Why I Decided To Use My Right Hand

As I walked majestically to my fiancé on our engagement day, in the eyes of the crowd that gathered to watch our engagement, I could feel the angry eyes of my Aunty, Jolade, on my body. I knew the agitation of my mother. My father didn’t really care. Even if my husband’s family weren’t from Yoruba tribe, our culture was ingrained in them. So, I assumed they also had the fear that was sprouting in the mind of my friends, family, and acquaintances. They all knew me to be stubborn, and that I would never conform to their ways: everybody wanted me to present the glass of wine to my fiancé with my right hand as the culture demands, but I was a left-handed person and I wasn’t ready to be like anyone.
Looking around, I didn’t remember the hardship or the perceived recession. The only thing that rang at the back of my mind was our culture, religion and how everyone wanted us to conform to their lifestyle. Different people had different things they had to conform to. Mine was as regarding my hand, the left one to be precise. I regularly encountered trouble because of it.
The day I could still remember vividly was the day I was staring into the angry eyes of Mrs. Ajanaku. I had presented the gift I bought for her with my left hand, but she had refused blatantly because I used my left hand. I was furious.
‘As your daughter-in-law to be, I should conform to your desires but this one, I can’t’, I said as I returned to my seat.
The woman glanced at her son, whose fear was glaring on his face, and then at me.’ Even if your parents didn’t instill proper home-training in you, can’t you train yourself?’
‘They trained me, mummy. If they didn’t, I won’t kneel to greet you’, I replied through clenched teeth as I glanced at Victor.
‘Kneeling isn’t a feature of having good characters’.
‘That’s your own ideology’.
‘Did they not train you not to talk when an elderly person is making corrections?’
‘I’m sorry ma’, I said as I rose, bent my knees courteously, stood straight and looked away.
‘I’m telling you that using your left hand is bad, and you’re telling me you can’t change it. Victor, did you bring a woman from overseas to me as your wife?’
‘Mummy, I’m a Nigerian and a Yoruba’, I said, flashing a fake smile.
The woman stared at me as if she didn’t trust that statement. ‘Then, why did you use your left hand to give me the things you bought for me? Apologize and change it to your right hand’.
I was mad at myself for being in this situation. I shouldn’t have loved Victor enough to follow him to his mother’s place.
‘I’m unapologetic about my hand. It took me a great trouble to conform in the kitchen, using that knife that was created for right-hand users. I’m a lefty and love to remain so’.
‘ Ah! Listen to yourself. Listen to the rubbish spilling out of the mouth of a child of the soil, Victor’, Mrs. Ajanaku lamented as she stormed to her room. When she got to the room door-frame, she turned and said, ‘you’ve not seen a wife. This lady is not cultured enough to be tamed as a wife. She’s wild and would revolt against our traditions. Your children would be alienated from us’.
I stared at the door Mrs. Ajanaku closed behind her. I turned and inhaled loudly. ‘Victor, you don’t have a mother’.
Victor shook his head repeatedly as he came nearer. ‘ I’m sorry’.
I picked my bag and grumbled, ‘you know I wouldn’t have come to meet your judgmental mother if not for the love I have for you’.
Victor pulled me towards the door, and when he had locked it, he whispered. ‘ That’s why you still have to beg her’.
‘ I can’t…Tell her I fought you. Look for another girl to pretend to be your girlfriend. I’m done’.
Victor exhaled and closed his eyes. ‘Ife, don’t do this. Baby girl, not now. I need this’.
I fiddled with my shoes, hoping to storm out of the house immediately I was done. However, when I saw the door, the only thing I was reminded of was how everything was made to stand against us. Even doorknobs weren’t made in our favor.
‘Tell her already. Tell her who you are. Tell her your orientation about life. Let her know your sexual orientation’.
‘And allow her go all emotional on me’, Victor whispered.
‘Let her go emoti…Oh! I forgot!’ I said, eyed him and marched off towards the gate. ‘Mummy’s baby. Her beacon of hope and joy’.
He ran after me and placed his well-trimmed fingers on my shoulder. ‘Help me’
‘Me? God of heaven forbid’.
‘You know it’s hard to find a pro-gay person again’.
‘Tell her…Stop being…’ I said and circled my hand around him. ‘Come out of this cage. Stop presenting yourself as someone that loves the ladies. Tell her you’re gay’.
Victor rushed to me and covered my mouth. ‘ Don’t say it loud’.
He glanced back. ‘ Let me drive you home’.
‘No. Don’t. I’m going to Church. I need a place to get your mother, and her troubles off my head’.
‘Please…’
‘I won’t help you again. I don’t understand what being gay means too- the feeling, the joy, and your aspiration. But it’s wrong for you to remain in your mother’s cage. Let her know.’
‘You don’t know her’.
‘Yes. I know you, not her’, I said as we walked past the gate.
‘My mother, that horrible woman, can decide to tell the police to arrest me because she thinks I’m not like others in the family’.
‘Bike’, I shouted and waved at a bike man, then turned to Victor. ‘ Baby, until you enjoy it, you’re deceiving yourself’.
‘I hate myself for being this. I’ve been dreaming of marriage since I could remember. Being the groom, being the head of the family. Now, I can’t even love a woman. The hope is dashed’.
‘Accept what you are. If you really need to change your sexual orientation, go for therapy, but don’t kill yourself’.
The bike man parked in front of me, and I haggled the price with him. After I gave the bike man the direction to my church, I dusted the top of the seat, and sat on it.
‘Tell her’, I told Victor.
‘Okay, baby girl. Take care. I’ll give you a call’.
‘K…’
The ride to the church was uneventful. I thought I was free from the trouble of the day. Fighting about my left hand was normally more than once a day. However, since I was going to Church, there was no way anybody would open my emotional wound about being different.
‘Here…’ I said as I pointed to the large Church.
The bike man stopped in front of my Church and I dropped wearily. This was my place of solace. I fished my wallet out of my bag, and gave the man his money.
‘I won’t collect this money’, the old man said, and I was brought back to reality.
‘Why won’t you?’
The money was good. I usually ensured that the naira notes with me were all impeccably neat, and that none of them was worn-out. So, you can imagine my surprise when he said he wasn’t collecting my money.
‘You can’t give me money with your left hand, and expect me to collect it. Left hand. Hand of poverty’.
I gulped, closed my eyes, and repeatedly shook my head as if the man was a figment of my imagination, and that shaking my head would make him disappear. But he was real and there he was with his bulky dusty sweater holding him in place.
‘Are you…Are you for real? My hand?’
‘Aunty, this hand. Not good. Not good at all. Use right hand. Give me money with right hand’, he grumbled, trying hard to explain to me in English.
‘Baba, take your money’.
‘I’ll not collect’.
At the same time, a member of my Church, Peace, was passing by. She stopped beside me, looking concerned. I was so happy that somebody was there to support me, someone who understood that the world had evolved, that such superstitious beliefs would only reduce our intelligence and emotional quotient.
‘Sister Ife, hope all is well?’
‘I gave him his transport fare, but he won’t collect it because… He said… Ah! He won’t collect the money because it’s my left hand’.
‘ Oh! Use your right hand and let peace reign’.
‘ Sister Peace, no. I can’t. This is the hand God gave me to use’.
‘But Paul said that if what you do makes others sin, then don’t’, Sister Peace said.
I was shocked. ‘Like seriously, Miss Peacemaker? Was he not the one who also said we should not be conformed to this world? Was he not the one that said we’re fearfully and wonderfully made? God gave me this hand’.
Peace gave her a wary smile and said, ‘just give him…’
I knew such emotional blackmail, and I wouldn’t succumb to it. I turned to the old bike rider. ‘Baba, I respect and honor you, but this is the hand God gave me, and I’m not a thief. So, I’ll drop your money on this bike. I know you’re not a ghost or anything evil, but since you don’t want to collect the money, it will be here for you to pick’.
I dropped the money, and marched into my place of solace. The man kept shouting, but I wasn’t concerned. He was even lucky that I dropped the money. On a normal day, with my level of anger, I would have thrown the money at him, but the Yorubas believe you only throw money at a ghost. So, to avoid a surge in the man’s banter, I had only dropped the money.
The service was to start in thirty minutes, but I loved going to Church early just to watch the instrumentalists play.
‘Hey, Ife’, one of them hailed as I headed to their corner. I brought out a nylon wrapper that contained sausage rolls. They hailed me the more. The only instrument I could really dabble into was the piano, and that was because the other ones were made for people that use right hand. The drum-set was set for right-hand users. The strings of the guitar were made for right-hand users. I would have to change the whole strings or the settings of the drum if I was to learn how to play it. However, most of the teachers of these instruments were right-hand users.
Even Christians have the effrontery to refer to us as outcasts. A very good example of such happened on the same day, during the service. When we got to the interactive session of the Bible study, the teacher asked nonchalantly, ‘how many of you here love God?’
Everybody raised their hands, including me.
‘Sister Ife’, she said, ‘you’re disrespecting God by raising your left hand’.
‘You too’, I said curtly. ‘God gave me this hand’.
‘But that’s the toilet’s hand’.
‘I use my right’.
Everyone in the church burst into laughter.
‘Don’t mind Sister Ife, she loves to joke around’.
The teacher went on with her teaching, unaware that she had touched a delicate matter, that she had opened my emotional wound. Every day, I always hoped someone wouldn’t open it, but they just always find a way to step on it or puncture it. But I knew that when I got home, things would be different. They respected my stand at home. Although it took them a long while, it was easy for me there. They had learned to tolerate me- that’s one thing about living with your nuclear family. But if you are unfortunate to have sudden visits from your extended family, especially the superstitious, judgmental ones, then as a left-hander, you would surely face the same wrath or problem I faced that night.
Upon getting home, I met Aunty Ireti waiting impatiently outside our little bungalow. No one seemed to be around to open the door for her.
‘Aunty mi,’, I gleefully welcomed her. We exchanged pleasantries, and talked all the way into the house.
‘Why didn’t Daddy tell me you were coming?’
‘Don’t mind Kunle, his big head is always fixed on his work. Those men, they always forget we women also have work to do’.
I rolled my eyes. Aunty Ireti was here again, whining about men, instead of just saying she wanted to talk about her husband. She and husband always had a reason to fight, and, most of those days, he would leave her with a black eye. Everyone had advised her to divorce her husband, but she was adamant, saying she couldn’t become a divorcee. The way the Yorubas or Nigerians looked at divorced women was enough to send such women to their early graves.
We talked off into the night until I felt it was time to talk about her.
‘Are you sleeping here?’ I asked as I hurried to check the food I was cooking for her because she had hinted that she hadn’t eaten all day. I cooked the quantity that would be enough for her since I would be eating snacks for dinner.
‘Yes. Jolade and Bidemi would be here tonight also’.
‘Seriously? Aunty Jola and Uncle Bidemi… What are they coming for?’
‘They said they want to discuss Maami’s birthday’.
‘But you people can do that over the phone’.
‘God would bless you. I know they want to talk to me about my marriage, and I’m prepared for them’.
I laughed and hurried to the kitchen to check the food. Aunty Ireti, despite being tired, joined me in the kitchen, and watched as I dished her food. She began to rant about how everyone was defacing her husband.
‘So what’s the plan?’ I asked.
‘Why will I tell you?’
‘Ah…Ahn… I’m your niece’.
‘No. It will shock you and do you like season film’.
Just then, Aunty Jolade knocked and entered. We had to stop talking about Aunty Ireti as we exchange pleasantries.
‘Do you have anything consumable at home?’
‘We have a wrap of sliced bread’, I said as I stood to get it for her.
‘See this one o. I don’t want bread again. I’ve been eating bread all day. Be a good girl and cook rice for me’.
‘Ah! Aunty Jola. I just finished cooking rice for Aunty Ireti’.
‘That’s her own’.
Despite being tired, I dragged myself to the kitchen to parboil rice for Aunty Jolade.
In order to while away time, we discussed at length. Our conversation bounced from one issue to the other, and the mood was good until I bought a plate of cooked rice for Aunty Jolade.
‘This is it, Aunty Jola’.
‘You’re spoilt. As old as you are. How old are you now? 26 or 28?’ Aunty Jolade scolded.
I was bemused. ‘Aunty, what did I do now?’
‘See the hand you’re using’.
Aunty Ireti stared at her sister for a while, and gave a prolonged hiss.
‘Aunty, not again. I use my left hand. It’s not a bad thing’.
‘Shut your trap. Firstly, it’s not culturally good. I’ve been on your case since your childhood; yet, your coconut head would not absorb simple corrections and instructions. Secondly, have you ever heard the parable of Jesus as regarding the judgment day?’
‘There are many of them. Which one are you talking about and what does that have to do with me?’
‘He said the goats will be the left-hand side of his father’.
‘The goats will be on the left? So, I’m a goat. I’m a goat because God gave me left hand. I’m a goat. The bible said in the book of Judges 3 verse 15 that Etud, Israel’s deliverer, was left-handed. I’m tired of you people that are hypocritical, judgmental, superstitious, ignorant and moribund’.
I turned towards the kitchen, and dropped the food on the table as I marched to my room.
‘Where are you going?’
‘Your food is in the kitchen’.
‘Left-hander…’ Aunty Jola after me and hissed.
‘Leave the girl alone’, Aunty Ireti said.
‘Don’t tell me to leave her. How won’t you tell me to leave her, when you’re her mentor? Simple things, you would stubbornly refuse to do’.
But I was unperturbed. I banged the door behind me, and plugged my earpiece into my ears. Nothing would make me return to the kitchen. That emotional blackmail wouldn’t work on me. I remembered when I was younger, it took my great stubbornness to overcome the way she and grandma tried to make me switch the use of my left hand to my right hand. Those days, they would suddenly come from nowhere to flog my hand while eating. I would scream in retaliation, but they never gave up and I never gave in.
So, as I marched towards my fiancé, I understood why many Nigerians conform to others’ way of life. I was in public, in front of everyone on the field, at my engagement with my fiancé. This was the right time to make everyone believe in what I stood for. Despite their fear of wagging tongues, they had accepted me for who I was, and they no longer cringed at the sight of my left hand. Therefore, when I got down on my knees, and presented the glass of wine to my fiancé, they were surprised when they saw me use my right hand. It was my way of saying ‘thank you’ to them for accepting me for who I was. It was my way of honoring and respecting my parents. Tomorrow, I would revert to my hand, but today, I will agree with them.



3 thoughts on “Why I Decided To Use My Right Hand” by Akintayo Akinjide (@Divepen)

  1. Beautiful work of literature. I enjoyed it.

  2. Why not just do it, for the sake of peace?
    What would you do if someone offered you money held between their clenched teeth simply because they don’t agree with hand offer? Ridiculous! Won’t you say? That’s just the same way some people feel when you use left. Please oblige, for peace sake.

    Well written story, brilliantly composed.
    Lengthy too tho with some unnecessary elongations.
    Keep writing!
    @Divepen

Leave a Reply