Left in a Right Hand World

Exhibit A: my most expensive pair of pants which I bought last year for €20 in Riga, which is interesting because the average net wage in Latvia is €703 a month. As you can see the opening is for right-handed men. Of course!

If you are not a man and left-handed, then this post may have only limited interest for you.

But by all means, read on….

* * * * *

It sometimes takes a very long time for the penny to drop.

Do you know the sci-fi film ‘Gattaca?’

Well, you may remember the scene at the end where it transpires that the doctor Lamar has known all along that Vincent is not what he pretends to be.

And the reason:

“For future reference, right-handed men don’t hold it with their left. Just one of those things.”

It’s true.

Conversely, left-handed men don’t hold it with their right.

And I didn’t.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

* * * * *

If you are right-handed then you have no idea of the contortions we Southpaws make to fit into your regimented world.

Statistically, we are about 10% of the population.

It’s a bit like being a Mac in a world of PCs (just kidding!)

When my mother was a child, the teachers tried to force her to write with her right hand. She couldn’t.

Only when my grand-mother went down to the school and told them to stop messing with her daughter was the situation resolved.

But then we’ve always had a bad name.

The word ‘sinister’ comes from the Latin ‘sinistra’ meaning left.

An accident in French is called a “sinistre.”

I dare say many of us were burn as witches and warlocks in league with the devil during the middle ages.

And there are situations where a left-hander could be a bit of a liability.

Going back to the Romans, the success of the legion phalanx was dependent upon each man’s sword arm protecting the left of the soldier next to him. Imagine the chaos if you had left-handed soldiers in there as well.

* * * * *

Some adaptations are obvious, of course.

Like when you sit down at a computer and the mouse is on the right.

Or pick up a pair of scissors and the handle cuts into your fingers because it isn’t made for you.

Or a measuring beaker where you can’t see the measuring guide.

Or a guitar, piano, drumset and all those other things that simply aren’t made for US.

As a leftie, you get really good at lateralization, that’s for sure.

But the weirdest thing is that you get so used to adapting that if you buy something made specifically for a left-hander, you often can’t get it to work.

When I bought a fountain pen recently, I tried both right- and left-handed pens, but in the end I was happier and wrote better with the pen for righties.

Sometimes you can’t get a pair of left-handed scissors to cut because you’ve got so used to putting the pressure of the blades in the other direction with right-handed ones.

And controlling a computer mouse on the left takes an enormous amount of concentration to get anything done, the hand is so untrained for that sort of movement.

So we get very good at pretending to be right-handed.

So much so that we sometimes miss the obvious.

Which brings me back to the pants.

For some reason, the penny never dropped that pants are made for right-handed people too.

For me, they were just pants.

It took me 60 years to wake up to the fact that even pants make our lives more complicated.

Obviously, since the opening is on the right, it’s much easier to grab it with your right hand.

As a left-hander, you have to reach over the opening, back inside to the left, grab it and then push it out to the right.

It’s a movement like the mark of Zorro, but less swash-buckling.

Then as you pee, the pants are continually trying to close on you to the left and underside which has a tendency to compress the urethra and inhibit the flow.

So a couple of weeks ago, I started holding it with my right hand.

And what do you know?

Oh, joy! Oh, bliss!

It really is much simpler.

I suppose you can’t really have left-handed pants because the trouser zip is made for right-handers as well.

I did discover a site on the web where they sell pants for left-handers with a horizontal opening, but how successful these are, I don’t know.

But it does underline the degree to which we’ve unconsciously adapted to the right hand world.

Some adaptations I’ve taken on spontaneously.

Our hands are a bit like our eyes in that one tends to take care of precision work while the other is for general use.

I try to swap things around.

Bilateral movement is good for you. And it gets your brain to develop new pathways.

For example, turning a key in the lock is something that I would normally do with my left hand, but I’ve also trained myself to do it with my right, because locks too can end up in positions where only a rightie can open them.

Same with pouring a bottle of wine.

And there are events that push you to make an extra effort too.

I broke a bone in my left hand once and I was so appalled at how difficult it was for me to wipe my ass with my right hand after going to the toilet that I swore I’d never go through that again. So I practised until I reached a reasonable degree of dexterity with the right too.

These days the politically correct talk about discrimination against minorities all the time.

But I wonder how many people stop to consider the great minority of left-handed people and the extent to which we are discriminated against in our totalitarian right-handed society?

What about starting a day for lefties?

We’ve got a day for virtually everything else.

Yeah….

Love

Richard

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