On Tuesday, a headline graphic above the Wall Street Journal’s masthead read, “The Power of Lefties.” Naturally, being a proud lefty myself, I turned immediately to page D1 where I was slapped in the face with this headline: “The Health Risks of Being Left-Handed.”
Sidebar: If any business but a newspaper had been so misleading, this would have been an instance of illegal bait-and-switch.
I have read a great deal about the health hazards of left-handedness: the worst, IMHO, is the tendency of a left-handed driver to swerve into on-coming traffic in an emergency, rather than to the right, out of harm’s way. But there’s also a huge risk of cutting yourself when you use a knife (which you have to use with your right hand because of the bevel on the blade, which is right-biased).
The WSJ article claimed, however, that lefties face a greater risk of ADHD, dyslexia, and even schizophrenia than right-handed people. Supposedly, “researchers” have conducted statistical studies to this effect and have also concluded that lefties have 10% lower IQs than righties. They claim the only possible cause of the disease of left-handedness is pre-birth trauma to mothers, who apparently suffer from surges of nasty chemicals in their systems. “Proof” of this comes from studies of identical twins who do not share the same “handedness.”
One such pair of identical twins are my maternal aunts. I have always attributed their divergent brain wiring to the original split of the embryo, which produced what my mother called “mirror twins.” I guess that idea is beneath modern “scientists.”
As for dyslexia, the fact is that I do believe it is related to left-handedness. When I was first learning to read and write, I wrote backwards and had a very hard time reading words with certain letter combinations. For instance, I remember that the word “scissors” baffled me, and it took me forever to figure out the difference between p’s and q’s. Once I realized that the rest of the world read in a different direction than I did, I was able to sort it out. However, to this day I can write backwards like Leonardo da Vinci, and I can also write upside down and backwards simultaneously with both hands. (I guess that makes me either an idiot savant or schizophrenic or both.)
As for the IQ of lefties, anyone who’s left-handed will tell you that he or she has never met another left-handed person who wasn’t brighter and more creative than average. Please don’t forget that our current president is left-handed and so is Bill Clinton. Tell them that the Bush righties are 10% smarter than they are.
Ancient Bias Against the Sinister Side
The word “sinister” derives from the Latin word for the left side. A “bar sinister” on a medieval coat of arms indicated that the owner was descended from a nobleman’s bastard son. I’ve been told by someone who has lived in Moslem countries that it is taboo to use one’s left hand in public, especially for eating, because the left hand is supposed to be used only for certain filthy, self-maintenance tasks.
I have just completed a novel set in 1929, the Year of the Stock Market Crash, tentatively titled Snow Ghost, in which the protagonist is a left-handed typesetter. She explains to another character that parents and teachers often try to force a left-handed child to change hands, because left-handedness is highly suspect, not healthy, and improper. When I wrote that, I thought contemporary readers would be surprised to learn that left-handedness was once so despised. Foolish me.
Now Available: The protagonist of The Juror Hangs, Iris Ginge, is also left-handed. Now available on the Kindle, iPad on the iBookstore, as well as the Nook and the Sony Reader.