Living on the left side


Yes, I’m a “lefty” — and proud of it! While left-handed people comprise only ten percent of the population, my family was mostly left-handers: me, my father and my two brothers. Some people, however, just don’t understand what it’s like living left-handed in a right-handed world.

If you’re a “south paw” like me, you know that living in a world designed for right-handers can sometimes be difficult. Opening doors, writing in spiral notebooks, using a can opener, scissors or a computer mouse can be awkward and frustrating. As a writer, I can be identified by the black ink that perpetually stains my left hand, and I’m always vying for the seat at a restaurant where I’m not sitting on the wrong side of a right-handed person.

Beyond mere inconvenience, some left-handers are faced with the majority’s perception that left-side dominance is somehow inferior or a handicap. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Shelton, was one of those people. As we worked on our writing assignments, Mrs. Shelton would walk around the room, and every day she would stop at my desk and tap me on the head with her long, brightly-polished red fingernail. She would take the pencil from my left hand and put it in my right hand. She did that until my mother found out and immediately set her straight — I was a lefty and no one was going to try to change it.

The bias against left-handedness reaches back to antiquity. In The Bible, to be on the right side meant favor while the left indicated disfavor. Later, Roman soothsayers considered anything to the left unlucky or an ill omen. Even the Latin word for left, sinister, today refers to something evil or ominous. When the custom of shaking hands arose in the medieval age, it was always done with the right hand (i.e. the sword hand) to show that you were unarmed. A left-handed person was therefore suspicious because they could shake hands and still hold their weapon.

Obviously, many of these biases have faded in the modern age, and today there is a special holiday for those of us in the minority. International Left-Handers Day is August 13, an annual celebration for those lucky enough to have been born left-handed that helps raise awareness among the right-handed population of the different talents and needs of left-handers, particularly children.

I don’t know if this is common with other sinistral people, but I don’t do everything with my left hand. I write and eat using my left hand, yet I use my right when I bowl and play golf. I can use either hand to apply makeup, but brush my teeth with my right hand. Just for fun, I took an online test just to see how left-handed I really am. I scored 70 on a scale of 1-100, placing me in the Mainly Left-Handed category. I don’t know if this scale of hand dominance is scientific at all; I think perhaps environmental forces (such as Mrs. Shelton and the dearth of left-handed scissors) have influenced which hand I use for different activities.

To all my fellow lefties out there, here is my final thought, a quote by an author unknown: “The right half of the brain controls the left half of the body. This means that only left-handed people are in their right mind!” ♦


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