Left and Wrong.

I’m not sure whether my Mom exposed herself to too much Aqua Net or drank too much Tab Cola, but I was born with a defect: I have never been able to tell my left from my right.

But before you begin to question my intelligence, I have a great sense of direction – I can tell you where every store is located in any mall that I’ve ever been to.  I can even tell you whether I’m looking North, South, East, or West at any given moment, but tie my hands behind my back and ask me whether you’re on my right or my left, then prepare yourself for much laughter and scoffing at my disability.

Although Noah’s fate is not yet known, Ali did not inherit my disability.  I don’t know who taught her right and left (I was too afraid to attempt such because I’d probably get it backwards and ruin her life forever), but she’s been correcting my errors for years.

When I have a need to be accurate, my rings are my cheat sheet.

If you ask me for directions, you have to be quick, but you’ll catch me casting a stealthy glance down to my hands to see which one houses my wedding rings.  Or if I’m feeling really self-conscious, I might just feel both of my ring fingers with my thumb.

(I know, I know, I’m supposed to do that “stick your thumb out and create an L” thing, but then I’d probably get confused then about which way an L was supposed to be written, because I’m illiterate like that.)

So the real complications happen when I need to take off my rings.

Like last week, when making hamburger patties.

I prefer my rings free of raw ground cow guts (RGCG), so to form our hamburgers, I took my rings off and set them on the table.  I molded the RGCG, washed my hands, and then went to put my rings back on.

I have three rings: my engagement ring, my wedding ring, and my Mommy Ring with kid’s birthstones, which Chris created on my favorite-ever jewelry site, Gemvara, in January for my Jug Present*.


*Jug Present: my husband’s creation of the sequel to a Push Present (or, in my case, a Cut-You-Open-From-Side-To-Side Present), which is to be received upon the closing of the breastfeeding era.

I stared at my pile of rings for a minute, trying to remember to which hand each belonged.  But then the hamburgers needed my attention, so I quickly guessed and got back to work.

One day later, I was offering technical support to another Vault rep for our computer program.

“You should see so-and-so on the left side of the screen, and such-and-such on the right.”

“No, nothing is showing up on the right side of the screen, and such-and-such is showing up on the left.”

I double checked my hands to ensure that I’d told her correctly.  Yes, yes I had.

“Well, clearly something isn’t right – you need to call technical support and get that fixed up.”

Another day later, I happened to look down at my hands.

And noticed that they didn’t look quite right.

Were my right and left backwards?  Yes, yes – I think they were.  But how to know for sure?

I put my rings on the opposite hands.

No, that didn’t quite look right either.

I swapped them again.  And stared.

I swapped them again.  And stared some more.

I tried to remember how I used to know my left from my right in my pre-marriage days.

Ah! Yes, my scar from breaking my arm in the seventh grade.

But then I had to remember more.  Was the arm I broke my left arm or my right arm?  And why is this so complicated?? And why can’t I just be normal??  Real people don’t have to do these things.

Let’s see….I’m left-handed…and I could still write when I had a broken arm…so it had to have been my right hand.

I put my rings on with the visual aid of my scars – there, that must be correct.

And then I tried to remember which they originally were…and wasn’t quite sure.  Had I been right or wrong for two days?  To how many people had I issued erroneous directions?

Who knows.

But at least they’re right for now.


Leave your comment below!


  1. So if you know you’re left-handed could you just think of writing something to figure out which is your left?

    • That’s what I do!

    • Just what I was going to say. Or at least in this case – pick up a pencil and see which hand you reach for it with. :) Unless you’ve gotten yourself so self-consious that that feels strange, it which have Ali help you under the guise of a homeschooling lesson on mirror images or something. :) (Ok, which is your left hand? Now which is my left hand? (slip rings on) Now, see how when we stand facing each other, your left hand is on my right side? Now lets look in the mirror – which hand would your reflection’s left hand be?)

    • Nope. Doesn’t work. I have a momentary lapse in remembering which hand I write with – no lie.

  2. TOO FUNNY! I feel the same way. I sucked my left thumb until I was about 7 years old. I was too old for that, I know… but it was always wrinkled up from sucking, and as a child it was the only way I knew left from right. To this day, I still have to think about the thumb I sucked to determine left from right! But I promise I don’t suck it anymore. :)

  3. Laura Gallitz says:

    When giving directions from the co-pilot seat, I always point and say, “Go that way.” I know the difference, but it takes me a minute. I love the idea of a jug present!

  4. I also have to think about it quite long and when driving, I do it like Laura and point. But I’m also known to say things like “right – no – left – nooo – aah you know what I mean!” and the person I’m talking to has to figure it out! ;-) Maybe it will get better when I’m married next year and wear my wedding ring (engagement rings are not usual here), but then, I’ll never be able to take it off or I’ll end up just like you! :-)

  5. You crack me up! I have a girlfriend who always had to use the “righty-tighty, lefty-loosy” phrase to remember clockwise and counter-clockwise (similar to your dilemma) and my husband gets confused between his left and right. I often say, “No, your OTHER right.”

  6. Too funny! I get that way with directions sometimes, especially if they are facing the opposite direction.

  7. I think more people than will admit it have this problem. I, unfortunely, have this problem along with a terrible sense of direction.

    I love your Jug ring. What a beautiful design. I pushed and nursed four babies and have yet to receive jewelry for any of it. Hmmm, is it too late for a raincheck?

  8. Sue Anne Reed says:

    Has no one ever told you about the “L” trick?

    Hold up both hands and shape your thumb and forefinger into an “L”. On your left hand, the L is correct and on the right hand the L is backwards.

    • polymathamy says:

      That only works if you remember whether to face your palms toward you or away from you, which is probably also a problem for those who mix up right and left ;)

  9. I can tell my left and right apart, but I can get lost walking out the front door of my house!!! Mapquest is my bestest friend…it tells me step by step by step how to get places. Most people complain about the getting out of your neighborhood part, but not this girl!

  10. you are too funny! now it outta go easier on my kids when they have trouble remembering. i never have, so you’ve taught me a great deal! how crazy!

  11. I feel like I just read a post about myself. My husband makes fun of me ALL the time because I suck at left and right. I was able to give my grandparents directions to our house from the airport when I was five though. Isn’t that weird? I always use my rings or pretend i’m writing something to orient myself, i’m left handed too…maybe that’s it? Ha!

  12. I struggle with this, too. It’s a solid 5 second thought process for me to figure out my left and right. I have a theory that this disability is shared in varying degrees by all left-handed of the world.

  13. Dyscalcula (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyscalculia) perhaps? But makes me wonder how in the world you could be an accountant :)

  14. Every time I do the “L” finger thing I fear momentary dyslexia too!

  15. Oh wow, I can totally relate! The bizarre thing is, I instinctively know which is left, but I have to think about where right is (should be easy, right? It’s the one that’s not left!). Even odder, I’m right-handed so I should know…

  16. I’m guessing you weren’t in marching band. You would have been the one marching off by yourself!

    Poor thing!

  17. plantingoaks says:

    Is your right-hand-ring on the ring finger too? I have a ring on my right middle finger, and when my hands swelled when I was pregnant I shuffled around what fingers I wore things on to find a place that fit and it felt INCREDIBLY WRONG like a terrible nagging sensation that there were things on my hands that shouldn’t be there at the same time as having things missing. So maybe that’s an idea, though the comments here have some very clever ones as well that don’t involve getting you ring resized or putting yourself through psychological finger-torture.

  18. I know this was about left/right, but it was the Jug Present that really caught my attention. I need one of those as I just closed up shop about 2 months ago. I need to let my husband know about this!

  19. Hilarious! I did the ring cheat in high school during marching band so I wouldn’t turn the wrong way during practice. I only wore a ring on my left hand, so it was quick to figure out.

  20. I am the exact same way! Can’t tell left from right and can’t use the L trick because I can’t remember which way it goes. Thankfully my left hand is a tiny bit smaller than my right so my ring feels tight if I have it on the wrong hand :)

  21. lolol! Oh my gosh, Rachel! I was laughing all the way through this. Not AT you….but WITH you. (had to make that perfectly clear…) lol! You are such an entertaining writer, girl! :) Glad to hear that you MIGHT have it figured out…. hehehe!

    xoxo laurie

  22. I was going to say that it must be an accountant thing because I do the same thing, but after reading all the comments I think it might just be a WOMAN thing! :) I can’t give directions to save my life. I don’t even do it anymore because I will always get confused and say the wrong direction. I can, however, explain debits and credits to someone without giving it a second thought and throw in a T account for good measure, but don’t ask me how to get to my house!

  23. Hahaha! That is great- we all have those things that just don’t seem to click. I am a high school secretary and still sing the “ABC” song to alphabetize. I still get it wrong. Thank goodness for computers and the “Sort A-Z” button!

  24. Do you get migraines? My neurologist said this is common among migraine sufferers. They don’t know why, but supposedly r/l is stored in the same part of the brain or something. I should know, I get migraines and don’t know my left from my right. My trick? I have a scar on my right wrist and wear my watch on my left. Also your heart is on the right so if you can feel your heartbeat? That’s your right side! You are so not alon

    • Interesting! No, I don’t get headaches often, let alone migraines. Which is good, because I am a total wuss when it comes to head pain.

  25. Wow, and I thought I was bad at left and right! I just make the L and usually that takes care of it for me. I am constantly giving bad directions though because I accidentally say the wrong way. I’m not good at N S E W either so that doesn’t help.

    P.S. LOVE your Mother’s ring!!! I told T when we are done having kids I NEED one of those! :)

  26. Do you want to laugh even harder? I totally blew it in my last comment! Your heart is on your LEFT!!! OMG, I was at the doc for an EKG yesterday and the tech was setting it all up and I was all confused b/c he was putting the leeds all on my left. Then I realized it was b/c that’s WHERE MY HEART WAS!!! Then I felt like a dumbass for posting on here, in PUBLIC that it’s on your right. Because as I was writing my last post I was looking at my ringless hands feeling my heartbeat and I DONT KNOW MY LEFT FROM MY RIGHT! This happens to me ALL THE TIME. Oh, and I’m in nursing school so I should totally know better!

  27. Rightie who can’t tell her left from her right. Crazy part, Andrew has already gotten it. He knew about 2 and 1/2 which was which. He must get it from his daddy.

    The permanent ink on my left wrist keeps me turning the right way.

  28. I just found your blog via one of your jeans posts and had to comment even though this is an older post. I totally do this too, but I do the L for left thing. I think it has something to do with being left-handed, though not sure why. My FIL also has left/right troubles and is a lefty.

  29. *mwah*! Thank you so much for writing about this. I have never talked with real people who don’t know the difference, and now here are lots of those people!

    I use a slow process to figure out which is left, but I get it right most of the time.
    1. Which hand do I write with?
    2. “imagines holding a pen”
    3. Aha! It’s this one.
    4. The item I’m to look for is on the right side.
    5. That is opposite of left so it must be over here somewhere.
    But by the time I’ve deduced “right”, the people around me have moved on.

    Do you get lost with “my left” vs “your left”? Those are panic-worthy phrases.

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