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Southpaw living

Bet you didn't know it was even a thing
Southpaw living
Tools of the trade: Lefthanded notebooks and scissors as well as Zebra Sarasa Dry pens whose ink dries so fast it doesn’t smudge my outer palm.

Even as I slow-march toward my semicentennial birthday, I still can’t help but notice, pay attention, and judge people based on their handedness. It’s mild judgment. Often I’m more upset that someone is lefthanded when their moral character should indicate otherwise. Are we lefties not somehow superior?

Obviously no. Just because more US presidents have been left-handed than the odds would dictate does not make us better. And since someone has to be deranged to want to be president of the United States, perhaps it says that our ancestors were on to something when they deemed us sinister.

President Obama and the second Bush were both left-handed. As are my friends Casey and Jenny. And my daughter. My mother, too. My former co-workers Gwen and Lucie and Arley and Homajeet. And apparently, so is the right-winger sitting next to me in this jury box. I cannot help but notice.

And then I become aware that I’m staring, and I check everyone else’s handedness. Then it becomes too embarrassing, and I do my best to push it from my mind.

In the grand scheme of things, hell, in the minuscule scheme of things, handedness is practically irrelevant. We’re barely—if at all—prejudiced against it anymore. I’m appalled that at some points in American history, left-handedness was beaten out of our children. I scarcely believe it, but then a Japanese acquaintance informed me that left-handedness is highly discouraged in her native country.

On the other side, there have been attempts to justify our sinisterial tendencies as benefiting our gatherer-hunter ancestors. I find these efforts noble, but dubious. And if this article is to be believed, Otzi was left-handed. He lived to 45, pretty old for the era, and it seems improbable that longevity and ill fate were due to handedness.

Our left-handed or right-handedness does not affect the way we think, as pop psychology would have us believe. Left-handed people aren’t the only ones in their right mind, a bad pun built on the historical moralization of right and left. It is more likely a statistical fluke that left-handedness is over-represented in US Presidents than right-hemisphere dominance makes for more creative individuals. Left-handed people’s brains don’t swap their hemispheres1. The arts and sciences aren’t brimming with southpaws.

But the world is still very much wired for righthanded folk. I still see desks in elementary schools that place the armrest on the right side. Writing left-to-right tends to smudge my outer palm with ink or graphite, so every southpaw of my generation I know has a weird writing angle and crap handwriting. And scissors, my god, are painful and do not cut paper when wielded from the wrong hand. If everyone ate correctly at the dining table, bumping elbows wouldn’t be an issue, but most right-handed people eat (incorrectly) with the fork in their right hand, so food mishaps are almost guaranteed.

But it’s not the worst thing in the world to bump elbows at the dinner table. I’ve given up trying to teach people proper dining etiquette (fork left, knife right) and just sit at the left end of the table. Scissors are a pain, but they make left-handed scissors that actually cut paper now, unlike the flimsy edgeless safety scissors of my youth. I even have left-handed garden shears! The most inconvenient aspect is still writing, but since I discovered quick-dry pens, the smudging on my outer palm has gone away. Schools now teach students to tilt their pages—if they teach them to write at all anymore—which reduces smudging and hand cramping, so future generations need not suffer as we did.

  1. https://lingthusiasm.com/post/690426891775115264/transcript-episode-70-language-in-the-brain

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