Yesterday was my mum’s birthday. You know, the woman that comments almost daily on my blog and never fails to offer her infinite wisdom to me and my readers? It was also the day that I decided to crack open Issue 13 of Kinfolk Magazine, otherwise known as The Imperfect Issue.
This issue read much differently than other Kinfolk issues. It was filled with arbitrary knowledge, the history of mistakes, and many, many twins. It began with a quote by Leonard Cohen (a rather brilliant quote about imperfection), and ended with an article on left-handedness. My mum is left-handed, and so I immediately thought of her when I saw and subsequently read the article. Not just because it was her birthday, but because she, too, is awesome and unique.
This post is for my mum.
“There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen
Dear Mr. Right,
My sincerest apologies in advance if you struggle to read this note, if not for its radical honesty then for the fact that my fountain pen’s ink is smudging across the paper.
As the Thelma to your Louise, I’d like to tell you a little about life on my side of the vertical equator. After all, there are upsides to being a southpaw.
While only one in ten humans is a lefty, there’s a lopsided contingent that has made history. For every left-handed psychopath such as Jack the Ripper or Alexander the Great, there has been a genius counterpart in Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci. Since the end of WWII, more than half of the US presidents have been left-handed – including Obama and Clinton – and there are a disproportionate number of us among Mensa’s ranks. We may be potential sorcerers to the Inuit and cursed to the Moroccans, but we’re also healers to the Incas and luck-filled to the Zuni.
It’s no surprise that my moniker’s etymology isn’t in my favour either. Why do women never seek Mr. Left? Why does a leader have his right-hand man but the uncoordinated have two left feet? And to expands beyond the Queen’s english: The Italians share one word for both sinister and left, as well as treacherous and left-handed, and the word for clumsy in German refers to us too. Even the term ambidextrous comes from the Latin word “to be right on both sides.” I’ll never win.
Everything in this world that was built for your palms is a challenge we must surmount. Scissors that don’t cut. Can openers that don’t open. Computer mice that don’t click. Power tools that risk accidental catastrophic hemorrhages. We knock elbows when eating at tables and poke eyes with bows when playing in orchestras. Even the humble handshake is in your favour.
However, there are aspects of life where we do have an advantage. The left side of the body is controlled bu the right side of the brain, but we use the left’s neurons more on a day-to-day basis. Because of this daily communication, it means we form stronger neural pathways between the hemispheres, making us quicker decision makers, faster processors and better multitasks. And it goes beyond the cranial too: With 3,400 words to be typed solely using the left hand versus 450 words with the right, we’re faster typists. We don’t have to swap our forks to our eating hand when cutting up and consuming dinner. With our proclivity to choose the left line over the right, we spend less time standing in lines by default (even Disneyland officials say so). We adapt to seeing underwater more clearly. We’re less likely to get arthritis or ulcers.
But quirkiness aside, shall I tell you what’s ultimately in our favour? Evolution.
If we were really at a disadvantage, Darwin’s theory of natural selection would have cast us off eons ago. But here we still are. And why? Combat. That’s correct – if it came down to you and me in a fight fight, evolution has determined that I’ll always have the slightest advantage. When you were growing up as a Neanderthal more than 400,000 years ago, you became more acquainted with duelling with right-handers. So when a lefty suddenly jumped out of a cave and confronted your tribe, each jab we threw came at a surprising angle and gave us the proverbial upper hand. It’s what makes us better baseball batters and Olympic fencers, and it’s the reason nature has deemed us worthy of biological selection. In the long term, it is I who will reign.
So what do you say, Mr. Right? Can we shake on this?
by Georgia Frances King