Lefties, read this to equip yourself with the necessary knowledge to combat right-handed misers and, dare I say, left-handed apologists who will stop at nothing to diminish your gift. If you are not one of the fortunate few lefties, still read on to learn how you might easily help lessen the disparity between the life expectancies of lefties and righties.
Left-handers have been shunned for more than 6,000 years, often by people who would respond to this charge with an indignant, “Impossible!” Less than 70 years ago, my grandmother had her left hand tied behind her back by scurrilous nuns who called left-handedness “Satan’s curse.” Understandably, this caused psychological damage. It is one thing to be told you are the devil’s spawn; it is another altogether to know the appendage that wrote ideas and works such as the Special Theory of Relativity and The Metamorphosis is deteriorating.
I spent two months this winter in India. It saddened me to see that lefties are ostracized and virtually non-existent. During one meal, I picked up my puri with my left hand and before I could reach my mouth the stranger across the table said in a stern tone, “Stop that. What are you doing? Your left hand is dirty and your right one is blessed.” What a coincidence, I thought, that the hand with which the gentleman was more coordinated happened to be the sacred one. After being interrupted, I heard the man and his friends discussing Gandhi. I asked him if he knew that Gandhi had been left-handed. “Impossible,” he said. “Gandhi was a great man, he couldn’t have been.” While I shrugged off the man’s unintentional insult, knowing that young left-handed children in the 21st century are still being forced into right-handedness troubled me. Where I lived in southern India, the left hand was for wiping one’s rear and the right was for the important stuff, regardless of one’s natural proclivity (I was, however, delighted to visit a Montessori preschool outside of Mysore, India, that encouraged its students to use either hand).
While most American lefties no longer undergo such blatant discrimination, there is another insidious force at play today. Left-handed people must submit to a world set up for right-handers. We use right handed mouses, paper, binders, knives, scissors, handshakes, belts, watches, microscopes, workstations, can-openers, buzzsaws, school desks, twist-off lids, mugs with illustrations, microwaves and subway ticket taker machines among countless others. In three out of my four classes this semester there is not a single left-handed desk in the room. When I point this out people say, “So what? Just reach across to the right.” Imagine having an armrest instead of a writing surface on which to take timed tests.
To some righties I’m sure these inconveniences seem unimportant at best and simply annoying at worst. There is, however, a legitimate concern for lefties in America. According to a study in Neuropsychologia, within the population of 10 year-olds, 15 percent are left-handed. Within the population of 90 year-olds, though, there are almost no lefties — for lack of a better word — left. Left-handed men have an average life expectancy of 62 years, a full 16 years less than the 2010 overall average life expectancy 78. And lefties are between 1.2 to 1.8 times more likely to suffer fatal accidents. In other words, being left handed in a right-handed world is dangerous. Lefties are also much more likely to suffer from heart problems according to a study in the Clinical EEG & Neuroscience Journal. Could this be the result of the added stresses that come with being a lefty in righty’s world?
The next time one of you righties thinks about taking that lefty aisle seat in class, please don’t, and for those of you doing Teach for America next year, buy a few pairs of left-handed scissors for your students. Because who knows, you might help save a lefty’s life.
S.D. Seppinni is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at email@example.com. Letters from a Young Curmudgeon appears alternate Mondays this semester.