The weirdest thing about me

Since we're talking about weird things, I thought a weird picture would be fitting. Credit: Designerpics.com 

Since we're talking about weird things, I thought a weird picture would be fitting. Credit: Designerpics.com 

I once read somewhere that as a blogger you should occasionally write a post where you share something very intimate or vulnerable about yourself. Apparently, it's a great way of connecting with your readers and allows you to mix things up a little with respect to the usual content.

However, when I thought about this, I didn't feel quite ready to share a hyper-dramatic episode of my life on this blog just yet. That said, I did want to write something quirky/vulnerable/honest about myself. After pondering this little existential dilemma of mine, I finally reached a reasonable compromise.

What is this compromise then? Well, I'm going to talk about what is probably the oddest thing about me: my amusing experiences with Radioulnar Synostosis.

 

No, I'm not going to die

Before I start, I feel like I have the moral obligation to calm down any family members or close friends of mine who might be reading this and thinking: "OOH DEAR GOD, RADIO-WHO-WHATOSIS?!" Come on, you really think that if I had a serious, life-threatening medical condition that I wouldn't tell you all first? Ooh ye of little faith... The reason you might not know about it is exactly because it's such a peculiar and random condition. Just keep reading and you'll be just fine. I promise it's funny.

 

What the heck are you talking about?

The best, and least fear-inducing, description that I could find of Radioulnar synostosis (or RS) comes from Dr. Charles Goldfarb at St Louis Childrens Hospital:

Radioulnar synostosis literally means a bony union between the two forearm bones... Some kids are born with a bony connection between the radius and ulna. When that happens, the bones are no longer separate and the ability to rotate the forearm is not present.
— Dr. Charles Goldfarb

Basically, the last nine words are all you needed to read, but I figured that a little context wouldn't hurt. All there is to this wacky condition is that I cannot rotate my forearm to make the palm of my hand face upwards. In my personal case, it only occurs in my left arm and I cannot rotate it palm-upwards (thank God, because if I couldn't rotate it palm-downwards my life would be a living hell). To make it crystal clear, I can get both my palms to face the ground but I can't get my left hand to rotate upwards. The first and the third pictures in this link might help with the visualization.

This is exactly why so few people know about this. Who on Earth ever looks at the way someone rotates his/her forearm? I would actually be more concerned if a person were to notice it because that would mean (s)he had a very disturbing attention to detail.

Nevertheless, you probably think that RS sounds pretty boring. It is indeed so until you start to think about the amusing ways in which it has impacted my life. Now we get to the fun part.

 

Trials and Tribulations

The list of funny things I cannot do and the awkward experiences that I've been through as a result of RS is by no means limited to the following list. However, I kept it to the most entertaining ones and the ones of which I have the most vivid memories.

 

Volleyball. Throwback to my PE classes in high school. The correct underarm technique for passing in volleyball requires both hands to be palm-up and crossed over each other, as the linked video shows. Alas, I cannot do that but my PE teacher, bless her, was very understanding and told me to do whatever was most comfortable for me. Suffice it to say that I was not a particularly good volleyball player which is a shame because it's actually a surprisingly fun sport to play.

Tennis: serve and backhands. This really sucks because I genuinely like tennis. Since I'm right-handed, I have to hold the tennis ball in my left to toss up for a serve. Since I can't adopt a palm-up position with my left though, serving becomes problematic. Furthermore, two-handed backhands aren't possible either because they also require a rotation of the wrist (note: I can just about cheat a one-handed backhand, but the technique is pretty awful). I suppose I could still play tennis at a really, really casual level but one thing is for sure: you're never gonna see me competing on the ATP Tour.

Awkward hugs are awkward. I wonder if any of the people that I've hugged in my lifetime ever noticed the weird position of my left hand during the hug. Since I cannot rotate that hand (sideways rotation is problematic for me as well) it means that the palm of the hand cannot rest flat on the person's back, as should 'normally' be the case. Basically, it becomes a 1.5 handed hug. To anyone reading that I may have hugged in the past, I wasn't trying to be a creep so please forgive me if I made you feel uncomfortable.

Awkward high-low fives (during football) are even more awkward. We all know the times when you go in to high-five a bro with two hands and then he wants you to bring out both your palms to do low-fives as well. Yeah, that sure has led to some awkward smiles in the past. On that note, similar awkwardness ensues when someone tries to demonstrate something to me: "So you hold your left hand out like this" *tries to turn my left hand palm-up to demonstrate, only to find it resisting and my shoulder awkwardly moving along/rotating instead* "Ooh, uhm, never mind..." *Awkward giggle from both parties*

Holding a fork and knife "the right way." As you know, the fork goes in the left and the knife goes in the right hand. Effective use of a fork, however, requires a palm-up position of your hand since you use it to scoop the food up towards your mouth. Moreover, a knife requires a palm-down position of the hand because you mostly use it to exert force down on the plate to (amongst other things) cut meat. Unfortunately, this just won't work for me. After trying to do it the right way and looking like a complete fool, I simply gave up and resorted to using the fork in my right hand and the knife in the left, much to the irritation of my mother. The remarkable thing is that she gives me so much stick for this and I'm like "Really? I am physically incapable of doing it the right way and you're gonna break my balls like that?" That said, I do wonder how many people that I've shared meals with actually noticed it and secretly looked down on me for my lack of table-manners/etiquette.

Carrying heavy objects. Probably the least funny one of them all because it's actually quite dangerous. During the times that I moved from one residence to the other and carried heavy objects like couches, cupboards, and tables, I couldn't always grip the object comfortably and/or perfectly. This unnatural grip meant that I probably put an unsafe amount of strain on my left wrist in addition to increasing the risk that I would drop what I was carrying. Thankfully, nothing catastrophic has happened to date but I generally try to avoid carrying heavy objects when possible.

Carrying trays at cafeterias. Lord knows how many times I've come inches away to dropping my plate and/or tray of food because I tried to scoop with one hand and uncomfortably grip my plate or tray of food with the other. There's a reason I always go last in line at buffets or cafeteria lines. And people thought I was being polite...

Guitar. One of my upcoming personal 'projects' is to learn to play (acoustic) guitar because I quite regret that I never learned to play an instrument as a kid. However, if you simply visualize how one generally holds a guitar, you probably already realize the problem that I face here: I simply cannot use a "normal" right-handed guitar (and I am right-handed). The only solution that I have is to use a left-handed guitar, which is certainly going to be a fascinating, and probably exciting challenge in itself. Nevertheless, I'm confident of overcoming this one but it's going to take a much greater effort than I had envisioned at the beginning. No pain, no gain I suppose.

Bicep curls at the gym. I have honestly used those bicep curl machines at the gym because I can't get rotate my left forearm/hand. Eh, I'm freakin ripped anyway. I'm joking; c'mon now, it's not that type of blog here.

Fingerprint readers at the airport. I don't know if this happens everywhere but I know that the times that I travel to America, the Border Patrol folks ask to scan the fingers of both my hands on one of those funky fingerprint scanners. No problem, I thought, until I got to the thumb of my left hand. Getting the complete surface area of my left thumb to lie flat on those scanners requires the slightest of rotations of my wrist, something that is obviously an issue for me. The problem is made worse because those scanners are usually on a slightly elevated level (shoulder-ish height), making the wrist-rotation issue even more problematic. On one particular trip, after a few attempts of awkwardly twisting my body to the left so that the scanner would read my thumb correctly, the damn thing kept giving error readings and the man behind the counter started throwing some very uncomfortable looks my way. Thankfully, on what was probably the fourth attempt, the scanner finally read my thumb correctly but who knows what sorts of unpleasant interrogations I would have been subjected to had those error readings continued...

Shrugging. I prefer shrugging like this (I can't believe I Google'd the word "shrug". Truly, the pinnacle of my intellectual career). The movement you do with your hands when you shrug like this unfortunately requires rotation of the wrist. Because of that, it always looks like I make some half-assed effort to shrug, which is just oh so ironic.

Italian hand gestures: "Ma che vuoi?". Throughout my life, I've spent a lot of time with Italians such that I've grown quite fond of them, their culture, and, most obviously, their football. Completely by accident, I've grown to really like their classic "Ma che vuoi?" or "wtf?" hand gesture, even though I think that many Italians often exaggerate and over-dramatize it. Alas, I can only perform this gesture with my right hand because, again, it requires rotation of the wrist to do it properly. I guess I'll never be a true Italian...

Saving the best for last: working as a waiter. Without a doubt, this is the most scarring one of them all. I actually deliberately avoided working as a waiter for years because of my condition. The problem is, I really did need the money that badly at the time (in the Netherlands) and had been rejected by so many other places that I had applied to that I finally had to give up and just take this job. When I first started it, we were taught during training that proper etiquette demands us to always to hold a tray in the palm of, yep, you guessed it, our left hands. I obviously couldn't do this so I had to very awkwardly explain how I had some odd condition that, at the time, I didn't even know the name of (in English, let alone in Dutch). Furthermore, it was a flex/contract job which meant that I had different supervisors for every gig... and thus often had to explain the annoying problem multiple times per week to different people. Thankfully, not all my supervisors cared/noticed so in that sense it could have been much worse.

Note: For any Dutch speakers reading, I worked for a “horecauitzendbureau”, which is a concept that I still find impossible to explain in English. Anyway, it was basically impossible to do any horeca job given my condition.

Ooh, the memories of my time at this job. Grabbing plates that were ready with food was an almighty challenge with my left hand, so I had to switch to using my right to do so (which was probably also a cardinal sin in the restaurant industry). The problem is that sometimes the chefs would hand me a full, hot plate of food and with all kinds of lovely sauces to my left hand, so I would have to awkwardly shift my body to accept it with my right... until I couldn't take any more plates with that hand so I had to gingerly run away before the chef tried to hand me more. Honestly, every workday was more of a puzzle-solving fest than solving the Enigma code. There are many more painful stories regarding my experiences with this job, but let's just leave it with this. Luckily, I only had to do it for a year because I went to Madrid for an exchange program and, thanks to a very close friend of mine, got a different job upon return. That said, the challenges that I faced and (kinda) solved while at this job did make me tough as frikkin nails.

 

That's all folks!

I have a few more funny experiences that resulted from my delightful adventures with RS, but they're quite, well, inappropriate for the purposes of this post. If you really are dying to know, get in touch with me personally by clicking the social feed buttons at the bottom of the page (preferably a message via the Facebook page). Also, let me know what you think about this unusual blog post in the comments section!

Finally, if you happen to know anybody else with RS, please send him/her my way; in my 24 years of life on this planet, I have never met another human being that also has this condition, so it would be entertaining to share some stories about this.

See you, Space Cowboy.