From professional athletes, to U.S. Presidents, there have been many people who have struggled with being ‘left-handed’ since the day of their birth. For the right-handed people, place yourself in the shoes of these people, examine their history, and see their day-to-day issues.
by Anna Frey
Single-person writing desks are the bane of my existence. You should see my mother laughing as I attempt to open a can of Chef Boyardi. I never can quite get a good angle during a game of pool. My left-handedness is a lifelong practical joke; it’s not a titanic struggle and most days I don’t even notice it, but all it takes is bumping elbows with one person at the dinner table to remind me: I’m a freak.
At least I have the comfort of knowing I’m not alone in my plight; seven to ten percent of the adult population in the world shares my woes. This is small consolation, however, when daily tasks such as writing a simple note become irritatingly inconvenient.
“Writing with a pencil is definitely one of the hardest things about being left-handed,” second semester Literature student Lea Toufexis said, “you get silver all the way down your hand.”
These problems, however, aren’t even worth mentioning if one can’t find a simple desk to write at. Many classrooms at Dawson are filled with single-person writing desks; most of them are built to accommodate right-handed individuals.
“Those are a pain,” Toufexis lamented, “most of the time I just give up.They’re always in ridiculous places in the room and I never feel like dragging them.”
Second semester Literature student Matthew Mancini has noticed the same thing.
“There’s usually at least one or two in each classroom, but it can be hard to find the left-handed ones.” Mancini, which translates into ‘left-handed’ in Italian, is one of three lefties in his family.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the daily trials that lefties go through, it’s often said that they’re more creative and ingenious than their right-handed counterparts. The problem-solving skills that are developed in order to deal with simple things such as how to not knock elbows with your dinner-table neighbour can be put toward solving bigger and harder problems; something that lefties throughout history have been known to do.
Joan of Arc, Isaac Newton, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Jimi Hendrix, Barack Obama… the list of influential lefties goes on and on. From music to science to sports to politics, left-handed people have made themselves a reputation for always being ready for a challenge.
Keeping in mind that only one out of every 10 people is left dominant, the fact that five out of the past eight American presidents sign their names with that side is even more impressive. Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Obama are all part of the White House lefty crew.
People born left-handed are hardwired for conflict. Their brains are physically different than those of right-handed people, which only adds to the difficulty of fitting into a world not built to welcome them.
Not only is our society tailored to be difficult towards left-handedness, humanity has a long and vicious history of deliberate prejudice against those who are left-handed. The very etymology of the word “left” shows the disparaging attitude towards southpaws: it comes from the Friesian (a region of the North Sea Coast of Holland and Germany) luf, which means dull and worthless. The Old English term for “left-handed” would translate these days into “paralysis,” but even modern languages associate derogatory meanings with this condition. Forexample, the French term gauche has an English definition of “lacking social grace; awkward.”
Humans pit themselves against lefties, and invent superstitions about the dangers of left-handedness as well. Being a left-handed woman used to get you a near-guarantee of being accused of witchcraft, which, more often than not, led to you being drowned or burned at the stake. The Devil himself is also said to be left-handed, which brings about a whole new level of social stigma.
Judaism and Islam see the left hand as being unclean, while Christianity is strongly right centric, with the Bible promoting “righteousness” at every chance it has. The right hand gives the blessing and makes the sign of the cross, leaving the Devil hand out of the ceremony altogether. Left-ness gets dealt another blow in the parable of the sheep and the goats, where those on Christ’s right side inherit the kingdom of God, while those on his left are sent into an eternal fire.
The stigma attached to being left-handed reaches deeper than irritating your friends by having to stop Rock Band and switch the guitar to left-handed every time you want to play; there is a deep-seated intolerance in our society that shows no sign of letting up.
While left-handed people do have higher tendencies of having stutters, starting puberty later in life, being dyslexic, becoming alcoholics, and are slightly more prone to having Crone’s disease, there are also brilliant advantages to being one of the ten percent of the population who uses their left hand more frequently.
Some natural advantages to being left-handed are that they, for some reason, adapt more quickly to seeing underwater. Left-handed stroke victims recover faster, and they have, on average, higher IQs than right-handed people.
Left-handed baseball players have an advantage white hitting, as they are already facing the direction of first base as they stand on the mound. Also, an estimated 40 percent of professional tennis players are lefties or “Southpaws,” as they’re called in sports.
So the next time you get dirty looks for molesting the gym for a left-handed hockey stick, or dragging your desk halfway across the classroom, just let people know that Einstein, Paul McCartney and Mahatma Gandhi would have been right there with you, struggling away.
Despite the struggles in place, most lefties wouldn’t change their orientation even if they had the opportunity. Carin Schwartz, a high school theatre teacher summed it up best when she said that she, “would not change being left-handed for anything. I enjoy being the minority – just a little out in ‘left field’.”