Left-Handed and Like It

Throughout the centuries, left-handers have been maligned, and often forced into right-handedness (especially as concerns, but not limited to, their handwriting). I’m left-handed, and at a very early age I became convinced that the deck was stacked against me. When we were first learning to write cursive in school, my teacher tried to make me switch to my right hand by placing a penny on the back of my right hand and telling me I couldn’t let the penny fall off as I wrote.  I rebelled after a few days of trying. It just didn’t feel natural to me. The disadvantages for someone who was writing with their left hand were obvious, though. My right-handed classmates’ hands moved to the right as they wrote, pulling away from the letters they had just formed, while my hand covered them up, often smearing them. In order to see what I had just written, I developed the classic left-hander’s curl. My hand stretched up above the line, then curved back down so the fingers holding my pencil were now to the right of the letters, pushing the pencil along, instead of pulling it.

This was all in kindergarten and first and second grade. I apparently became comfortable working that way because I managed to have fairly decent handwriting throughout grade school and college, but after switching to typewriters and word processors, my handedness became less of an issue. I discovered along the way that I was somewhat ambidextrous as well. In sports, I bat and play tennis either righty or lefty, but I do throw balls and serve in tennis with my left hand. I fenced and did stage sword fighting with my left hand (which right-handed partners hate because it throws them off). I shoot (both bows and arrows and guns) with my right hand. And I can write with my right hand, which I found out when I broke my elbow the day before school started (when I was teaching), but my writing wasn’t nearly as neat as with my left hand.

Back to the subject, though. A number of writers are left-handed. And it doesn’t seem to have hurt them any. Here are just a few of them: James Baldwin, H.G. Wells, Eudora Welty, Bill Bryson, Mark Twain, Franz Kafka, and Barack Obama.

Speaking of presidents, eight are known to have been left-handed: James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George (H.W.) Bush, Bill Clinton, and Mr. Obama. That’s 8 out of 46, meaning 17.39% of president of the U.S. were left-handed. It has been estimated that only about 10% of the world’s population is left-handed. Does that mean that politics might be a good profession for left-handers to go into? I could continue naming musicians and athletes and actors and people of various professions who are left-handed, but I hope I made the point. It’s more difficult sometimes for lefties to function in a world which is designed primarily to accommodate right-handers, but I think we make up for it by developing a different way of thinking during the process of adapting.

Oh, and a lot of the rumors about left-handers (that we’ll die earlier, that we’ll become schizophrenics, or criminals, or we’re more prone to depression, etc.) aren’t true. Here’s an article.


I prefer to abide by the adage, “If the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then only left-handers are in their right minds all of the time.”

If you’re a lefty, do you have any stories to tell?


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