I was copying my lesson quietly, in one of those sewn-together marble composition books that never seemed to stay flat, trying not to smear the lead pencil dust along the paper as my left hand progressed across the page. If I were writing Hebrew, I’d be golden, but this was a 5th grade Catholic school class in Philadelphia. I was stuck with writing from left to right, and trying to be as neat as I could.
Then I heard it; the swish of a long robe, and the clicking of rosary beads. If Sister John Baptist really wanted to sneak up on her students, she needed to muffle that rosary more effectively. Probably why ninjas don’t carry rosaries. While I’ve known several nuns who were scary-ninja-quiet, the idea of this particular nun – short, squat, and elderly, with bottle-cap glasses that distorted the size of her eyes – as a ninja was beyond my imagination.
I knew she was looking over my shoulder, but I pretended to be concentrating on my work, waiting for her to get tired of watching the one lefty in class who wasn’t doing it right. Since this was 1972 and not 1952 – and I’d already been writing with that hand for more than half my short life – there wasn’t anything she could do about it.
But she could do other things.
The left hand is the hand of the devil, she’d say. You will hand in all of your work, and anything else you have to give me, with your right hand.
Oops, sorry. Since my left hand doesn’t look any different than my right – you know, in a Batman-nemesis-Two-Face kind of way – I keep forgetting.
As you might imagine, I wasn’t a favorite of hers. Fifth grade was an interesting experience.
While sometimes it’s not easy being left-handed in a right-handed world (check out the funny The 18 Worst Things For Left-Handed People), I actually love being a lefty. It’s the only thing I have in common with Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Schweitzer, Madame Curie, Jimi Hendrix and Harpo Marx.
For a more complete list of famous lefties, click here.
Cool things about lefties:
- Left-handers are the only people in their “right minds”: the right hemisphere of the left-hander’s brain is the dominant side. It’s the opposite for righties.
- August 13th is Left-Handers’ Day (dang, I missed it).
- Only 10% of the population is left-handed. That percentage has remained steady throughout human history, scientists say. Men are 1.23 times more likely than women to be lefties.
- 25% of the Apollo astronauts were left-handed, which beats the general population by 250%.
- 4 of the last 7 U.S. presidents have been left-handed: Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. There is some debate about Ford’s left-handedness, however.
- 4 of the 5 original Macintosh computer designers were left-handed.
- The eyesight of lefties adjusts more quickly to seeing underwater. Maybe that’s why a lot of competitive swimmers are lefties.
- Some people think Joan of Arc was left-handed, but it’s more likely that she was depicted that way to make her seem more evil – she was burned at the stake as a heretic.
- The terms “gauche” (from French) and “sinister” (from Latin) both mean “left” or “on the left.”
Are you a lefty? Know someone who is? Do you think the superstitions about left-handedness persist, or are we over all that? I’d love to hear from you.
By the way…
Today is the birthday of another lefty, Mark Hamill. May the cake be with you.
Until next time,