Right Handed World

I am part of the 10% of the population who are left-handed. I am not sure where this genetic quirk comes from, as my parents and sisters are all right-handed, and in fact the only other lefties in the family are one of my cousins and my 8-year-old nephew (who also has two right-handed parents). However, I think it might be possible that in previous generations there were some left-handed folk who were ‘corrected’ early on – given that as recently as 1974, when I first started school, I was made to write with the ‘correct’ right hand. My mother tells me stories of having to go to the school and forcefully request that they cease and desist trying to ‘correct’ me, and allow me to be left-handed.

In spite of my mother’s fight for me in this regard, I don’t think anyone else in my family really had any notion of what it meant to be growing up left-handed in a right-handed world. I was forever being told off for putting the knives and forks in the wrong place when I set the table. I couldn’t tie shoe laces until I was 11; I started to think that there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t do it. I have since found out that inability to tie shoe laces is a common problem amongst left-handed kids – when you are taught by a right-handed person the movements are backwards to you and difficult to imitate. This might also explain why my mother’s attempts to teach me how to knit failed miserably.

Lefties out of necessity become far more dextrous with their right hand than righties do with their left. As we move through this right-handed world, we learn to adapt. Can openers and cork screws one can only use right-handed (unless you buy one of the ones made for left handed people, which are now available). I get particularly irritated with the barriers at London underground stations, which are designed so you have to puy your ticket through on the right hand side. I either have to do it awkwardly right handed, or reach across my body with my left hand, which is equally awkward.

The fact that you can now buy left-handed gadgets such as cork screws proves that lefties have made some progress in the world, however. I regularly send my nephew left-handed things, including pens and pencils designed to encourage correct posture in penmanship, something a lot of lefties have trouble with. It’s because when leftie kids write in school exercise books, they are leaning their left arm over the left hand side of the page, thus smudging the finished work and getting ink or pencil lead stains all over their sleeve. So they learn to hold their arm in an awkward pose to avoid this.

My sister said to me recently that having a left-handed son has made her appreciate how difficult certain things in life can be for left-handed people, something she never realised before.

Welcome to my world.

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