The other day I woke up with a pesky sore finger on my right hand, my do-all dominant hand. The pain persisted but of course I did nothing about it as I don’t like to admit defeat.
Correction, I did do something. I began catastrophising my future as an artist. What if I can’t draw? Would it be possible for me to draw with my left hand? Or maybe with my feet or my nose?
Since I’ve managed to mince my own fingers with a stick blender in the past, I‘d say I’m sadly lacking the necessary coordination to ever create art with anything other than my right hand.
(It wasn’t the type of blender Gordon Ramsay is demonstrating, but it sure felt the same)
I JUST WANT TO BE SPECIAL
My pity-party-for-one reminded me of my captivation with left-handedness and my inability to be one.
As a right-handed 7 year old in art class, I recall the ease with which I plucked a pair of red scissors from the big tub of scissors. Meanwhile, the left-handers spent the first 20 minutes of class rummaging to a Palaeolithic depth, battling to the death, hoping to retrieve one of only 3 left-handed green scissors.
This was my first conscious encounter with the ramifications of segregation within society.
I must say left-handed bias occurs without most of us being aware. The world is designed around the right-handed. Even the most rudimentary activities of humans such as cutting, writing, shaking hands, peeling carrots, have been a source of frustration for left-handers.
In times past, they were labelled “sinister”, the Latin word for left-handed. Many have been pressured to write with their right hand causing learning difficulties. And if you are unfortunate enough to live in some parts of the world, you can only use your left hand for *ahem* personal hygiene and never for eating.
LEFT-HANDEDNESS AND CREATIVITY
But I’m not the only one with an unhealthy obsession with the mystery of left-handedness. If you type, “are left…” into Google, before you even finish your sentence you get this:
If you click on “are left handed people more creative” you get over 78 million search results.
As opposed to the search results related to right-handedness where creativity isn’t even mentioned:
So, do lefties bring anything unique and creative to our community?
Like most expensive studies not essential to the betterment of mankind, many scientists have tried to uncover the unique creative traits of the left-handed.
Unfortunately, scientific validation seems elusive. But I did find a few facts:
- Left-handers make up 10% of the population.
- Many left-handers will draw a portrait facing the left.
- It is a misnomer that brainiac Albert Einstein was left-handed.
- There is conjecture as to whether Vincent Van Gogh was right or left-handed.
Side note, I have this pen shaped like a paint tube from the Vincent Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. This pen turned out to be the closest thing I’ve felt to left-handed frustration. Interestingly, the tube is squished in a way that makes the pen only comfortable to hold if you are left-handed. I thought this was a nice touch. Weirdly the museum asserts Vincent was right-handed, whereas an amateur art historian has made compelling observations indicating Vincent was left-handed. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-list-of-left-handed-artists-4077979. Who knows. But the pen is fun!
As I have better things to do than read scientific papers about dead people, I decided to get a sense of this misunderstood minority by going straight to the source, a living left-hander.
Mr Slager. A man full of quirks and conundrums, none of which have anything to do with his left-handedness! I sat down with Mr Slager, on his right of course so we don’t bump elbows, and asked him a few probing questions.
What don’t right-handed people understand about lefties?
Do you like receiving special attention as a leftie?
“It doesn’t bring me joy, no.”
Is it ok to call you leftie? Is this politically correct?
“For you, yes, although I find it a little handest.”
Do you feel disadvantaged as a leftie?
“Do you feel disadvantaged as a rightie?” (Fair call Mr Slager)
Do you feel there are advantages?
“Eating falafels.” (I’m sorry Mr Slager, last time I checked, a falafel was a right-handed food)
What do you wish was different in the world that would help you to be the best leftie you can be?
“I struggle to identify with this right-handed obsession with left-handedness.”
What is your biggest pet peeve in relation to being a leftie?
“Constantly being referred to as a leftie.” (Hmmm I’m sensing some agitation)
Did you ever use special scissors?
“Not in my day.” (Were scissors around in your day?)
What is a basic right-handed activity that as a leftie you find hard?
“As a leftie I don’t have insight into right-handed activities.”
Are left-handed people more creative than right-handed?
“My hands only go one way, so I’m not sure I can tell. Some people seem to think so.”
Do you feel you are creative?
“Sometimes! Other time I feel like the proverbial rat in a cage with no real purpose. It depends how I’m feeling about life in general.”
If you were to draw a portrait of a person, which way would they be looking?
“Straight towards the viewer!”
How do you feel when people point out the obvious, that you’re a leftie?
There you have it. My scientific studies are complete. What have we learnt about left-handedness?
- Not much.
- Apart from general uneasiness over being questioned, left-handers rightfully have a wee chip on their shoulder about things.
- It remains inconclusive whether left-handed people are more creative than right-handed.
- Left-handed people may be more likely to draw a portrait facing left however Mr Slager would not.
- Special scissors are for special people.
- Mr Slager feels perfectly cromulent when someone points out he is left-handed.
As I concluded in my blog post, “I’m not weird, I’m just Baltic” the reality is, it doesn’t matter which hand you use, most creative pursuits are a learned skill.
Just like right-handers, not all left-handers will fit a scientific mould. We’re all unique and have our own creative skills and talents.
Over the years I’ve come to love the contradictory arrangement of things in my life: kettle and cup handles angled to the left, finding butter on the wrong side of knives, having to sit on Mr Slager’s right at sushi restaurants so we don’t poke each other’s eyes out with our chopsticks. I live out my left-handed obsession vicariously through Mr Slager whilst shamelessly still enjoying right-handed luxury.
Thursday 13 August is International Left-handers Day. As you go about your business, whether that’s eating, typing, writing, or toileting, spare a thought for the left-handed.
“They may be left-handed, but they’re always right!”
P.S. My finger is better thanks for asking, but my foot is sore now. Sigh.