What if left-handers are the normal ones — and righties look awkward? I mean, did you ever hear southpaws say with surprise “Wow, I didn’t know you were right-handed”?
Southpaws. Lefties. Scrammies. History wasn’t always kind to us left-handers. Seen as evil, sinister, we were even accused in the Middle Ages of being witches. Anything ‘left’ was never right. Salt was thrown over left shoulders because that’s where ghosts lurk. Getting out of bed on the ‘wrong side’ meant stepping out, left foot first. Greeks and Romans wore rings on their left hands to fend off evil spirits, which might seem weird since that’s also our wedding ring hand. The Incas thought left-handers had magical healing powers while Eskimos believed we were sorcerers. Schools came equipped with a good old wooden ruler, smacked against your hand in hopes that eventually you’d do the ‘right’ thing. (Not how I roll) The ‘Right’ hand of God. Your right hand man. Left handed was assigned to compliments and of course those darn clumsy feet.
Hellooooo. Left-handers are not extinct. In fact, we number 11% of the population, are twice as common in twins, and count for 20% of Mensa members. At least 4 of the last 7 US presidents have been left-handed, as well as luminaries like Mark Twain, Madame Curie, Nicola Tesla, Aristotle, Mozart, Napoleon and Mother Teresa. Right handed people were thought to be left brained, and left handed the opposite. Of recent years, that’s pretty much been proved a myth. It’s also been said that we left-handers use both sides of our brains in ‘unusual’ ways. Cool. That might explain my life! On the other hand, it’s also been suspected that we lefties have a higher risk for breast cancer, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s , allergies (thank you, ragweed) sleep problems, and early death. None that, of course, has been proven either but still, not the winning powerball ticket.
Red-haired people are thought to be rare, ‘unusual’, yet I have ginger daughter and two grandsons. We can’t trace the genetic heredity of their hair any more than we can find a reason for familial left-handedness. It just is. That being said, it doesn’t mean growing up southpaw is always a piece of cake. Things righties take for granted in everyday life can be inconvenient, painful, or even dangerous for southpaws. Scissors, spiral notebooks were definitely designed to torture. If tennis was your game, you figured out quickly the sport comes with only half the options than those of your right-handed counterparts. If crocheting is your jam, good luck finding left-handed directions for that next lopsided sweater. On the other hand, ever notice that all Star Wars Storm Troopers are lefties? Not sure what superpower that gives them but I’ll take it.
As an artist, how do you think charcoal, pencils or pastels went? Yup, about like that. I found out, late in the game that, instead of the scraps of paper I shoved under my hand to avoid inevitable smearing, there was an actual ‘bridge’ some clever artist invented. Still, it was amusing to hear people’s faux shock that I actually was capable of drawing altogether, as if being left handed painted me unable to do more than use a computer mouse. Though I’m hardly planting myself on the same planet of genius, I’m thinking Leonardo DaVinci managed pretty damn well as a left-hander, no? I could blame being left handed on having poor spatial judgement, however, since I’ve never able to park less than 5 feet from the curb, but it’s probably my bad.
We left-handers usually come in two flavors – curlers and non-curlers. (I’m a ‘non’, by the way). Curlers take their left-handedness uber seriously though we all had to be a little bit proud to watch Barack Obama writing with such curled flair. But the style of pen holding is less important than the right to write — in whatever hand you are born to. In early days, lefty kids were forced to convert to their opposite hand, making them more ‘like’ the right handed majority (sound familiar?) We know how well that worked out. Often, being forced against their natural leaning caused stuttering, dyslexia or lower self-esteem, which would seem totally reasonable if they internalized being ‘less’ than the rest.
Differences aren’t bad; they are just another part of a varied whole. Difference gives color, culture and reason to the world. We’ve grown up a little bit since the bad old days of thinking left-handedness was a handicap, something sinister, awkward, dishonest, or a sign of mental defection. That kind of judgement is about as ludicrous as judgement we levy on white or brown skin, gay or straight gender orientation. Yet, we do that Every. Single. Day. Though John Lewis said about our differences, “We all live in the same house.” to many, anything different will always be judged as ‘less’. Why? Because it makes us uncomfortable? Because we don’t understand it? Get over it.
I’d like to say the world has grown to accept us southpaws, but 2/3 of the planet still feels we’re pretty suspect. It’s always been easier to dismiss or ostracize different rather than accept or assimilate it. Even so, we are the very lucky ones. How much greater are the blatant discrimination and human rights crises for those of another color, another gender orientation? Perhaps if we can see how ridiculous distrust of another human for a simple genetic change in dominant hand, changing the really big stuff like racism or homophobia might come easier. If we could accept everyone, even if they don’t look or act like cookie cutter clones of us (boring) as just a different flavor human, we’d be a lot better off – and so would the planet. Maybe that’s why accusations of being lefty in politics, a position supportive of social, civil, gender equality feels a lot more bonus than bad. Long been thought of as oddballs, lefties have fortunately experienced a change in narrow, subscribed mindset; other ‘minorities’, too many too count, are still waiting on the curb.