Left Handed

Posted on in Todd Talks by Todd Johnson

The world is not set up for the left-handed. As a child I had to struggle to do minor tasks that I imagine my right handed peers probably didn't think twice about. For example, writing on a chalk or white board is difficult because I drag my hand right through what I've just written. I always had pencil-lead stains on my hand in school and all my work looked dirty because of the smearing from my hand. And then there were the desks set up for the right-handed, the three-ring binders and the note books. As today's kids would say, "The struggle is real."

Honestly, I don't remember being made to feel like I was being discriminated against because of my left-handedness. I do remember a couple of teachers trying to get me to use my right hand as a child. The smearing and other issues I described above are real issues left-handed people struggle with. But while I was doing a little research, I found some real interesting facts I want to share.

The word "right" means "correct" or "proper" whereas the Latin word for left is "sinister". The French word "gauche" means "left", as well as both "awkward" and "clumsy". And how about the saying "left-handed compliment" which isn't a compliment at all. It's actually something that is dismissive or patronizing.

Only roughly 9 percent of women and 11 percent of men are left-handed. But almost 18 percent of our presidents are known to be or to have been left-handed. Eight in total (James A. Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama) were all lefties. And I say, "known to be or to have been" because being left-handed was strongly discouraged and sometimes children were forced to use their right hands instead.

It's not all bad for us lefties, though because it does have its advantages. In sports for example, where most athletes are right-handed and are used to competing against other righties, the occasional leftie enjoys an advantage. This is especially evident in baseball, bowling, and boxing. In baseball the left-handed batter is closer to first base when in the batter's box. The left-handed pitcher is facing first base, making pick-off attempts easier. In bowling the athlete who uses the left side of the lane is usually one of just a few and the oil on the lane is relatively undisturbed compared to the right side which gets worn out and "breaks down" quicker. Also consider that when looking at lists of the greatest bowlers in history the top 50 are usually about 20 percent left-handed. The next time you're watching a sport, try to pay attention to those who are lefties and watch how they perform.

There has been a lot of research into differences between those who use their left hands versus those who use their right hand - from their level of creativity, the way they perceive speech, their mental health, to their earning potential (usually about 10 percent less than their right-handed peers). I think after considering all the advantages and disadvantages of being a leftie it's pretty much a wash but I guess I lean toward it being more of an advantage. It's forced me to use both hands for different tasks and to get creative to make things work that weren't designed for me. It's made me who I am, and I'm fine with that.