Left Stranded

Like about one person in ten, I am left-handed. Apparently left-handedness is more common in boys than girls, but all the lefties I know are female — my sister (though neither of our parents is left-handed), my arty friend Sandra (leftiness is correlated with artistic ability, though sadly not in my case), and one of my daughters.

We lefties have suffered a hard time over the years. We've been bullied and persecuted, discriminated against and even associated with the devil. The Latin word for "right", dexter, gave us dextrous and dexterity; the word for "left", sinister, gave us well, sinister. In lots of languages, the word for left doubles as the word for unlucky, clumsy or downright evil.

Scissors, computer mouses, keyboards, musical instruments, notebooks and cameras all tend to be designed for right-handers. It can be tricky for us to learn hand-writing; we can't see what we're doing, and sometimes we curl our hands over the top of our pens. Left-handedness has been associated with autism, schizophrenia, stuttering, and learning disorders such as dyslexia, and indeed it seems likely that my leftie daughter may well have dyslexia.

The good news is that lefties also tend to produce a larger quota of high achievers, geniuses and creative artists and thinkers (hooray!) There's some speculation that the wiring in the brain that results in left-handedness also produces a tendency to think in visual synthesis (seeing the big picture and perceiving patterns in the whole) rather than linear analysis (methodically going through the steps one by one). Lefties are supposedly better at multi-tasking and solving lots of problems at once.

Not that this is necessarily helpful when you're a lefty struggling with a right-handed world. Just thinking about it now, I realise my hairdrier is right-handed, our stereo has all its buttons on the right-hand side, and so does the microwave. And of course, the car is configured for a rightie — all the important controls (accelerator, brake, lights, indicator) are on the right, while the left hand gets to deal with, wow, the radio and the windscreen wipers, and the left foot does nothing! When I was served tea at the hairdresser's the other day, she automatically placed the tray on the right side of the bench, so I had to lean over awkwardly to help myself. These are not things I brood about, I'm only just thinking of them as I write; these minor irritants are so much part of the fabric of a lefty's life, I take them for granted.

How I would love to reconfigure the world for a day, and have everything on our side for once! And it might be kind of fun to watch all the righties fumbling for a change…

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