A lifetime of being left-handed has prepared me for the news that, like 12% of the world, I’ll probably earn less than right-handed folk
This is the ungainly, permanently-smudged life of a lefty; there to be gazed upon by righties who don’t realise you have to do everything backwards.’
I have this memory of being at a nursery when I was three years old. They gave out pieces of paper that we were to fold into quarters, cut bits out of, and then unfold to reveal pretty patterns like doilies. We were each given a pair of those rubbish children’s scissors that barely work, and – unfortunately for me, a left-hander – were also right-handed. I spent ages hacking away at my paper without making a dent until eventually I told the lady in charge that I couldn’t do it. “You’re just not trying hard enough,” she replied. I’ve never forgiven her for that.
At the time I didn’t realise that little incident was the introduction to a lifetime of misusing can-openers, wrestling with ring-binders, sliding off exam desks, struggling to play any sport involving a bat, and even reading clocks backwards.
This is the ungainly, permanently smudged life of a lefty; there to be gazed upon by righties who don’t realise you have to try to do everything in a way that seems backwards and usually end up writing you off as clumsy, or as someone who just doesn’t try hard enough.
To be honest, the only time I give my leftiness much thought is when I’m elbowing the person next to me, or when some neuroscientists release a study that suggests my left hand is a window to my soul, or that it can be used to divine my future.
The latest of these studies was in the news yesterday, and it revealed that on average lefties earn about 10%-12% less than righties. According to Harvard economist Joshua Goodman, who was behind the study, this is because “lefties have more emotional and behavioural problems, have more learning disabilities such as dyslexia, complete less schooling, and work in occupations requiring less cognitive skill”. After a lifetime of being told my leftiness makes me more creative, this news is rather disappointing.
I’m still smarting from the 2001 research that suggested lefties tend to die three years younger than righties, although “extremely left-handed people” (which I suspect includes me; I hardly ever use my right hand and am also left-footed) have a life expectancy that is just one year lower.
The Bible also suggests that we’ve got the devil on our side, so you’d at least think we might have some fun sinning during our short time on Earth, but no – studies also show we reach sexual maturity later than your average right hander. To be honest, when we eventually get around to having sex, we’d probably attempt it from the wrong angle. Awkward.
Left-handedness certainly has its practical (and apparently neurological) drawbacks, but I have to admit I quite like being this way. Your are a member of a special club where you swap tips about the best way to avoid getting ink all over yourself and how to navigate that stupid pen on a cord in the bank, where the cord is never long enough. A Buzzfeed post about the problems lefties face, like spiral notebooks, was viewed more than 9.5m times. Who’d have thought a hand could spark so much conversation?
Sure, I’ll never be a gossamer nymph, but at least I’m more likely to be a US president (I mean, you know, technically) and if Rafael Nadal can win 14 grand slams with a tennis bat in his left hand, it can’t all be bad. Plus, Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci were both left-handed, which I’m taking as irrefutable evidence that we’re all geniuses. Globally speaking, 12% of us are lefties, which means a significant chunk of you reading this article will be part of our exclusive club.