On Left-Handedness

Have you ever noticed how much odd crap is ascribed to being left-handed, Hypothetical Audience? I sure have, by virtue of being left-handed all my life (at least as far as I know), and I can tell you the amount of things it’s assumed I can and can’t do, or must have to do differently, based on handedness alone by people of the alternate persuasion is vast. In both reality and fiction these range from the every day mundane, such as needing special scissors with the blades swapped around, to the oddly specific, like only a left-handed could have committed a murder because they can only hold knives in one specific hand. It’s a very strange bit of collective ignorance that afflicts a surprisingly large number people and one that’s probably worth commenting upon.

Things now are not as bad as they once were, mind. There was once a time when in the UK at least left-handedness was stigmatised, hence why we have the phrase “right” as a good thing and “sinister” (Latin for Left) as bad for instance. But there does seem to be a rather odd hold over from this, not in outright negativity as in ages past, but in endemic, almost wilful, lack of understanding of left-handed people’s skills and abilities. This generally materialises in a tonne of random crap designed “For Left Handed People” being sold which fulfil a purpose already performed quite admirably by ordinary items. While this seems very altruistic, the assumption I am unable to do even the simplest of things (like use scissors!) with my off-hand is ludicrous, if not slightly insulting.

Given the human races predisposition to being right-handed, it’s safe to assume that most left-handed folk have grown up in a world designed around their opposite handed brothers and are probably more accustomed to using the everyday equivalent of an item than any specially accommodating version. I know I certainly can never get comfortable using left-handed scissors, and would far rather use the normal kind either upside down in my leading hand or just use it right handed, and in most things beyond writing I’ve pretty much learned to use the right handed way with little or no hassle. There is also a relatively high instance of ambidextrousness amongst left-handed people, again most things I can use either hand for bar writing, which comes out backwards with my right hand for reasons I can’t quite imagine. I know I’m not the only left handed person who has this, but still the assumption remains that the majority cannot.

Now I get that the majority of all people aren’t left-handed, a statistic often quoted to me is that only roughly 9% of all humans alive right now possess the trait, meaning very few people will experience possessing it, and barring necessity-through-dismemberment not many will ever need to swap their leading hand. Nevertheless I feel the misunderstanding comes from a lack of imagination. As far as I see it, people who’ve grown up used to using only a single hand for everything (Mind out of gutter, Hypothetical Audience) can’t possibly fathom ever coming across the need to do otherwise, which leads to the assumption that you can’t use the off hand to do anything of significance being applied to everyone. What’s really weird is you see some left handed people buying into this too, though these have definitely been in the minority in my experience.

Annoying as it is, the odd preconceptions can often be entertaining in certain situations. I remember a number of times playing bat-sports at school when people saw me take to the field with bat in left hand they fielded accordingly. The reaction when I swapped hands was something to behold. Still couldn’t hit anything worth a damn, mind, but hustling folk was entertaining enough. Another stand out thing, though more based on superfluous “designed for left-handers” tat, involves a left-handed clock. These are basically clocks geared to tick the opposite direction (so anti-clockwise) with the numbers in reverse, an interesting but ultimately useless macguffin. Anyway, I was in a room with one on the wall and didn’t notice anything odd about it at first, as apparently my brain is wired up to be capable of reading either direction (another trait often linked to handedness), it wasn’t until someone else pointed it out and complained about their inability to read it that I twigged and ended up laughing my head off. The mere concept that the hand I write with needs a special clock remains hilarious to me even to this very day.

I know it’s a relatively minor thing, but the whole attitude to handedness from some people is a constant source of intrigued confusion for me. The whole mess seems to come from a rather odd case of people misunderstanding something and not being bothered to try to find out the actual truth. If people just thought about what was presented to them (or indeed listened to opinionated head-case left-handers like myself) this wouldn’t happen half as often. All it takes is a little understanding and then maybe we can stop being so daft about what 9% of all humanity uses to write with. A man can dream, right?
Until next time, guys
—Also I don’t get the phrase “South Paw” left is “West” surely?

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