It’s not easy being a leftie like me in a right-handers’ world

In his weekly column Trevor Laffan talks about life as a left-hander 
It’s not easy being a leftie like me in a right-handers’ world

Genius physicist Albert Einstein is among well-known left-handed people, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Barack Obama

TO the best of my knowledge, I have always been left-handed. I didn’t do any training for it, it wasn’t a conscious decision I made, I just happen to have been born that way.

Having said that, sometimes I’m right-handed.

I just assumed I was a little bit unusual, but now I have discovered that maybe that’s not the case.

You see, I write with my left hand, I play tennis with my right and I play golf with left-handed clubs. I kick a ball with both feet. I use a knife with my left hand and a hammer with my right.

There are some who have said that I look awkward swinging a left-handed golf club but I suspect that they are only jealous of my unique style.

I use a toothbrush with my left hand, I paint with both hands but I use my right to operate a scissors. That’s because they are designed for right-handed people.

I hold a door key with my left hand and as most front doors have the lock on the right, I sometimes have to stand in the hedge to put the key in the lock.

Recently, I discovered that there are varying degrees of how dominant the left hand is over the right and there is a test that you can do to establish how left-handed you are. I didn’t know that, so I did the online version of the test.

The results told me that while I am 49% left-handed, I am mostly ambidextrous. That explained a lot to me but I’m just not sure how it took me 59 years to find that out.

It was never a big deal in my life and I don’t remember it ever being a problem, just a little inconvenient at times.

We left-handers write across ourselves whereas conventional writers write away from their bodies. Most desks, particularly those with fold-down flaps, are designed for righthanders and this can be difficult for us in tight spaces.

If you happen to be a ciotóg and you find yourself sitting in close proximity to a right-handed writer, then there will be a bit of fencing going on with the elbows. To compensate for that, we turn the paper at an angle and this can be awkward.

Some lefties face their fingers towards themselves and write from a kind of inverted position and they look as if they have a claw. But you do what whatever suits to get the job done.

I have always written with my left hand. I have heard many fellow lefties through the years describe how teachers tried to force them to be ‘normal’, trying to get them to switch to the more conventional right hand. There could have been a simple reason for this. It might have just been easier for teachers to teach children to write if everyone in the class was doing it the same way.

There are many stories of nuns and brothers trying to ‘beat it out of youngsters’ but I wasn’t one of those. I must have been at the tail end of that drama because I don’t have any memory of being forced, or even encouraged, to change hands.

I do remember having a lay teacher for most of my time in a Christian Brothers-run primary school and maybe that made a difference.

John Walsh was his name and he was an exceptional man. I never remember him losing his temper or even raising his voice. He was quietly spoken and he had a great way with kids. Later in life I got to know him a little and he was an absolute gentleman.

Other children weren’t so lucky and they suffered for their inability to use their right hand. Some were even subjected to violence to change their evil ways. There must have been kids who thought that they were performing some form of witchcraft or communicating with the devil by using the left hand.

I sometimes wonder if children who were penalised for being left-handed could have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in later life. It may even have hampered their development and affected their self-esteem.

They say that around 10% of the world population could be left-handed. With my newfound knowledge, I now suspect that a large percentage of those are more likely to be ambidextrous like me. Mainly because we have had to adapt to a right-handed world.

I don’t want to make it sound like a huge issue because it isn’t. We’re not dealing with life or death stuff here, it’s just a little awkward at times.

If you want to experience some of the difficulties that left-handers face, try using a can opener with your weaker hand. Try cutting a piece of paper with a scissors, changing the time on your watch or simply turning the pages of a book with your left paw. These things are all designed for right-handed people.

Some statistics claim we lefties have a shorter life span than right- handed people. Considering the obstacles that you guys put in our way, it may not be too surprising to hear that we have more accidents than right-handed people. That may not be strictly scientific but it’s good enough for me and we’re entitled to be a little paranoid.

We have been second-class citizens for a long time but now we are starting to fight back. We have our own celebration, International Left-Handers Day, that we can enjoy with like-handed people.

Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill were lefties and so are past US Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush. So, I’m following a proud tradition of successful ciotógs.

Jack The Ripper was also left-handed but we’ll say no more about that.

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