Left-handedness tends to run in families, but not ours. At least not in the traditional, legalistic sense. I am a righty, through and through. We all are. My husband, his parents and siblings, my parents and siblings, our children – all northpaws, except for one son who writes with his non-right hand.
Various theories involving techniques of caveman hunters, left-brain, right-brain thinking and ancient artwork all hypothesize why the hand usage thing is so skewed. Even the majority of chimpanzees are right-handed, so it’s not a uniquely human mystery.
My son is in good company. There are lots of smart and successful left-handers – outside of baseball, even. Three of the last four U.S. presidents have been lefties. Albert Einstein and Leonardo (da Vinci, not DiCaprio) were southpaws. Even Bart Simpson is left-handed. At least he’s drawn that way.
Fame and fortune aside, left-handedness has not always been an accepted trait. In days gone by, back when the schoolmarm slapped student’s hands with a wooden ruler, left-handed children were taught (sometimes forced) to use their right hand. (They don’t call them the good old days for nothing.)
While we no longer coerce left-handed children to follow the right-handed path and instead accept their journey on the road less traveled, the intricacies of our language make one wonder. If you describe something as out in left field, it is strange, or off course. A person can be left for dead, in the lurch, out in the cold, holding the bag and in the dark – none of them desirable. And we all understand no child wants to be left behind. Ever.
Yet, a person who is right on the mark, or makes all the right moves is doing things … well, the right way. When all is right with the world, it is a good day. Righteous, even.
Some might write off these observations as insignificant, but I’m a true believer in the power of words. I’m not advocating for substantial changes in the way we speak; I simply want to make sure my southpaw son realizes how leftastic and leftraordinary he is.
True lefties do everything left-handed. My son writes with his left hand, but he completes a number of other tasks with his right. He holds a hockey stick and golf club like a right-hander. He throws left, bats right and holds a fork and spoon with his left hand.
This mishmash of right-left preference is called mixed-handedness or cross-dominance. In reality, my son is neither left nor right-handed, but a little of both.
No one is sure what makes a person left or mixed-handed. One line of thought, called the vanishing twin theory, suggests left-handed people were originally half of a mirror-image set of twins with the right-handed fetus failing to develop sometime during early pregnancy. The fact that twins have nearly twice the frequency of left-handedness helps bolster this idea. So, we always wondered whether our left-handed son originated as half of a set of twins. It was something we’d never know for sure.
Until we tried finding a hockey stick for his younger, right-handed brother. We naturally gravitated to the right-handed hockey sticks. They didn’t work, because our youngest son uses a left-handed hockey stick. The same goes for golf, where he swings left. When throwing a ball, however, he is a righty.
In essence, wherever the older brother is left-handed, the younger brother is right, and vice versa. They are mirror images of one another, born six years apart – like twins who share everything, except a birthday. I find the coincidence intriguing and fascinating, or perhaps better put, leftriguing and leftcinating.
Some say it is a mixed up world. At our house, it is a mixed-handed world. We may be a little left of center, but for us it just feels right.