Left of centre: Living with a condition only 10 per cent of the world has 151



View Profile

I am one of a minority of people who have been feared, rejected or regarded as undesirable due to a genetic condition. Many of us have been subjected to attempts to correct what was and often is still regarded as an evil imperfection, so evil that the condition’s name in Latin conveys this perfectly: sinister, which also means ‘left’.

Yes, I am a lefty, a ‘southpaw’ in America, a ‘molly dooker’ in Australia, supposedly sinister and evil while the rest of you ‘righties’ are, well, all right! About 10 per cent of the world are lefties and if you are amongst the other 90 per cent then you have no idea of the challenges and problems we have faced.

Why are there lefties at all? Why aren’t we all simply righties, or all lefties? Why are lefties the minority and not the righties? Better still, why aren’t there equal numbers of lefties and righties? Why is one side favoured over the other? Some scientists have their theories, but regardless of the reasons, we lefties exist, and being a lefty hasn’t been easy.

There are vestiges of the belief that lefties are, in fact, sinister. Today we shake hands with our right hands and swear on the holy book with our right hand. We give left handed compliments, or say something inappropriate, ‘gauche’ (French for ‘left’). It’s a compliment to be someone’s right-hand man, but where are the left-hand men?

When we were taught in school how to write, many of us were forced to use our right hands. Some youngsters had their left hands tied to the bodies to prevent them from using the evil hand. I was allowed to use my left hand, but I never could master the beautiful flowing, curving, cursive letters. To worsen the situation, when I advanced to writing with a pen, my left hand, pushing the pen forward and trailing the words across the paper would smudge the still damp ink, adding a blue-black smear on the page and on the side of my hand (unlike the righties, whose right hands ‘pulled’ and led the pen).

Other tasks and tools were also problematic. Did you know that scissors are designed for righties? When we cut, our thumb and fingers don’t just open and close the blades. They push the blades against themselves when they cut. If you use your scissors in your left hand you will find it very difficult at first to cut. I figured out a way but just can’t explain what it is!

Even bread knives are designed for righties. I know, because I received from my sister a left handed bread knife from Paris (where else!?). When we slice, the knife doesn’t just descend, it moves down and inwards to the midline of the body. The typical ‘righties’ blade is serrated on one side to compensate for this. The serrations force the knife away from the midline just the right amount to make an even slice. When I slice with the righties’ knife, the slice starts thin at the top and finishes wider at the bottom, a thick wedge. My left handed knife, with the serrations on the other side, prevents this.

Adding to these challenges is that I wasn’t identified as a lefty at first. How was it discovered? I loved baseball as a kid, and my father bought for me my first baseball mitt. Now in baseball, like in cricket, if you throw with the left hand, the glove is worn on the right hand. We’d catch the ball in the glove on our right hand, take the ball in our left and throw it to a teammate. Easy, right? My Dad bought me my first glove and I told him it felt strange, and I couldn’t use it. He didn’t know that I wore it reversed, on my right hand. We went back to the store and the salesman couldn’t see anything wrong with the glove. So he handed me a ball and told me to throw it to him, which I promptly did: with my left hand. “The kid’s a lefty!” he said to my father. “Didn’t you know?!” No, Dad didn’t even know! To this day I can’t understand how he didn’t know his son was a lefty. (By the way, the term ‘southpaw’ has baseball related origins).

There are some advantages, however. Lefties, it is said, are more creative. On the other hand, it was claimed that our life spans are a shorter, though this has since been debunked. However, it could be that we are more accident prone in a world which has been designed by righties, for righties. Who knows? Whether shorter or longer, the lefty’s life, for this southpaw at least, hasn’t been sinister, but it has certainly been interesting!

Tell us, are you a rightie or a leftie?

Zvi Civins

Zvi is a 62 year old retired educator who is now enjoying the time to read, garden, exercise, volunteer and travel. He is looking forward to sharing his stories with the Starts at Sixty community and all of the discussions around them.

  1. I am one of 5 siblings & 3 of us are lefties and also Gemini. We were never forced to use our right hand as was the practice in our early school years .

  2. What a load of rubbish – I’m left-handed and have never been ‘feared, rejected or regarded as undesirable’ because of it. Maybe in the Dark Ages but thankfully this is the 21st century and we’re somewhat more enlightened.

    4 REPLY
    • Haven’t you EVER had a person say ‘ oh you’re a lefty?’ Why isn’t that said to righties? There IS no need to comment

    • I have never been called a lefty and I am 71 and left handed. It think the Australians do have an expression for left handed people, something like ‘Molly Dooker’. I am fine with that. Really, it has never been a problem for me at all.

    • Im 62 alI have been constantly been noticed and refer to as a leftie, south paw or molly dooker! Perhaps because I use the mouse of the computer in my left hand and use use different fingers to operate it. I always knew when someone had been sitting in my chair! 🙂

  3. I’m a leftie and it hasn’t caused me any problems. There is absolutely nothing that I can’t do.

  4. At school, in the 1950’s and 60’s, I originally started writing left handed. I was rapped across the knuckles with a wooden ruler by the teacher and told to use my right hand. After several attempts I was able to master writing with the right hand. To this day I still throw, bowl and use my left hand to draw the string on my compound bow. After all this time I can still write legibly with my left hand.

  5. I was a teacher for many years and never saw any discrimination against left handers . In fact I have often moved kids so it was more comfortable for them to write at their desk. It was not so uncommon really and my son took quite a while to decide if he was a left or right hander….. He was left to decide for himself.

  6. I’m lefthanded and it was a constant problem at school when I was writing, after dipping my pen in the inkwell abd writing, I always smuged my writing and would get the ruler across my hands from the teacher. Also when I was trying to learn to knit, sew, use scissors, lay the table etc. Always a problem and always got told off.

  7. Me too. Got strapped, hit with rulers, the works to try and make me write with my right hand. Non worked and I’m still a molly dooker

  8. I’m left handed and was treated appallingly in early school years. Had my left hand hit with metal rulers if I used the left hand, my hand was tied behind my back to prevent me using it, and I was sat on the “Dunce” chair in front of my classmates every day. Like Eileen, using pen and inkwell for writing was a nightmare, and that also led to punishment. I have 1 son who is left handed, 4 grandkids who are left handed but thankfully now the treatment I received hasn’t happened to them

    1 REPLY
    • Sounds exactly like my childhood Dianne, I was never hit but had all those problems as you one of my sons is a leftie & hasn’t had any problems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *