Living in the San Juan Islands, you’d never know that being left-handed is rare.
I can rattle off about a dozen people I know here who are southpaws — including myself and Journal editor Mandi Johnson.
In honor of International Left-Handers Day on Aug. 13, I’d like to speak of the bright and dark side of this special designation.
The world has always been dominated by right-handers. Researchers measured the arm bones of ancient skeletons and looked at wear patterns of pre-historic tools to determine the dominant handedness of our ancestors. Studies suggest that approximately 10 percent of the world population is left-handed.
According to WebMD, by early in the second-trimester babies show a clear preference for sucking one thumb over the other, indicating that handedness is likely hardwired before birth. However, most children’s dominant hand won’t be revealed until they are toddlers.
Sadly, cultural biases against left-handers have existed throughout history.
“In the Middle Ages, the devil was believed to be a lefty. In Japan, China, and other Asian countries, the percentage of left-handers is much smaller than in the West. American teachers and doctors in the early 1900s believed that left-handers were more prone to mental disorders and pressured students to switch hands,” writes WebMD.
According to a CNN story, “Society tends to associate the left side of something with the bad (“two left feet”), and the right side with the good (“my right-hand man”). But if you’re left-handed, you might not think the same way as righties, according to a 2009 Stanford University study. Participants were shown two columns of abstract illustrations and asked which seemed more intelligent, happy, honest, and attractive. Righties were more likely to choose the illustrations in the right column, while lefties were more likely to choose the drawings in the left column.”
Being left-handed has been linked to mental health issues. People who are left-handed are at greater risk of psychotic disorders, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and some mood disorders.
As a lefty, let me tell you about the more mundane challenges of living in a righthanded world. I can’t use normal scissors. Writing in a notebook leaves ink or pencil smeared on the side of my hand. Kitchen knives have the sharpened edge on the wrong side. Measuring cups have labels facing away from me. If I sit to the right of a righthanded person at the dinner table, we bump elbows.
Now let’s move on the cool things about being left-handed.
We are unique because there are so few of us!
According to an Oxford University study, left-handed people may have better verbal skills due to different brain structures in the portion that controls language.
Studies have found that lefties score higher when it comes to creativity, imagination, daydreaming and intuition. They’re also better at rhythm and visualization. There is a high number of lefty Noble Prize winners, writers, artists, musicians, architects and mathematicians.
Left-handed athletes appear to have an advantage in sports like boxing, baseball and tennis, likely because they have more opportunities to practice against right-handers.
So this August, I urge all of us left-handers to bask in the glory of being different.