chisel was held with the left to do the careful cutting. The right swung the hammer. This allowed the writer to see what they were writing, and why some of the earliest languages were right to left.
    One of these days you have got to get pictures and tell the story behind that left-handed shop. That’s wonderful!
    You are right. Who cares. Left, right, ambi, it’s a hand. Use it. I hate that we live in a world that labels and forces people to do something that is uncomfortable when it’s natural to use either hand. Why focus on one? I used to practice with my left just for something to do. I thought it would come in handy. I was a kid. What did I know. I can read upside down for the very same reason. Just because I thought it would come in handy, and it has.
    I love the Uncanny Valley. That’s wonderful.
    It took me years to watch animated films. I still push back when the suggestion is made. I didn’t grow up with cartoons, and I judged them as well. I’m working harder to widen my horizons and not be so judgmental, but somedays…I want to live in a cave away from all of this. LOL!
    Wonderful. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Lorelle, thank you for providing the fascinating historical facts.

      I don’t watch animated films now. I watched Mulan years ago and was mortified that all the historical facts were wrong. Like you, I’m a bit too critical, and a bit too cynical sometimes, so I don’t easily find watching films enjoyable.

      Reply
  2. chennicole2013

    Unlike you, Janet, I enjoy animation. Cartoons draw our attention to human and animal characteristics by exaggerating and simplifying movements and facial expressions. Like all art, animation focuses our attention on things that have become so commonplace we almost stop seeing them. I can see how it might be upsetting, though. The animation has become so realistic.

    Reply
    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Nicki,

      Indeed, I agree with you that animations have a lot of educational values. I love old-fashioned cartoons. I watched some Japanese animations as a child, and they are easier to understand, and the images were colourful and friendly. They bring me sweet memories.

      I found modern animations difficult to follow and I do not enjoy animated images that try to imitate reality. These images look creepy to me.

      Reply
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