Life on the sinister side
March 25, 2010 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Just how inconvenient is it to be left-handed?

It's increasingly looking as though my one-year-old may turn out to be left-handed. Aside from freaking out about the apparent association with developmental delays (in "made" rather than "born" lefthanders-- there's zero lefthandedness anywhere else in the family, and I had a whole lot of ultrasounds during pregnancy), I'm wondering: exactly how much of a PITA is this going to be for her in the long term? A once-a-month annoyance, would we say, or a daily hurdle to be overcome? Something you'd pay $500 to be rid of (everything else being equal), or more like $50,000? Worse or better than the horrible nearsightedness I'm probably also going to have given her?

I'll definitely read up on lefty parenting, but any tips in that direction would be welcome as well.

Oh, and if any other probably-non-genetic lefthanders out there wouldn't mind dropping in some reassurance about your intellectual endowments and general success in life, I'd be heartily obliged. Anonymous because I don't want my child to happen on my account some day and realize I was speculating publicly about her brain having been fried :(.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (103 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
As a lefty the only daily issues I can think of are I tend to smudge my writing (both pen and pencil) when writing. Hence quick drying ink pens are almost a necessity. Other than that I quite enjoy life on the sinister side!
posted by Captain_Science at 8:58 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Left-handedness does not indicate that your child's brain has been fried, and it is only a minor inconvenience.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:00 AM on March 25, 2010 [12 favorites]

When my son was receiving occupational therapy (not for handedness) we were told that the dominant hand isn't usually noticeable until about 3 years of age. So you're probably not seeing what you think you're seeing. I did see an article that suggested if your child is showing a documentable preference before age 3 you should speak with your doctor, so there's that.

My best friend is the only lefty in her family and she's scary smart, super athletic and ridiculously attractive. Clearly, being left-handed hasn't hurt her in the least.
posted by cooker girl at 9:02 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm left-handed (sort of). I don't know if anybody else in my family is. This question has got me gobsmacked. Being left-handed isn't a handicap, unless you consider extremely minor annoyance with certain tools a handicap.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:02 AM on March 25, 2010 [14 favorites]

It's a non-issue.
posted by enn at 9:03 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

There's nothing wrong at all with left-handedness. I don't feel the need to get rid of it at any price. The one PITA I had was when I was in elementary school -- in the early 70s -- the kid-style leftie scissors were crap. I'm going to assume that problem has been solved in the ensuing decades. I sew a lot and my leftie sewing scissors are the only special tool I use anywhere in my life.

The nearsightedness is 100 times the PITA as the leftiness. (I'm nearsighted too, so I speak from experience.)

Also, it's probably too early to know that your kid is left-handed. I thought mine was, and encouraged it -- handed stuff to him via his left hand all the time -- but around two years old he switched to mostly right hand and there he has remained.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:03 AM on March 25, 2010

I tend to smudge my writing (both pen and pencil) when writing

I do this too, and I'm right-handed.
posted by grouse at 9:04 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whoa, nelly. What’s going on here? Perhaps you could cite some of those studies that claim developmental delays? How does one know if they are a non-genetic left-hander, anyway? I do many things with my right hand but several other things (including write) with my left. This has had zero impact on my life, at least on a conscious level. I’m an accountant, and was my high school valedictorian. My older brother is also left-handed, and he’s an interventional cardiologist. We are both well adjusted people living normal lives. We seem to be doing ok :)
posted by yawper at 9:04 AM on March 25, 2010 [15 favorites]

My daughter's a lefty. She's fine, other than taking a loooong time to stop smudging her school papers, as CAptain_Science indicated. She's adapted and learned to use some right-handed tools, out of necessity - my guitar, for example. The only real problem we still have is me trying to work on her computer - she's swapped her mouse buttons and it drives me batty.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:04 AM on March 25, 2010

Reassurance about success in life? Is she American? It's likely she'll be President one day. (5 out of the last 7 were lefties, 6 out of 7 if you count the fact that Gore actually won in 2000.)
posted by meerkatty at 9:05 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lefties are actually overrepresented among successful folks (for standard definitions of 'successful') than their presence in the population would imply. My dad's a lefty, and several of my friends are; I've also dated a few. As far as I can tell, the main problems lefties face is that learning to write is a bit more annoying, and they spend a lot of time bitching about scissors. Daily hurdle? By no means.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:05 AM on March 25, 2010

I agree that it's a non-issue. I am strongly left-handed and it makes little difference in my life. I am also the only lefty in my large family.
posted by cabingirl at 9:06 AM on March 25, 2010

I'm a lefty. To echo things that others have said:

- You can't really detect "handiness" until 3 or so.


- Shoe tying is different. If kiddo has a problem with it, enlist a left-handed friend to help.
- Sports techniques are different in some sports - baseball, golf, etc. - if kiddo is having a problem learning how to do such things, enlist a left-handed friend to help.
- Writing and cutting is challenging.

Honestly, there are a million other things to worry about. Don't assume kiddo is a lefty yet and focus on all the awesomeness that IS a toddler.
posted by k8t at 9:07 AM on March 25, 2010

As a bit of anecdata against the developmental delays thing you mentioned: three of the last four U.S. Presidents have been left handed. The one righty? Bush Jr.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:09 AM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

Oh , I guess I was also supposed to say that I was very good at school, full academic scholarship, quickly rising through the ranks of my company, etc. But I don't really see what that has to do with handedness.
posted by cabingirl at 9:09 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a lefty. My parents are not, although I don't understand why that's relevant. I learnt to read, write and do basic arithmetic before I went to school, was well above average academically, and have been quite successful enough, I think.

The only problems are that I can't use a fountain pen, because it smudges; and that writing cheque stubs is awkward.

Since modern technology means I almost never need either of those things, I pretty much never notice my left handedness. Remember, your kid will use a pen much less than you ever did.

Being a lefty is about as much of a disadvantage to me as having blue eyes.
posted by emilyw at 9:09 AM on March 25, 2010

I work with a lot of smart people, and I'd guess that more of them are lefties than in the general population. I always kind of assumed lefties were more likely to be creative and intelligent just from my own anecdotal experience.
posted by dfan at 9:09 AM on March 25, 2010

I was forced to be right handed by my first grade teacher. She had some weird, antiquated ideas about how horrid left-handed people are. Don't freak out about the left handed thing, and please don't force them to be "righty" where possible. I still can't do left/right without looking, I have a much easier time with N,E.S,W.
posted by kellyblah at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2010

Seconding the comment about smudging ink on hand-written papers. This isn't too much of an issue though as I stick mostly to typing.

Other than that, it's not really something I ever think about. In grade school there were left-handed scissors that were a pain to use, so I learn to use the right-handed ones. Same goes with computer mice.

From personal observation I've also noticed a lot of artist types (I'm not one) tend to be left-handed. And, yes, American presidents.
posted by squawk at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2010

My undesrstanding is that handedness in a very young child is only a sign of developmental delays if the child is not using the other hand for anything, not just showing a preference for one hand over the other. If that's the case, your pediatrician should notice it. If it's not the case, stop reading scare-mongery mommyblogs (or any other scare-mongery internet site). Being a lefty (if your kid is a lefty) is not going to cause her any problems as long as you don't force to not be a lefty.
posted by devinemissk at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

I totally identify as a left-handed sorta guy and would have to be paid at least six figures to give up being left-handed. That said, here's my experience uh so I'm going to be super-honest about how much of a klutz I am here, though I don't know how much of my klutziness is directly related to lefthandedness:
  • Scissors were a pain until I figured out (in late elementary school) that I should just give up learn how to use them right-handed.
  • When my folks taught me how to tie my shoes, I unconsciously inverted their instructions and spent all of elementary school to high school tying slip knots instead of shoelace knots, and even after I learned what I was doing wrong I'd sometimes still mess up and tie my shoelaces wrong. Eventually I found this knot, which is symmetrical and as such saves me the trouble of thinking about it.
  • Classrooms with those dinky little desks attached to the seats can go straight to hell. Christ, I hate them. Even if they bother to put in a few left-handed desks, they never put in enough and, besides, I don't want where I sit to be dictated by the location of the left-handed desks.
  • Okay, but, I've never been particularly athletic, but even so in elementary school and middle school (basically up to the point where I stopped playing any sports altogether because I was just so above that sort of thing, you know?) I was pretty good at pitching in baseball. Okay, screw it, really, really good. And when I played softball last summer in a super-casual league, I realized that even though I'm a total weakling, I can be useful on a team, since the extra steps being lefthanded gives me means that a ground ball to third is almost an automatic base hit.
In short, my advice for your kid: Learn symmetrical knots, how to use scissors right-handed, and play a lot of baseball. Also, sorry about the desks. Yeah, they suck.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm left handed. My dad was left handed, and he insisted that I learn to write so that I didn't curl my hand around on itself. Other than sometimes scissors are annoying when I use them weirdly, it has no real impact on my life at all.
posted by Zophi at 9:13 AM on March 25, 2010

I'm a left-hander, probably genetic, as several of the men in my mother's family are also left-handed. My wife is left handed, but probably not genetic, as she has CP on her right side, forcing her to use her left hand to write. I'd say I've got a pretty broad base of experience in this department.

First off, relax. It's not a big deal. If you asked me "how much would I pay", the answer is "nothing" and then I'd be slightly offended by the question. Yes, we lefties have awful handwriting, it's the price we pay for pushing our hands across the page.


We can write backwards, effortlessly! Like Leonardo DaVinci!

Oh, and "righty" scissors (especially those shitty crayola safety scissors) are difficult for lefties to use.

That's about it.
posted by Oktober at 9:13 AM on March 25, 2010

Developmental delays? First time I have heard this. If anything, from what I understand, lefties might have the upper hand. Especially in baseball and politics.

I am a lefty, and I will agree with the whole smudging of ink thing. It is also a pain if you ever have to borrow golf clubs. Some scissors feel awkward, but it is not a problem. Using other people's computer mice can feel wierd as well.

Lefties rule. Honestly, if you had to choose, would you really want to be right handed?
posted by jasondigitized at 9:15 AM on March 25, 2010

Very occasionally your pen might smudge. At college, the pull-down bookrests in lecture halls are slightly awkward to use. That's it. Wouldn't pay a dime to not be left-handed, because on the other side of the ledger you have the camaraderie of other lefties hail-fellow-well-metting you.

I'm not sure where you got the idea that left-handers are retarded. Is that a meme?
posted by dontjumplarry at 9:16 AM on March 25, 2010

Also be aware that some people, like me, are only weakly left-handed. They kept trying to make me use those stupid lefty scissors in school, and (I'm not kidding) writing "difficulty using scissors" on report cards. I naturally cut right-handed.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:16 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lefty here, w/ a lefty wife. How much of a pain is it? None, really. We lefties are quite adept at figuring out work-arounds for right-handed norms, being naturally clever sorts. To be frank, I'm a little surprised that you're thinking of this as a handicap at all. The worst thing I can think of is that she'll not have much use for a fountain pen when the time comes. As for the brain fry thing, all I would say is that you should look up the handedness of modern U.S. presidents. Going back as far as Ford, all were lefties except for W.
posted by Gilbert at 9:16 AM on March 25, 2010

When I was a kid, the issues were bigger than they are now. It's hard when almost all of the people you know, including your parents and teachers, are right-handed. There were so many times I heard "Oh, you're left-handed? Well just do the opposite of what I'm doing and it should be right." It's an easy thing to say, but when you're trying to learn how to do something relatively complicated like write or hit a baseball, it's really not that helpful.

Mostly, though, it's not bad at all once you get over any of the initial hurdles. The main problem is that virtually any handwritten document will be smudged unless you can find a pen with ink that dries really quickly (ballpoint pens, I think, are better for this) or a very hard-leaded pencil. It's pretty much impossible to use a fountain pen, since you're pushing the tip across the page. Occasionally I'll run into stupid right handed tools, especially scissors. For the most part, though, it's just minor annoyances that I rarely face.

Overall, I like being a lefty. It's sort of something that I feel sets me apart a little bit.

As for intellectual endowments and success in life? I'm a graduate student in mechanical engineering at one of the top 10 engineering schools in the country. It's kind of a ridiculous question, when you can look at lists of famous lefties and find that every president since Reagan has been left-handed with one notable exception.

(For reference, I'm pretty strongly left-handed and the only other lefty in my family is my grandmother, who lives all the way across the country from where I grew up and wasn't really able to teach me anything. I do, however, mouse with my right hand -- for whatever reason it's more natural.)
posted by malthas at 9:18 AM on March 25, 2010

I use right-handed scissors all the time, I don't bother with left-handed ones because I always lose them. In fact, it was losing mine at age five that prompted me to learn.

I do smudge my writing and it was harder for me to learn to knit.

Also, in college, there weren't enough left-handed lecture desks in my math seminar because a high percentage of us were left-handed. I had to get there early.

Here's an exchange with a friend:

Me: "did you know that 40% of all research mathematicians are left-handed?"
Her: "did you know that half of all research mathematicians can't tell their left from their right."
posted by mai at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2010

Yep, non-issue. My daughter is a lefty, and I am sometimes amazed at the interesting ways she develops to use things that have a right-handed bias, like manual can openers.

She's the only one in our family, and her brain is definitely not fried - she's currently getting her Master's degree in something I can never remember, but it contains the words "Business Jurisprudence", plus a lot of other fancy schmancy words, and it sounds incredibly dull and boring to me. One of her professors, who is the head of the legal department, told her that she ought to consider becoming a lawyer, and that he would write a letter of recommendation for her. So yeah, her brain works just fine.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:20 AM on March 25, 2010

I visited a "Left Handed Store" in San Francisco, and was told that there are a number of injuries each year due to left-handed folk using right-handed chainsaws.
posted by niles at 9:20 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not to be harsh, but the sooner you let go of this, the easier it will be on your daughter.

It's not a problem and there are bigger challenges and blessings ahead, no doubt, as with any child.
posted by nnk at 9:20 AM on March 25, 2010 [13 favorites]

I'm a lefty, the only one in my family. I'd never give it up. I'm encouraging my one-year-old son to be a lefty (yes, I know that's silly and will be futile).

Two things made for righties that are actually better for lefties are scissors and string instruments (guitars, banjos, violins, etc).

Scissors: the best way to cut shapes is to move the paper, not the scissors. You can use your left hand to move the paper, making fine adjustments, etc. Your right hand just has the dumb task of opening and closing the scissors.

Stringed instruments: Your left hand does the fingering of chords, notes, etc. Your right hand just has the dumb task of strumming, moving the bow, etc. Yes, I know that there are exceptions like fingerpicking.
posted by zsazsa at 9:21 AM on March 25, 2010

Look, you lefties even get your own shop!

Probably the main thing of note is that your child is taught to write correctly. A lot of lefties I know write is a fairly tortuous way. It's obviously less of an issue now that a lot of kids graduate onto computer keyboards fairly early.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:22 AM on March 25, 2010

Echoing other responses saying that paper smudging and non-left-handed desks were the only real annoyances that I remember. The only time it ever made me mad was dealing with an awful middle school art teacher who was terrible at teaching me how to modify a calligraphy project so that I could do it correctly (not a handed-ness issue so much as a horrible teacher issue).

Some tasks I modified and do in a left-handed manner - others, I just learned to do right-handed. The result is that the workload is equally distributed among both hands (i.e. I write left, use a right-handed mouse). This seems heathy to me in ergonomic terms (note: I have no basis for thinking this, other than I haven't got carpal tunnel yet).

Not a big deal overall. And working in a kooky-intellectual-artsy profession, I get a lot of comments like "wow, you're a lefty, that's neat"(?!).
posted by Knicke at 9:22 AM on March 25, 2010

I had the honor of being forced to be a lefty for a couple weeks five years ago when my right arm was run over (ulnar nerve was crushed). Writing, indeed, sucked for eh smudge issues. Scissors were also a pain in the ass.

The only really weird thing I encountered, though, was due my working as a mechanic/carwash installer at the time. The right hand is great at tightening bolts in a clockwise motion. The left is stronger in a CCW motion. Trying to tighten regular bolts, lefty, really wore me out.
posted by notsnot at 9:23 AM on March 25, 2010

Crappy handwriting from trying to avoid smudging, normal scissors and tiny desks are a pain, pretty much it.

Oh, and my pre-school teacher drilled into us that the "right" hand is the one you "write" with and the "left" is "left"; so I still occasionally end up going the wrong way on freeways. Stupid Ms. Rothberger.
posted by ormondsacker at 9:24 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with being left-handed. There are no adverse developmental effects. (In fact I too can attest to being a lefty, and creative on all three writing/visual art/music fronts.) The things you have to worry about are unimportant, and easily overcome - tying shoes, learning not to smudge writing, sports, etc. So, no need to freak out at all about the bundle of joy in your life - she's going to come out just fine.

My parents were often told, when I was starting to favor my left hand, that they should "do something about that" and prevent it from "growing worse." I'm eternally grateful they didn't, because to learn that your parents thought something like this was sinister and needed correcting, would've changed my opinion of them quite a bit.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 9:25 AM on March 25, 2010

It is pretty much a non-issue, even at an early age. But there will be things that you won't think of that will matter a lot.

For example: Ages ago, my handwriting for schoolwork got neater when I found out that there were spiral bound notebooks with the spirals on top, rather than on the left. I still carry around pencils, rather than pens, because they're less smudgy. For some sports, like baseball or golf, I needed to make sure that I had my own equipment.

There's the good too. I haven't golfed in far too long, but on some holes & courses I had a natural advantage, as the landscape design actually was challenging for righties, but favorable for lefties.

And, while I don't totally understand this myself, I've found that many other lefties I've met (even casually) tend to think that we're already in some sort of super-secret friendship club, by virtue of our handedness. In a strange way, I've never felt left out of anything from my lefthanded-ness, but I've been surrounded by this peculiar insistence that I belonged to some sort of exclusive and privileged group.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:25 AM on March 25, 2010

I am the only lefty in my immediate family. I like it just fine, now that my days of grappling with combination desk/chairs, being scolded for using the "wrong" side of spiral-bound notebook pages and using well-meaning "lefty" school scissors (always blunt, always sticky, always in short supply) are over. I've adapted to doing things right-handed where it's more convenient or where no left-handed alternative exists. I feel like this actually gives me an edge on right-handers, most of whom have no ambidexterity (if that's a word).
posted by stuck on an island at 9:26 AM on March 25, 2010

I'm a lefty, as my mother is. The only difference between us is that back during her upbringing it was a sign of the devil, so her teachers and parents actively forced her to write using her right hand, using all sorts of punishments and restraints when she'd use her left hand. She's ambidextrous now but she definitely prefers to write with her left hand, and I don't blame her at all, considering such awful treatment for such an insignificant issue.

As for myself, I wouldn't pay a dime to change to being right-handed. Being a lefty in today's world is a complete non-issue. The only thing that irritates me is smudging my writing, and that's easily avoidable by using quick drying pens, or as is more common nowadays simply taking digital notes. While I do use right-handed guitars and scissors (I tend to be a lefty for writing but a righty for doing), there are tons of lefty tools available.

And for one last piece of anecdata, I've never heard of left-handed developmental delays, in fact in my experience lefties tend to be much more creative and intellectual on average than their righty counterparts. In my gifted classes growing up at least half of the class was left handed, which is greatly skewed from the normal proportion of lefties vs righties.

While being left handed in the past might have been sinister and looked down on, nowadays it is a neutral if not positive thing, and there is no real reason whatsoever to consider remedying it.
posted by Meagan at 9:27 AM on March 25, 2010

I am the only right-handed person in my family, and that's only because I went to a school that forced me to be right-handed. Both of my parents are left-handed, as were most (if not all) of my grandparents. They were/are all quite intelligent (my dad has a Ph.D., my mom a Master's, if that's any indication).

And my mom can do awesome mirror writing. Bonus!
posted by amro at 9:28 AM on March 25, 2010

I asked a lefty girlfriend once about what annoyances a right-handed world held for her that we right-handers have never bothered to think about (we do provide scissors of both types, for example, so we have made some allowances). After a moment's thought, she mentioned soup ladles are all made for right-handed people.

And there are hidden advantages: a left-handed coworker has her computer mouse to the right of the keyboard and drives it right-handed, which means she can navigate through something and take notes at the same time, something no one else in the office can do.

In short: you have nothing to worry about.

It's likely she'll be President one day... 5 out of the last 7 were lefties

In the 1992 campaign, Bush, Clinton and Perot were all left-handed.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:29 AM on March 25, 2010

I've always liked being a lefty, even at a young age - it made me different from most people in a subtle, kind of secret way. It's really, really not an inconvenience in any way.

My sister and I are both left-handed, although nobody else in our family is, and we are both high achievers. It is a total waste of your time to worry about this.
posted by something something at 9:30 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cite for the mirror writing/left-handed thing:

There are more left-handed mirror writers than right-handed ones, probably because left-handed people tend to have atypical language centers in their brain. 15% of left-handed people have the language centres in both halves of their brain. The cerebral cortex (thin layer of dense brain cells covering the whole brain) and motor homunculus (relates to voluntary movement) are affected by this causing them to be able to read and write backwards quite naturally.
posted by amro at 9:30 AM on March 25, 2010

When my son was receiving occupational therapy (not for handedness) we were told that the dominant hand isn't usually noticeable until about 3 years of age. So you're probably not seeing what you think you're seeing.

Two of our kids were really obviously left-handed from the beginning; the other one didn't establish clear dominance until he was 4 or so and started writing letters. We too had heard that you couldn't really tell until at least age 3 but it's just not true in our experience with our kids. Both our oldest son and our daughter consistently use their left hands for utensils and drawing implements from early toddlerhood. If anybody has a kid who did that and then turned out right-handed, I'd be interested to hear about it, because it's really hard to imagine a kid using the left hand consistently for three years and then switching. Our other son used either hand during those years.

All three of our kids are left-handed; it's really been a non-issue. They're very different kids but all within the realm of normal. I haven't even done anything fancy with teaching them to write or anything; the youngest is not yet 3 but the other two both developed functional, normal, non-hook pencil grips on their own.
posted by not that girl at 9:35 AM on March 25, 2010

Complete non-issue. I'm a lefty, to my knowledge the only one in either of my parents' families. I blame some of my difficulties with learning guitar on being left handed. But it could also be that I don't practice enough -- apparently practice has some bearing on how fast you learn.

I've been told that the two populations where lefties are over-represented are scientists and criminals. This is where your guidance as a parent comes in, I guess.
posted by Killick at 9:36 AM on March 25, 2010

Another lefty here, daughter of a lefty, and likely granddaughter of a lefty who was forced to use his right hand.

The world is set up for the convenience of right-handers; subway turnstiles, for example, are designed to swipe the fare card with your right hand and walk through, and I always find myself awkwardly reaching across my body with my left hand to swipe the fare card.

Generic desk setups, like in libraries, are often set up with the reading lamp on the left side, which means that if you are taking notes on something your left hand is shading the paper you are using. And those stupid desk chairs that have the arm support on the right hand side are similarly set up for righties. In both cases I impose my own comfort on the environment, moving the light if possible or just appropriating the space or the desk to my left. In high school I frequently pulled the desk chair to my left closer to me to write on. Occasionally I'd get challenged but when I pointed out the ergonomics I always prevailed, so being a lefty can also teach you to improvise and to stand up for what you need.

I wouldn't change it for anything.
posted by ambrosia at 9:36 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Being left handed has never been even a little bit inconvenient for me. Of course, it helps that I hold scissors in my right hand and that I realized early on that lefties have an advantage when it comes to playing a normal guitar. There are no left-handed pianos, so a left-handed guitar doesn't make any sense.
posted by The World Famous at 9:36 AM on March 25, 2010

I'm a lefty. I've never heard that it was heritable—nobody else in my family is. I've also never been led to believe that it rendered me feebleminded, although you're free to disagree on that point.

The one big drawback for me has been baseball: when I was taught how to play at daycamp when I was 6 or so, it didn't occur to me to tell the counselors that I was a lefty, so they forced me to play right-handed. This has pretty much ruined me for the game. Not that I've ever been much into ball sports anyhow.

I also had the smudging problem with pens (I've adapted), my handwriting has always been atrocious, and spiral-bound notebooks can be a pain.

While I'm hardly ambidextrous, I'm more adept with my right hand than my wife is with her left. I think most lefties probably need to adapt to right-handedness to some extent just to get along.

It's also interesting that when I was in kindergarten, I went through a mirror writing phase.
posted by adamrice at 9:38 AM on March 25, 2010

Well, I'm left-handed, but for extra fun, I'm also missing the thumb on my right hand (from birth). So I really couldn't switch if I needed to for scissors and whatnot. I'm 35, have a master's degree and I'm doing just fine. I'd probably give you $500 for the thumb, opening packages is kind of a bitch. But I'll stay a lefty.
posted by desjardins at 9:40 AM on March 25, 2010

If your kiddo is really left-handed, it'll likely be almost a non-issue; maybe a once-every-few-months annoyance? Don't despair. My family (full of lefties! 5/7!) failed to do anything at all to deal with it, and we've all turned out fine.

-Quality left-handed scissors might be helpful. I'm kind of grateful I never had any decent ones, however, because now I cut right-handed and don't need to keep/find the left-handed ones. Using my "wrong" right hand to cut meant that up until about 2nd grade all my projects looked like they had been chewed out by a gerbil rather than carefully cut, unfortunately, but then I figured it out.

-I've never found a lefty to teach me to knit/crochet, and I have always blamed my utter incompetence in this area on that fact.

-Writing in binders or spiral notebooks stinks, unless you write on the back sides of pages. My elementary school teachers wouldn't allow this, because I went to a weird ABC school and they were kind of jerky. When she's learning to write, teach her how to turn her paper if the smudging is frustrating. Erasable pens are the worst for lefty smudging- don't use them, find something quick-drying.

-In school classrooms with those tiny desks attached to the armrests of chairs, you're pretty much hosed. It's annoying, but not insurmountable. I usually sign and contort my body, or just bring a hard surface of my own to write on.

-When I grew up, the only computers I had access to were in computer labs, and the mice were always on the wrong side, with too-short cords so you couldn't move them over. And of course the ports were always on the right. I mouse exclusively with my right hand because of it- which is totally fine, except for when doing a drawing program or something along those lines. Today's computers are far more adaptable.

-Musical instruments are designed to play the way they are built, and it's really a pain to mess with them unless there's a legitimate physical disability involved. And when you play in a large section as on a bowed string instrument, it's important to match everyone else. I've never really understood the point of lefty guitars; the way the instrument is normally played, your left hand (as on all string instruments) does all the fingering, which seems like the fiddliest work to me. I can never tell which of my beginners are right-handed vs. left-handed on any instrument; they ALL sound equally bad to start. There is nothing battier than a mom who calls the superintendent on you (!) because you are making her kid play the cello the way everyone else does, the way every left-hander in the history of the universe has done.

-Allegedly, lefties are overrepresented in almost every extreme of society. There are more left-handed serial killers and schizophrenics than you would statistically expect, but also more super-geniuses and presidents.

-Don't make a big deal out of it. It's far from the end of the world.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2010

I am very left-handed. Left-handedness in a minor PITA in a bunch of little ways - scissors, handwriting, chain saws - but they are very minor, probably most akin to the feeling you get working with an inelegantly designed electronic device. And since you are born to it, you don't really notice.

What you do notice are the people that make a big deal of trying to change it. I know nothing of genetic versus non-genetic left-handedness, but for me, my handedness was, and is, not subject to change. My grade school was filled with nuns that tried to change my dominant hand. The only thing that changed was my attitude to the nuns. Trying to "correct" it is only going to leave everyone frustrated.

In my house my wife, my son and I were all lefties. My daughter was the the only rightie. There was not a lot that we had to do to accommodate. The biggest issue was what side of the keyboard the mouse was on.

lease don't think of it as a disability. There are far too many other issues to focus on. (And by the way, no one has mentioned its advantages. If your child has any aptitude in sports, being left-handed can be a huge advantage. First-basemen are all lefties and left handed pitchers are a rare commodity. I played tennis throughout high school and it helped immensely. Everyone was used to playing against right-handers, they had to adjust their game to play against me. I only had to worry about it when I played against other lefties.)
posted by rtimmel at 9:43 AM on March 25, 2010

(*sigH and contort my body- doh!)
posted by charmedimsure at 9:44 AM on March 25, 2010

Yea, I am a lefty and my only complaints are:

-Scissors, once I was in middle school I got the hang of them and was fine, but early on I had trouble with right handed scissors in my left hand.

-Those AWFUL HORRID STUPID right handed desks that are in every room of my collage.

-My only trouble with shoes was everyone else in my family was right handed, so it was not until a left handed teacher taught me that I was any good at shoe tying.

-The majority of common firearms are designed for right handed users.

One thing to watch out for, when my much older brother was in elementary school they made him write with is right hand instead of letting him choose which hand felt correct. So he has horrible hand writing skills because he learned right handed, he thinks he should have been left handed.
posted by token-ring at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2010

The worst part of being left handed is having learned to play a left handed guitar. If your kid expresses any interest in playing guitar, I would gently encourage them to go with a righty. Imagine going over to friends houses for two decades and having to learn to play their dumbass right handed guitars upside down.

Other than that, and occasionally trying to use scissors, being a lefty has been just fine.
posted by orville sash at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2010

If you asked me "how much would I pay", the answer is "nothing" and then I'd be slightly offended by the question.

I'm irritated rather than offended by the question, but I agree: my lefthandedness is no better or worse than the OP's righthandedness, except for the general unavailability of tools for lefties. I can't remember the last time being left-handed inconvenienced me; I've adapted perfectly well to a world in which scissors, can openers, and gold clubs are righthanded.

The biggest inconvenience I experience frequently is at cramped dinner tables, where righties ocassionally bang elbows with me. (note: I do not bang elbows with righties, they bang 'em with me, because I'm used to keeping my elbow tucked in while eating.) I usually try to sit at the end to avoid this, but it's not a big life-changing deal, just a minor point of comfort for everyone.

Yes, we lefties have awful handwriting, it's the price we pay for pushing our hands across the page.

My handwriting is lovely. I do splurge on quick-drying gel pens, and that's a slight inconvenience: because my hand drags across the freshly-made letters, I have to be little particular about my pens, which means I can't count on buying a new pen at the drugstore, or using a promotional freebie pen, or borrowing one from a friend. It's a good idea for anyone with this need to find a mass-market brand of pen that works for them, so they can pick up a suitable pen at a drugstore or supermarket.
posted by Elsa at 9:46 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

charmedimsure -- I bought a pair of left-handed scissors and quickly abandoned them. I had worked with ill fitting right-handed ones for so long that the left-handed ones just felt wrong. Although I remember my first-grade teacher getting furious with me for my cutting skills so maybe if I had some early in life . . .
posted by rtimmel at 9:47 AM on March 25, 2010

Oh, and dessert forks are often designed for the right-handed, with a stupid fancy bendy scroll-y edge for no reason on the side a lefty would use to cut a tasty bite of cake. That's pretty much the end of my list, however- turns out I'm far from oppressed.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:48 AM on March 25, 2010

Another lefty here. I think you're worrying unnecessarily.

Ambrosia points out the big one: Doors to public buildings are often designed to be opened by right-handers. I can't go through a subway turnstile without crossing my left hand over my body to put the ticket in. Elevators generally have the buttons on the right side of the door, so I have to turn my body to press them.

I used to have terrible handwriting, but now it's more than legible. Not that I often write with pen and paper anymore, though.

As what Elsa said above, the only time it's a problem for me is sitting down to dinner at smaller restaurants. If I'm with righties, we have to negotiate the seating to avoid "elbow knock" as my left hand and fork collide with a friend's right hand and fork.

My mother-in-law is a left-hander, and she likes to say that she's "in her right mind" (because the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body).
posted by vickyverky at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2010

It's not a big deal at all. Several people in my family are left handed. We seems to have all done fine. Keep in mind that favoring the left hand for things is way more variable than in right handedness. I mean that right handed people usually do practically everything with their right hand while left handed people will be more variable. Partly this is from how your brain is wired and partly from necessity from living in a mainly right handed world. So, for example, my aunt does everything with her left hand. I write, hold eating utensils, and open doors with my left hand, but I throw with my right hand. I hold my computer's mouse (and use trackpads, etc.) with my left hand, but it drove me crazy to switch the buttons--so I still "left-click."

Anyway, don't worry about it and just let them do whatever however they will. And don't gasp and freak out when they cut stuff up with the knife in their left hand. That used to bug the crap out of me when people did it to me.
posted by sevenless at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2010

The SheMulp is left handed. She tells me that the biggest complications were figuring out how to write in a spiral-bound notebook and using right-handed desk/chair combos in school. I'm guessing that most all complications will be directly related to writing -- she didn't have much trouble getting used to the rest of the things we take for granted that are designed for right-handed people.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2010

There are three things I can think of right away. Zip lock bags are counter intuitive. I've just given up and buy the twisty tie cheap ones. Handing off newborn babies with a right handed partner is always awkward. Carving and slicing. Check out the dumbfounded look of the righteous when they go to slice bread or a roast after you have been at it.
posted by Pennyblack at 10:03 AM on March 25, 2010

I am a lefty and proud of it! My one piece of advice is to not allow any of her teachers to attempt to force her to use her right hand. My first grade teacher once mentioned that she was going to "break me of my left hand habit" but a quick phone call from my mother put the kibosh on that immediately.
posted by bahama mama at 10:08 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

My dad is left handed, and 3 out of 7 kids are also lefties (I am rightie). In my family:
- all same-handed kids sat on the same side of the dining room table, to reduce the elbow bumping.
- all leftie kids can play the piano by ear, while the rest of us still sound terrible after years of lessons
- I taught my leftie brother to crochet (sit across from each other and teach it like a mirror image). I made a blanket out of hundreds of small hexagon pieces where the center is circular. He made all the white ones for me. The centers of the white ones all twist in the opposite direction of the other ones.

And in case you missed it in all the comments above, I am seconding the the fabulous shoe-lacing site. There are instructions for right and left-handed, and they really explain how to make the knots that hold tight, regardless of which way you started. For years my shoelaces were always falling loose. I thought everyone's did that, until I read that site. Now I think that one of my leftie siblings must have taught me to tie shoes and I've been doing it wrong ever since.
posted by CathyG at 10:13 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

scissors-dreaders, take heart! you can use either-handed scissors with either hand if you observe the following guideline:

with your thumb in the thumb loop, push slightly toward the midline of your body, and pull your finger in the finger loop in the opposite direction. that will make the blades cross flush with each other and make a clean cut.

the problem with using opposite-handed scissors (usually) is that your thumb/finger tension pulls the blades laterally apart, making the paper bend and tear instead of cut.

just a tip for ambi living in this right-handed world.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:14 AM on March 25, 2010

I remember a horrible fact told by my grandmother as she was encouraging my parents to fix my brother's potential left handedness.

"Everyone knows all left-handed people are sent to hell to chop wood to burn bad normal people."

Different times...
posted by Classic Diner at 10:15 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would ask a similar question of you...given that left-handed people are geniuses (statistical data derived from personal anecdotal experience--my IQ is GIGANTIC), more creative (I'm an artist), and more charismatic and beautiful than righties (hellooo?)...why aren't you taking lessons on how to be more left handed?

Jump for joy that your 1year old has hands he/she can use, and then pray to God that he/she isn't an outcast due to her above average skill in everything except handwriting...and that's bogus, too. My handwriting is fantastic!
posted by madred at 10:16 AM on March 25, 2010

Like everyone said above there's nothing wrong with it. If anything it could be better for some things.

There are sports advantages: Left handed pitchers can watch 1st base to prevent a steal to 2nd. A right handed pitcher has his back to 1st base. Lefty batters are looking in the direction they're going to run. My lefty mom still regrets my not getting into sports more as a lefty. Lefty mom also went to State in high school tennis - she said everyone always thought they were hitting to a backhand - but for a lefty it's their forehand.

Neurologists at work always comment about my lefty-ness like it's a good thing and I'm not sure why. But it makes me stand out, they remember me so when I have to call them for something later.

The lefty stores are fun as a kid. You're special. I learned early to just mirror everything.

My right handed father, a neuro pathologist, got into it once with a teacher who tried to switch me in grade school. She told me I was the 'devil's spawn.' This was rural Baptist belt in the 1970's. He thought it was bad for my neuro development to mess with it like that. It was really wonderful having Dad stick up for me like that about something that made me different.
posted by dog food sugar at 10:18 AM on March 25, 2010

My 80-something curmudgeon of a dad for some reason has a "thing" about lefties - "why can't they write with the right ("right" as in "correct") hand?!" (He has a similar "thing" about time zones - when a TV announcer mentions something about "Central Time" dad will gripe "Why can't they be on the right time?") So, anyway, as a result I've grown up noticing lefties on TV, in the news, in films. Prince William is a southpaw, as is President Obama, as is Paul McCartney and as are seemingly 80% of leading men* in films (keep an eye peeled next time you're watching a movie and the main character has to write something - you'll be surprised to see how many are lefties.)

*I say "men" because males are more likely to be left-handed than females.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:18 AM on March 25, 2010

I am left-handed. I have absolutely no problems with writing or smudging. I think that a lot of left-handers don't realise that their writing is not really the best way to do it, so they never think about changing it and thus complain that left-handed means smudged writing. I can't imagine that it's too hard to change the way in which one's hand is positioned while writing. It's not like changing hands altogether.
posted by jpcooper at 10:33 AM on March 25, 2010

1) I am mildly offended by your question. The only reason my left handedness would be an issue is if I had a paranoid parent who wanted me to fit in with "the group" regardless of my talents and diversity. Fortunately in my family we always question authority and develop our own individuality.

2) Left handed scissors in Kindergarten had little green rubber padding on the finger slots, MUCH more comfortable than the bare metal (with little sharp metal burs) that the right handed kids had to use. Worth the price of admission.

3) Ford, Reagan, G. H. W Bush, Clinton and Obama are all left handed. George "Dubya" Bush was right handed. I rest my case.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 10:34 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am left handed. I like being left handed. I would not pay to switch, nor could you pay me to do so. I've always felt that way.

I would, however, pay at least six figures to guarantee growing up with parents who teach me to work well with what I have, and not feel bogged down by my imperfections.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:34 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

If anybody has a kid who did that and then turned out right-handed, I'd be interested to hear about it, because it's really hard to imagine a kid using the left hand consistently for three years and then switching.

My daughter colored/scribbled/painted with her left hand almost exclusively until she started making letters at about three-ish. She abruptly switched to her right hand (not because of anyone's interference, mind you) and is right-handed today. Sometimes I wonder if she preferred her left hand at first because she always clutched her lovey with her right hand; it was already being used.

That's the problem with anecdotes; they're not data. I did say that hand dominance isn't usually noticeable. I didn't say never noticeable. There will always be outliers.
posted by cooker girl at 10:37 AM on March 25, 2010

I'm a lefty. I've never heard that it was heritable—nobody else in my family is.

When it started to look like our third kid was also left-handed, I looked it up. It's not heritable; it's just a normal variation. Something like 17% of people, IIRC.
posted by not that girl at 10:38 AM on March 25, 2010

I am a lefty. It is not an issue to me.

I don't know anything about heritability of leftiness. Noone in my family is left-handed as far as I can remember, while I am. My brain functions rather well - I think fast, have a good imagination, can empathize, reasonable motor control, etc. etc.

The only difference as far as I can tell is that I'm a little bit better at badminton than I should be - I catch shots that my opponent wouldn't expect me to catch, based on their normal experience on playing with someone that keeps their racquet on the opposite side.
posted by krilli at 10:50 AM on March 25, 2010

Another lefty here - it's so not a big deal. I can't understand giving it a second thought in this day and age and I have no idea where you are getting the idea that it's a cross to bear. You don't need special equipment or special treatment. It's not an affliction, it's not horrible, it isn't anything that needs to be fixed. It just is, just as you are right handed. I doubt you ever give being right handed any consideration just as I never think about being left handed.
posted by cecic at 10:54 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sooo... a lot of answers. I am not left handed. But my son is! Sort of.

Here's the deal: when he started to learn to write in school he had no clearly dominant hand. He'd switch back and forth from left to right (and back) as his hands got tired. We were advised that this wasn't optimal as he end up with two hands of bad handwriting. We were advised to have him choose right as that would be easier but it turned out that he bats & throws left in baseball and rides goofy on his snowboard. Not really any issue with those except it's hard to borrow a ball glove if he forgets his.

It is, to a limited extent, possible to choose which hand you child writes with provided you start very, very early. But as many other have said, if he's strongly left-dominant then it's not a very big deal.
posted by GuyZero at 10:59 AM on March 25, 2010

Left-hander here. I'm actually left-handed but right-footed, whether because of nature or training I don't know. Power tools and musical instruments are where I've noticed some problems. I suppose lots of game controllers are right-handed too. It's true that a dominant right hand makes it easier to tighten regular bolts etc; however a dominant left hand makes it easier to open jars. When faced with right-handed seats in high school, I sat diagonally in the chair. At college, I used the desk on the one to my left.

I do lots of things mostly with my right hand - mouse, ten-key, use scissors, use the table knife - and others exclusively with my left - write, use sharp knives, bat and throw.

Don't worry about your kid being left-handed or not. Just don't let anyone force her to use a particular hand for writing or whatever.
posted by expialidocious at 11:01 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


- I don't even remember ever smudging my ink

- Left-handed scissors suck

- Learning to drive was somewhat more annoying than it would have been otherwise since everything's on the wrong side

- Imagine my annoyance when, in college, I decided I wanted to take up Japanese calligraphy and I found out you just cannot do that shit left-handed. You'd think so, but the way you hold the brush plus the stroke order and direction means you simply cannot see what the crap you are doing. Ever. Is there an alternate system for doing this? Maybe there is and the class just didn't encourage it but it seems genuinely more cumbersome.
posted by furiousthought at 11:07 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

The obstacles I've encountered:

I tended to form my letters backwards at first. This went away long before kindergarten though. It was likely more to do with watching my right-handed parents teach me how to form letters and then mirroring that. This goes for shoelace tying as well.

Working in a print shop, all the machines were optimized for right-handers. when you hear that lefties have a larger number of accidents in factories, this is why.

Scissors. my kindergarten teacher refused to have lefty scissors, saying that we'd never come across another pair in the wild. It's true: I now cut nearly ambidextrously, but my left hand is still stronger with tin snips and garden clippers.

Spiral notebooks and college desks are annoying.

Soup ladles and the occasional grapefruit spoon are annoying.

Other than that, no worries. I've done calligraphy and am a draftsperson. I've been complimented on my handwriting. I used to play violin. Frankly it's a little weird to me that you seem to be so worked up over this. I've never heard of this "made/born" thing you're talking about.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:17 AM on March 25, 2010

Scissors and hand-operated can openers were challenges. You learn to turn the other way in the stupid desks made for right-handers. I have neat handwriting (turn the paper so it doesn't smudge). I am considered both artistic and creative, though I think I'm klutzy, too.

I use my right hand for lots of tasks, too, because others did. I'd see someone throw with his right hand or bat right-handed, so I would, too. So I consider myself balanced rather than absurdly dominant, as (in my experience) a lot of right-handed people are, probably from never having been challenged to HAVE to use their non-dominant hand.

I would NEVER change being left-handed for any amount of money.

Data points: I was reading by the time I was 4, I.Q. in the 150's, excelled in school, graduated with a 3.4 overall and a 3.6 in my major in college, yada yada yada.

And I would really, really like for you to please follow up your question with where you got all this 'information' equating left-handedness with developmental delays! Because pseudo-scientific fear-mongering aimed toward parents bothers me, as left-hander and a Mom.
posted by misha at 11:36 AM on March 25, 2010

Wow. Include me among the gobsmacked. Why do you believe ultrasounds create left-handedness? That sounds nonsensical. Why do you believe this might be an obstacle worth $500-50,000 to correct? Why do you equate poor vision as comparable to left-handedness? Your concerns seem of the level of "My daughter may have red hair, how demeaning is it to be a 'ginger'?" Wow again.

To answer your questions:
-I would give no money to change my left-handedness. In fact I'd go to lengths to retain it.
-It's not a PITA in the long term. In second grade I had to learn to use scissors.
-I'll eventually get my vision surgically corrected, but would not trade my handedness.

Seriously. Geez.

The responses in this thread have been great. Here's some anecdotes to add, if you don't like the data others have offered:

I golf and bat right-handed, though I study sword and martial arts with a bias towards left-handedness. In one on one sports, lefties tend to have an advantage because they're used to competing against righties: tennis, sword, boxing.

I play my stringed instruments (professionally and successfully) "right-handed". I can't imagine playing cello, bass, violin, or guitar *without* my dominant hand (left) on the neck. It seems to me that righties are at a disadvantage by having their dominant hand bowing or picking, which requires much less dexterity.

Knowing that I'm grouped with people traditionally perceived as gifted creatively is something I enjoy. Seeing UncleOzzy is left-handed was cool. Learning that all the late 20th century presidents (minus "W") were left-handed was cool.

This is not something to worry about.

Only left-handed people are in their right minds.
posted by lothar at 11:48 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Around the age of 12 or 13, I just ... switched from being right-handed to being ambidextrous-tending-toward-left. Never figured out why, although an epileptologist I saw for a while suggested that it might have been the result of a head injury. I've always written right-handed, but now eat, brush my teeth, crochet, and tie my shoes, among other things, left-handed -- and the change from right to left for those things happened pretty much without effort, as far as I can remember.

Most of the negatives I've experienced have already been mentioned: scissors, the mouse, can-openers, jostling for position at the dinner table. Even after 2 years or so of lessons, I was never able to play the guitar right-handed; someday I'll get mine restrung or something and try it left-handed. Could be I just can't play the guitar.

My dad always seemed to view my ambidexterity as some sort of personal affront, and he spent my teenage years telling me that any children I had would be dyslexic. This was in the late '70's/early '80's; so the idea that left-handedness was associated with learning disabilities was around then. I didn't have children, so his belief was never proven or disproven. I never worried about it.
posted by worldswalker at 11:58 AM on March 25, 2010

Have not read previous answers please excuse any repeating...

I don't find it in any way to inconvenience me NOW and the inconveniences when I was little stacked up to be fairly minor.

The inconveniences all happened when I was little. The biggest thing was that my Kindergarten teacher did not realize until the six week parent/teacher conference that I was left-handed so she'd been forcing me to use right handed scissors and she didn't understand why I couldn't cut very mom was like, "uh you realize she's left handed?" and the teacher was like, "uh no." All through grade school and part of middle school I ended up using right handed scissors in my left hand cause I couldn't make the left handed scissors work after that. At some point during middle school I started using my right hand to cut stuff.

I adapted by basically learning how to do everything like everyone else - with my right hand. The only thing I'm left hand dominant on at this point is writing - and I very rarely have to write anything out at this point since it's mostly typing these days.

A special note on writing - I was lucky enough to have access to a second grade teacher who was left handed. (My actual second grand teacher was right handed but she sent me to the other second grade class during writing time.) She taught me how to write in cursive without me having my hand all bunched up and curled over on top of the page. I'm not sure this will be an issue for your kid since it seems cursive writing is not favored now.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 12:21 PM on March 25, 2010

I returned because I do recall two incidents --- in forty years --- of large inconveniences caused by my lefthandedness.

1. The first incident, to be perfectly accurate, was caused not by my handedness but by someone else's prejudice against lefties: my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. M______, took it into her head to convert me to a righthander.

She wasn't allowed to swat my hand, but she routinely assigned me to a teeny-tiny right-only half desk, graded down my (perfectly legible, well-formed, not-smeared) papers for messiness, and remarked that I would certainly get better grades if I learned (at eleven!) to write with my right hand. She also informed me that my handedness was the result of evil influences. (She was pretty clearly a little nutty in a great many ways; I was not the only target of her prejudices, just the mouthiest.) I reported her remark to the principal, and after that I reported her anti-lefty acts and remarks Every. Single. Time.

Eventually, loony old Mrs. M______ disappeared for a few weeks "vacation" and when she returned, she had given up her campaign against Satan lefthandedness. She retired quietly the next year.

The moral: if your child seems to be suffering any prejudice from a teacher or other authority figure who thinks it's undesirable or evil to be left-dominant, report, report, report. It's nonsense, and your kid shouldn't have to suffer it.

2. Much smaller deal, but an ongoing inconvenience: I needed my own baseball glove; I couldn't use a hand-me-down from rightie siblings. (My oldest brother, also a leftie, held onto his old glove, probably in case he had leftie kids.) This also means that my rightie husband, a baseball fiend, can't lend me one of his several gloves for a game of catch. Bummer!

The moral: get your kid a baseball glove, take care of it, keep track of it, and update to a larger size as necessary.
posted by Elsa at 12:42 PM on March 25, 2010

I'm wondering where this panic comes from. I don't find that there is any inconvenience other than switching the mouse over to the other side when I use a public computer.

One potential advantage I think (uncleozzy can confirm or deny this) is in playing guitar. I'm left-handed but I play a standard-issue right-handed guitar. That means that my dominant hand is doing the fretwork, which is often fancier than the strumming and picking that less-dominant hand is doing.
posted by umbú at 12:43 PM on March 25, 2010

The last time being a lefty was an inconvenience was trying to learn to use chopsticks ("just do what i do, only different!" doesn't work so easy). Oh, and learning to snowboard.

I have been more inconvenienced because I can't drive a manual car than because I don't right with my right hand.

It can be a hell of a conversation starter in parts of the world where people are still forced to be right-handers (e.g. Japan) or where using your left hand to eat is taboo (e.g. India, West Africa, Middle East/Gulf..). (Generally, if you're a foreigner or if you are in a city, people won't give you too much grief about violating this taboo)
posted by whatzit at 12:47 PM on March 25, 2010

One potential advantage I think (uncleozzy can confirm or deny this) is in playing guitar.

Yeah, I play a right-handed guitar, and I've never understood why right-handed people would want to fret with their non-dominant hands. Granted, I'm an atypical lefty (it would be more expedient for me to list the things I do left-handed than vice versa), but it never even occurred to me, before I picked up my first guitar, that I might want to fret with my right hand. It just didn't make sense.

But yeah, to reiterate a point made earlier: if your kid wants to play a guitar or other stringed instrument, try a right-handed one first. For dexterity, but mostly convenience.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:59 PM on March 25, 2010

Issues with being left handed (personal experience)

- smudging while writing with biros, calligraphy pen etc. Get them quick drying pens, and make sure no-one scolds them for being messy if they smudge the writing or get ink on their hands while learning to write - it's unavoidable to a certain extent, but it will get better as they get older.

- need to learn different techniques for holding tennis, badminton raquets

- that's about it, really.

There are all sorts of products like left handed scissors etc, but I've never found them neccessary.

Oh, one other thing - I always ask GPs to put vaccine in my right arm (they usually automatically vaccinate left arm). That way any soreness, swelling, tenderness etc is in my non-dominant arm.
posted by Oceanesque at 1:05 PM on March 25, 2010

More of the writing smudges a lot (quick-dry pens-yay! Uni Jetstream is current favorite. 80's PaperMate erasable pens-boo!). Get him/her a pair of left handed scissors when it's time, those crappy green-handled scissors in elementary school were awful, and there were never enough of them. I never really noticed the desk thing, but now that it has been mentioned I guess my arm was hanging off the edge a lot. Thankfully nobody ever tried to make me a righty, but through emulation I ended up doing a few things 'righty'. The one that stands out as weird is that even though I ride all boards goofyfoot (skate, surf, snow, etc.) I learned to push a skateboard with my right foot, making for a lot of foot adjustment when going from riding to pushing, but I still kept up with my friends. As an aside I thoroughly enjoyed watching my right-handed wife try to cut with my left-handed scissors! My recent trip to India was made challenging by having to learn to eat rice and fish with my right hand only.
posted by Zimmy at 1:11 PM on March 25, 2010

Another lefty here, horrified at your suggestion.

Given the choice, I'd probably choose to be a righty, although the trauma of being forced into an unnatural writing pattern would be far worse than the minor inconveniences I have to put up with once in a blue moon.

Also, our jar-opening prowess is unmatched by our right-handed colleagues, and it's slightly easier for lefties to drive a manual transmission car in the UK.
posted by schmod at 2:14 PM on March 25, 2010

My left-handed mother is brilliant, and graduated HS early. My left-handed cousin is also brilliant, got through grad school. My left-handed nephew is also brilliant, and was walking and talking by 7 months old.

I wouldn't worry. :)
posted by frecklefaerie at 2:39 PM on March 25, 2010

I am left-handed, and was not at all developmentally delayed. I think I was consider rather the bright child than anything.

Scissors have been mentioned.

Another irritation are registration or other sort of "sign here" books, which are often arranged with a binding on the left side of the page (or the pages are in a ring binder), making it near impossible for a lefty to cram his hand into the space between the binding and the space into which he's supposed to sign in.

But on the other hand (ha!) we get the satisfaction of being a special, somewhat odd, class. As my (lefty) grandfather used to say:

posted by lex mercatoria at 3:42 PM on March 25, 2010

I love being a lefty! It's also an immediate point of bonding with any and all other lefties (we always notice each other when we pick up pens or pencils.)

My grandfather was a lefty who was forced to write right-handed, and as a result developed a horrible chicken-scratch handwriting and hand-cramping until he was free of his teachers and able to write left.
posted by airguitar2 at 3:45 PM on March 25, 2010

Yeah, colour me totally baffled by your concern, too.

I've always completely loved being a lefty, you couldn't pay me *to* change and become a boring old right-hander, I've always felt really sorry for the dull herds of righties. At school I felt special, and I think that confidence and delight at being different spilled over into lots of other things. And truth be told? Even though I'm 35 and I should be above all that stuff... I still feel special :)

Yeah, I smudged my work a bit until I learned to hook my arm over the top, which now feels totally natural to me. Had some left-handed scissors as a kid but don't bother with them now. Tried stringing my guitar upside down until I realised that meant I'd never be able to pick up someone else's guitar and have a strum.

Just don't make a fuss and it won't be an issue. If a specific issue comes up, find the tricks or tools to solve it and move on. Don't go out and buy a whole heap of special stuff or you'll make her expect to be different where there's no need.

I had mixed feelings the day my folks brought home the left-handed potato peeler.
posted by penguin pie at 3:57 PM on March 25, 2010

making it near impossible for a lefty to cram his hand into the space between the binding and the space into which he's supposed to sign in.

On the rare occasions when the binding makes it truly impossible for me to contort enough to write my name in the space provided, I flip the book upside-down and write my name in the space as usual (upside-down, the starting margin is now the uncrowded one). Occasionally, the person behind the desk remonstrates, but I politely explain it's the only way to enter it legibly, thanks to the book design. If they need to refer to it, they can always flip the book upside-down to read it. No one has ever given me any grief about it.

This pretty well illustrates my approach to a largely right-handed world: whenever the physical manifestations of the right-dominant culture are a real inconvenience to me, I cheerfully flip 'em around until they work for me. If my little adaptations give righties a taste of handed inconvenience, that's fine, too.
posted by Elsa at 4:00 PM on March 25, 2010

My left handed friends complain about:

- trouble finding a desk in class - there may be more left handed kids per class than desks in that classroom. Annoying in HS when you switch classrooms all the time (so it's not like you can request extra desks in the room you're always in) and have assigned seating (can't take the one left handed desk available on the other side of the room without causing a disruption at the beginning of class)
- using public computers with right-handed mice
- sitting to the right of a right-handed person while eating causes awkward elbow bumping. My left handed friends like to set at the end of the table
- the way most doors open is apparently designed for right handed people? *shrug*
- and yea, smudging your writing.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 4:22 PM on March 25, 2010

Another lefty. Desks in college suck. No fountain pens. Scribbling in chalk on the sidewalk with my left hand way before my 3rd birthday.

Teach her to mouse with the right hand. It's always on the right side of the keyboard. Just easier to adapt than to switch it to the left constantly in computer labs, other people's computers etc. etc.
posted by defcom1 at 7:06 PM on March 25, 2010

For whatever it's worth, I'm left-handed and I have never been bothered by right-handed college desks or fountain pens, my hand doesn't drag in the ink when I'm writing, and I can write (left-handed) on a spiral notebook without any trouble.

When I was in Kindergarten, I was offered left-handed scissors that said "LEFTY" in big capital letters on the blades, since I wrote with my left hand. Being the socially terrified kid I was, I couldn't bear to be the kid who needs special scissors. So I refused to use them and, when everyone else was learning to cut, I just learned to cut with my right hand, right along side them.

The first time I sat in a "right-handed" desk, it didn't even occur to me that it was made that way for right-handed people. I just leaned over and wrote. No problem. I didn't even realize there were "left-handed" versions of those desks for years.

When I was in about first grade, I noticed that writing made my left hand have graphite all over the edge of my hand. So I just started writing holding my hand below what I was writing, rather than dragging my hand through it. No problem. And my handwriting has always been very good in general. And I love fountain pens.

When I learned to play the guitar, I held the right-handed guitar the right-handed way, just like my left-handed dad did. Left-handed guitars aren't "left-handed." They're backwards for no good reason. When I learned to play piano, I didn't demand that they provide me with a piano that is strung backwards, so that my left hand could play the treble notes and my right could play the bass.

The best drummer I've ever played with is a lefty who plays on a right-handed (i.e. normal) drum kit without any trouble.
posted by The World Famous at 7:17 PM on March 25, 2010

N-thing the scissors thing. Learned how to cut with my RIGHT hand in first grade.

jpcooper, it may indeed be as hard to change hand positions as it is to change hands, once the habit is locked in. I read a book about left handed-ness in junior high school (and I'm sorry ... this recollection is hazy and I couldn't google-fu a reference to this) which said the ability to write 'overhand' (hand curled above the line of writing -- no smudges!) was an indication of laterality, e.g. how specifically one was using a hemisphere to process writing. The overhand writers had less laterality, and seemed to be using BOTH hemispheres to process writing.

No one has mentioned the 'fakey': come face to face with someone; a right-handed person will tend to move to the right, I tend to move to the left, effectively mirroring them so no-one can get by.

That, and my social status as SATANSPAWN can be a bummer. /sinisterHAMBURGER

Seriously, it's not the same thing it was, say, a century ago.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:47 PM on March 25, 2010

don't overthink this one. i would add that all of the lefties i know are exceedingly bright, and interesting, to boot.
posted by sdn at 9:00 PM on March 25, 2010

Lefty here - two right-handed parents, one left-handed grandparent (that I know of). It may sound egotistical or biased, but of the people I know--friends, acquaintances, co-workers, etc.--the lefties are by and large more intelligent, more creative, more articulate, and more fun. (Please note that I am not saying that right-handed people are slack-jawed dullards.)

No negatives that I can think of off the top of my head. Positives include generally being more ambidextrous than righties (the world is built for righties, so we learn to do a lot of stuff with our right hands), being the person who is likely to find solutions to problems righties wouldn't have come up with, because we see the world differently, and we can parallel park like nobody's business, because you put your right arm around the back of the passenger seat, and steer with your dominant hand. We have mad driving-backwards-and-understanding-which-way-to-turn-the-wheel skills.

Also as far as this weird "developmental delayed" thing you've somehow heard (wtf?), I was reading simple books at two years of age, writing and drawing with finer motor skills than my peers in kindergarten, and had mastered cursive on my own before the third grade, which is when we were taught how to do it.
posted by tzikeh at 9:35 PM on March 25, 2010

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