I am left-handed, which oddly makes me instantly more likeable to about 10 to 15% of you, because that is the average number of people that are left-handed verses right-handed. Most of you, however, could care less . . . or more . . . or at all for that matter.

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with the family and sister was commented that there was a good chance her little one, Margot was going to be left-handed, since it was the hand she’s been favoring as of late. What surprised me is how proud I was from this little bit of information. Being left-handed is a life-long club, one that you instantly become a part of once you find preference in using your left hand verses your right.

I got a smirk on my face when I started think of Margot and all of the challenges and compromises she’ll have to make growing up, things that I have already gone through and know she’ll have to experience as well. They are not bad things mind you, just . . . more tediousness, due to living into the righties world. I do know she’ll have an avid and deep rooted hatred for spiral bound notebooks . . . all lefties do thanks to the spirals digging into the side of our palm and wrist as we are write in them, leaving a intended spiral ribbed texture on our arms when we lift up our arm. Three ring binders are just as much of a pain thanks to those big ass hoops that you have to maneuver around while when you start a new line close to one of those three holes. Eventually I learned to start at the back of my notebook so the spirals were on the right, but the damage was done, I still hate spiral bound notebooks.

I know that many of you have no idea what I’m talking about, you have no reason to, but trust me when I tell you that when it comes to basic functionality/usability, the world favors the right. Take school desks . . . always obnoxious to a leftie, at least at my school. The desk and chair was an all-in-one combined object. The only access to your seat was the opening on the left. This design meant that all right-handed people had an arm rest while they wrote and did school work, but as a lefty I had to get used to doing my work with no arm support whatsoever.

Being a lefty there are a number of things you pick up on that I imagine right-handed people never go through. For one, there is a lot of odd bias about being left-handed. Right handed people always make a big deal about you being a “southpaw”, which the first time I was called one I thought it was a derogatory word. I was in gym class, and as I stepped up to the plate to take a turn at bat my coach said “Oh, so you’re a southpaw!” I honestly thought he was a big “meanie-head”, and spent a year secretly wishing that a bird would crap on his head every time we had P.E. outside for calling me names in front of my class mates.

One thing you get used to early on is that right-handed people are ways surprised when they learn you are left-handed. Exclaiming that fact the second they realize it, but it’s one of those little weird facts about that most righties don’t keep with them, and is something that will keep coming up with random acquaintances from probably the rest of your life. When a lefty learns you are left-handed they usually just give you an approving nod and hope that someday they’ll be able to share a meal with you. We always let out a sigh of relief when we are sitting at a round dinner table and discover that the person next to us is also left handed.

Most righties don’t know this, but lefties don’t like round tables. Ten out of ten times if we have the choice to eat dinner with others at a round table verses a one with corners we are going to go square every time. When a left-hander walks up to a table we always think about the most strategic place to sit so that we do not bump elbows with right-handers. Right-handed people never think about this because, chances are, they’ve never had to deal with this on a daily basis, three times a day. When lefties see the table they will be sitting at, they process the information and find the spots that will allow them free left-handed movement for a hassle free meal.

Another thing about being left handed is that is that there are so many negative connotations toward just the word “left”. Here’s what I mean (according to Wikipedia mind you):

  • In Latin the word for left eventually took on the meaning of “evil” or “unlucky”.
  • In French, Dutch, and Hebrew the word for left means clumsy, which I guess makes perfect sense—have you ever seen a right-handed person trying to do something with their left hand, they look silly as hell. And yes the same can be said for left-handers doing most things with their right hand. I always get a good chuckle at myself whenever I attempt to throw anything with my right hand.
  • In Chinese, the adjective for left can mean improper or out of accord.
  • In Russian it means unauthorized and/or under the table.
  • In ancient Hebrew the left hand symbolized the power to shame society, and was used as a metaphor for misfortune, natural evil, or punishment from the gods.

On a plus note (yep, only two):

  • People in the Andes consider left-handers to possess special abilities, like magic and healing.
  • For Tantric Buddhists the left hand represents wisdom.

There are a number of odd superstitions/myths about things of a left handed nature:

  • It is bad luck to pass a drink to someone with your left hand. Likewise, pouring a drink with your left hand isn’t going to bring you luck!
  • Giving a toast with your left hand is the same as placing a curse on the person(s) you are toasting.
  • It is considered bad luck to attach the left sleeve before sewing on the right one.
  • Getting out of bed left foot first will result in you having a bad day.
  • If your left eye twitches you will see an adversary, but if it is your right eye, you will see a friend.
  • An itch on your left palm this means you will need to pay some money out, but if it’s on your right palm you will be the one receiving the cash.
  • The tradition of wearing your wedding ring on the left hand was started by Romans, who used the ring to ward off evil associated with the left.
  • People believed that evil spirits would skulk behind your left shoulder. In Roman times salt was a very valuable commodity and it was seen as extremely bad luck to spill some. This is why if you spill salt you should throw it over the left shoulder – to appease the Devil.
  • If your right ear is ringing it means that someone is praising you, whereas if it’s in your left someone is cursing you.

And this left=bad, right=good superstition just goes on and on. Interestingly though, if you are a lefty you do end up associating left with good.

There are some superstitions in favor of lefties, for example:

  • If you dig coal out of the ground from under your left foot in the spring your luck will be quite good.
  • Some tribes, like the Zuni, think that left is older and wiser than the right.

There are a few actual facts about lefties that I found surprising when I started looking into this whole left/right thing:

  • Left-handed people are three times more likely to become alcoholics than right-handers.
  • According to one study, left-handers life span is 9 years less than right-handers—which makes perfect sense considering they are three times more likely to be alcoholics.
  • Statistically speaking, the older a mother, the more likely she is to give birth to a left-handed child.
  • If both parents are left handed, 50% of their children will be left-handed, however if both parents are righties, there is only a 2% chance the child will be left-handed.
  • Lefties are twice as likely to be male.
  • Lefties tend to reach puberty 4 to 5 months later than right-handers.
  • As a result of living in a right-handers world, 50% of left-handers report using a computer mouse with their right hand, 68% of lefties use right handed scissors, and 74% use a dinner knife with their right hand.
  • Stuttering and dyslexia occur more often in left-handers (particularly if they are forced to change their writing hand as a child, like King of England, George VI).
  • Lefties also adjust to seeing underwater quicker.
  • 1 in 4 Apollo astronauts were left-handed.
  • 4 of the 5 original designers of the Macintosh computer were left-handed.
  • Lefties with a college education make 10 to 15% more than their right-handed equivalents.
  • Plus, we even have our own day! Left Handed Day is celebrated each year on August 13th, which is pretty cool.

So to all my left-handed readers, thanks for reading and know I feel your pain and celebrate your accomplishments. And to all my right-handed readers, thanks for reading, and hopefully you gained a little insight to your left-handed counterpart in humanity. Just remember, sometimes left is right.

Image Sources:
My sister’s Facebook page and Google Images, keywords: left handed, school desks, clumsy, right brained, left turn.

Copyright © 2012 Richard Timothy