On being left-handed

MY LEFT HANDI came across an article in today’s Dundee Courier which referred  to research published in the journal ‘Laterality’ by two academics – Hardie & Wright  – from the University of Abertay . The Abertay website headlines with  ‘lefties more likely to look before they leap’ and suggests that people (like me) tend to be better decision makers in times of crisis. It makes good reading and I would of course have to agree:)

The article made me smile as I reflected on what it has been like to be a leftie. The first time I remember it being an issue was when I was at primary school aged 8 and being told by my teacher that being left-handed was bad. She decided to ‘help’ me to write ‘properly’ – giving me the belt everyday because my handwriting was not neat enough. She only stopped when my mother came in an told her that I was definitely left-handed and that was just fine by her.

Otherwise I remember having a feeling that I was more clumsy and awkward than everybody else. I couldn’t cut paper in a straight line, I always seemed to smear my page with ink when using a pen.  Looking back my writing was always at an angle because I wasn’t allowed to turn my jotter or body to angle that would allow me to write straight. It was only after I left school that I realised that although I would probably still have been a messy writer this was something I shared with other lefties.

I also remember in the 1980s going on holiday to a Greek island and having the shop assistants cross themselves because I was signing with my left hand. Apparently the superstition didn’t make me evil enough to stop them accepting the cheque.

Then there is all the research about more left-handers being more creative, more likely to be rich and even more electable –  with 5 out of the last 7 US presidents being left-handers. Unlike the Abertay research a lot of this stuff appears to pseudo-science, at best inconsistent and often completely made up as far as I can see.

Overall I like being left-handed . It is easier to type with one hand on QWERTY keyboard and a it is apparently a huge advantage playing golf with right-handed golf clubs (still hoping to fully realise this one). On a more serious note it has given me a strong sense that our world has been designed to suit right-handed people. If tools and books are the product of human decisions then why not everything else. Our world is not the natural order but the result of human action and inaction – often based on selfish interest rather than the common good. People make the world the way it is and people can always make it better.

My final thought is that I really hope that there are no teachers today trying to force naturally left-handed children into becoming ambidextrous (natural left-handers forced to use their right-hand?). Even that little change would at least represent some progress towards a slightly better world.

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