Monday, August 17, 2015

Oh, to be left-handed. The perils and the glory so few of us know (about 10 percent to be exact). On the dark side of things, there's the unwinnable struggle of endorsing checks at the bank (thanks for always chaining pens to the right side of a surface) and the fact that your guitar is pretty much the only one you can ever play.

But the oft-ignored positives include an actual scientific likelihood that we're smarter and more creative than our right-handed counterparts (it isn't arrogant if it's science) and the advantage we have in one-on-on sports and combat.

On top of that, the sheer scarcity of lefties bonds us to one another — sort of like Prius drivers — and creates a shortcut to intimacy, an automatic icebreaker, a sense of shared pride. You see someone struggling to swipe their credit card or bumping elbows with their neighbor at a crowded restaurant and you think, "You've been where I've been." It's like Fight Club, only you get to keep all your teeth.

So, in honor of International Left Handers Day, I've made a list of some of the most frustrating and satisfying experiences we southpaws have. So, find your favorite left-handed mug and get ready to be even prouder you're not like the rest of 'em. I salute you (backwards, most likely).

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

1. As if you didn't feel awkward enough as a kid, you always had to sit in the ONLY LEFT-HANDED WRITING DESK in your classroom. Even better: When there weren't any.

2. Not being able to write, draw, paint, or really use any marking implement whatsoever without subsequently having the left side of your left hand covered with proof you had. No getting away with sidewalk-chalk graffiti.

3. The fact that this charming, mime-esque half-glove is your only alternative to that fate.

4. Having to make the choice, at age four, between looking like an idiot when you try to use right-handed scissors and the shame of coming to school with your own special pair — in my case, Pocahontas-themed, with a matching pencil, sharpener, and case. And, God help anyone who tried to take them from me.

5. The deep sense of empathy and sadness you feel when you realize another of your favorite celebrities is left-handed. They have to deal with all the struggles you do, plus signing autographs at the most uncomfortable angles imaginable. All. The. Time. That's carpal tunnel waiting to happen. At least they have their millions to soothe the ache.

6. The realization that, if expected to survive on canned goods after an apocalypse, you would die of starvation. Because, can openers.

7. The moment you tried to write in a binder and got shut down. And the eight times you tried after that before you finally gave up on being normal.

8. 99% of your high five attempts.

...But on the upside...

9. The first time someone told you 8 of the Presidents in the past 150 years were left-handed. That list includes Barack Obama, James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Why so many southpaws in office? "Some experts think left-handed people have a greater aptitude for language skills, which may help them craft the rhetoric necessary for political office."

10. The sense of pride and vindication you get when yet another study comes out proclaiming the likelihood that lefties are smarter than everyone else.

Yep, lefties are believed to have faster and more accurate spatial skills, strong executive control and mental flexibility, and divergent thinking (the ability to generate new ideas from a single principle quickly and effectively).

12. The day you found out that theory about left-handed people dying 9 years sooner than right handers was total bollocks.

(Yes, Emma Thompson is — obviously — a leftie, too.)

13. The 50% chance your dog is left-handed. (The likelihood is about 40% for cats.)

14. The relief and gratitude you feel whenever you think about the fact that left-handed children for centuries were considered defiant (and even evil), and their parents thought the left-handedness had to be driven out of them, like some sort of demonic influence.

George VI was famously forced to use his non-dominant hand (the right). This has often been cited as a likely cause of his persistent stutter. It's good to be a leftie in 2015.

15. Realizing you have an advantage in sports for the same reason so many other things are hard: You're an outlier. Yes, that's why you're stuck with backwards writing desks and tying your shoelaces is a five-minute ordeal.

But because the majority of tennis players, fencers, and baseball players are righties, your every move will catch an opponent off-guard. Don't let the tyranny of scissors fool you; your hand-eye coordination is on point, and you've got game.

16. The realization (it's probably happening RIGHT NOW) that for the same reasons you kick ass in one-on-one sports, you have an actual evolutionary advantage over righties in combat. There's a clear correlation between the level of violence and the number of lefties in a place.

Translation: Your being left-handed helps you win in life-or-death situations, just as it would in a boxing or a fencing match. You're not doing what the other guy expects. You're an unknown quantity. Here's hoping you never have to test this theory, but it's a nice assurance to have in your back pocket.

Photos courtesy of, b3ndingspace, Shutterstock, Horia Varlan, By Anefo / Croes, R.C.

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