Some time ago I lamented the difficulty of belonging to several Rim country minorities, specifically being a non-spitting, left-handed Democrat.
One of my favorite Republicans, Connie Bullock, responded by presenting me with a framed certificate sarcastically recognizing my achievement as a "non-Republican, non-Right-hander, non-Spitter and Bill Clinton Admirer." Republicans, of course, love to drip with sarcasm, and right-handed Republicans are especially prone to this less-than-endearing habit.
Bullock, however, is married to Don Bullock, who just happens to be left-handed. So she also presented me with a copy of "The Left-Hander's Guide to Life: A Witty and Informative Tour of the World According to Southpaws" (Plume, $9.95)
Written by Leigh W. Rutledge and Richard Donley, it "makes clear that being a southpaw is nothing less than a cause for celebration."
Allow me to elaborate.
(Note: At this point the 90 percent of you who are right-handed are yawning and thinking about going on to something that interests you. Don't even consider it! We 10 percent who are left-handed are trapped in your right-handed world against both our will and our better judgment. We insist, nay, we demand, that you stick around and experience our world for once in your lives.)
Besides, you just might learn some things, like:
- It's possible that left-handers were once predominant. "A study of stone-age tools in France found that 55 percent of them were designed for left-handed use," Rutledge and Donley report. "Yet other studies (based on the excavated remains of animals) have claimed that the majority of blows inflicted on animals by prehistoric hunters were struck with the right hand."
(You right-handers are probably saying, "Even then we had to do the hunting and otherwise take care of you left-handed wimps." Meanwhile, we left-handers are saying, "Doesn't it just figure that right-handers would be the more savage ones."
- The basic gripe us left-handers have is that the world was designed for right-handed people. These are just some of the items Rutledge and Donley list that discriminate against left-handers: watch stems, phone booths, men's shirts, ice cream scoops, voting machines, chain saws, power saws, slot machines, playing cards, coffee mugs with imprinted messages, drinking fountains.
- Based on the above, is it any surprise that left-handers are more likely to suffer from insomnia, migraines, phobias and manic depression, are three times more likely to commit suicide, and are even more prone to alcoholism? And get this: In 1991, a study by Dr. Diane Halpern revealed that left-handers live an average of nine years less than right-handers. Chief among several reasons for the untimely demise of left-handers, according to Halpern: "... in several studies left-handers report more accidents, particularly serious accidents, probably because of the way equipment is designed for optimal use by right-handers."
(I don't know about my fellow left-handers, maybe because so many of them are dead, but to my way of thinking this particular piece of information is something less than cause for celebration.)
- Lefty Leonardo da Vinci wrote in a minute backward script that ran from right to left. Some speculate he did this to "conceal potentially heretical thoughts about God and nature."
- Thousands of women suspected of being witches were put to death in England in the 1600s, many of them left-handed. "Left-handedness was often ... regarded as evidence of demonic possession," Rutledge and Donley report.
- The good news: a lot of very illustrious people were left-handed (we say "were" because most have already met their untimely demise), including Michelangelo, Mark Twain, Bob Dylan, Babe Ruth and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin (who invented bifocals, the lightning rod, the Franklin stove and did many other cool things plus was reputed to be quite the ladies man) sought to eliminate bias against lefties, "noting the turmoil, prejudice and rebukes that he himself had suffered ...," according to Rutledge and Donley.
- The bad news: a lot of wingnuts, whackos and general all-around bad guys were also left-handed, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Richard Simmons, the Boston Strangler and Jack the Ripper. Ripper, the notorious disemboweler, killed as many 14 women in London over a six-month period in 1888. "I am down on whores and shant quit ripping them," he cheerfully scrawled with his left hand in a letter to the press.
And that, dear right-handers, is a brief primer on the trials and travails of the left-handed. If there is a message we left-handers would like to have you right-handers take with you it is this -- that even though we are left-handed and therefore judged by society to be oddballs, a recent study by the Montreal Neurological Institute revealed that we are all right-nostriled. So there.