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Right-Handed and Proud

By Alexandra Petri

I'm right-handed, and I am proud.

Today, August 13th, marks yet another victory in one of the most sensationally successful PR campaigns of all time: the campaign for left-handers. Many minorities still struggle against negative stereotypes. There are "dumb blondes" and those minefield clusters of adjectives such as "hard-drinking Irishman" that The Post's ombudsman pointed out this Sunday. Not lefties.

Ask anyone to describe "left-handers" to you, and you will be drowned in comments such as "more creative," "more eloquent," "more attractive," "more intelligent." Sure, "seem to have difficulty finding a pair of scissors" is one, but lefties are one of the most positively perceived groups out there.

Just look at the history books. Left-handed children can look up to people such as Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. We right-handers are stuck writing our book reports on Stalin and John Wayne Gacy. Presidents? Left-handers include Bill Clinton, Harry Truman, and, often, Ronald Reagan. Righties get Warren G. Harding and Millard Fillmore.

Today, more than ever, the message is clear: Lefties win. Righties lose. Barack Obama is left-handed. John McCain is right-handed. Angelina Jolie? Lefty. Jennifer Aniston? Right-handed.

And today is National Left-Handers Day. Give me a break! Every day is National Left-Handers Day. Sure, it's more difficult for left-handers to use notepads, computers and can-openers. But look at all they've managed to accomplish even so. If it weren't for the scissors, they'd have taken over the world.

Update: Octopi213 is right to point out that even America's most prominent political loser, John McCain, is a southpaw. And as daphne5 observed, this isn't the first time left-handers have dominated presidential competition -- that was 1992, when H. Ross Perot, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all favored their left hands. In the presidential ring, left-handers don't just beat the competition -- they are the competition.

By Alexandra Petri  | August 13, 2009; 6:15 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
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It's said that Woodrow Wilson was able to write two different letters simultaneously, one with each hand. Where does that put him in this leftie/rightie argument?

Posted by: pork1 | August 13, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

In grammar school, my mother rolled up my left sleeve every morning, because when writing, I'd drag my hand/wrist/arm over what I had already written, leaving pencil marks on my sleeves. I looked like a nerd before I was one.

In college, I had to sit in the back of the class because I needed two of those horrible desks (either that, or twist myself in the chair as the tabletop was on the right only).

Learning to play cards was interesting; the way I want to fan the cards, there's nothing in that corner.

I catch left but bat right, because when I learned, they said "stand here, and hold the bat like this." The glove I was sent to the field with (and you know what position they wanted me to play). This carried over weirdly to golf (drive right, putt left).

While learning to shoot a gun, I learned that the casings come flying out at lightning speed, hitting me right in the numbers, and boy oh boy those babies are hot.

We lefties adapt to a right-handed world more often than you think.

Posted by: LostInThought | August 13, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Actually, John McCain is left-handed, which added to the historic nature of the last election as the first between 2 lefties.

Posted by: octopi213 | August 13, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Ambidextrous - a much smaller minority than lefthanders - and not particularly proud of it. Why? I didn't create myself. PS The '92 election was among 3 lefties.

Posted by: daphne5 | August 14, 2009 2:26 AM | Report abuse

If lefties would not have to do things with uncomfortable ways, would not have to constantly adopt to right-handed world - then they never be so advanced before righties. And no matter this "brain hemispheres responsibility". I believe any children's doctor can confirm what brain develops itself over hands and fingers movements. The more complicated, uncomfortable, accurate and precise movement you do, the more flexible and nonlinear thinking you got. So send your children to music and drawing schools (that`s advertising ;) ).

As for me - I was left-handed in my early childhood. But I was also in my grangmother hands that time. And she is very (very-very) tough, strict and obstinate woman. And she believed my left-handed is kind of weakness of my mother (you know daughter-in-law - mother-in-law staff). So she put all her forces to make me "like all the normal child". Every thing is possible, you know, and here I am: right-handler with high developed left hand as free bonus ;)

Posted by: IWH_rus | August 14, 2009 3:30 AM | Report abuse

My parents tried leftie conversion methods while I was still an infant by placing my favorite toys on my right side in the crib. My mother used to tell me that she came in and found me face-down in the crib, barely breathing through the covers, but grasping my favorite toy with my left hand.

Once she saw that, she gave up.

But the OP is still busy tossing out stereotypes, I see - the paucity of left-handed scissors while I grew up forced me to learn to cut awkwardly with my right hand. Thus, I am equally horrid with them, whichever hand I use.

Posted by: iamweaver | August 14, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Who peed in your cornflakes this morning? Honestly the resentment dripping from this worthless piece of drivel is exhibit "A" in the sad decline of The Washington Post I treasured reading as a kid.

Letme tell you that growing up a leftie in "modern" times isn't the breeze the blog writer thinks it is. In this modern world of "ergonomic" design it's a world even more designed for the righthanded human. Many a leftie industrial accident is due to a world design by and for right handed people.

I challenge the whiner to to spend a week mousing with their left hand and using lefty scissors. Then maybe you could understand the world we live in.

Posted by: HokieAnnie | August 14, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

On the other hand (sorry), those of us who went to Hebrew School had a distinct advantage in writing from right to left, so it wasn't all bad.

But in the "have to adapt" department, I will note that almost all of the newfangled self-service credit card machines--the ones that you sign with a stylus--have the stylus on the right hand side, which creates a bit of a challenge in trying to sign the things, especially if the wires holding the stylus are a little too short. (Are you listening, Safeway?)

Posted by: oldguy2 | August 14, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me that you just made about as good a case for left-handed superiority as I have ever read. Well done!

Posted by: wmw4 | August 14, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

If this is the thinking of the typical right-hander, enough said. I typed this with my left hand.

Posted by: jckdoors | August 14, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Righties can still take some solace in the thought that golf is very much a RH game--Tiger Woods has it all over Phil Mickelson. (Of course, some of us lefties play golf right-handed, too.)

Posted by: oldguy2 | August 14, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I challenge the whiner to to spend a week mousing with their left hand and"

Then change the parameters of the mouse so you can use it with your left hand. My right click becomes your left click, etc. You CAN reset the mouse. Read the instructions.. or, are the instructions for right handers only???

Posted by: itsagreatday1 | August 14, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

In some parts of the world, those who are left-handed are viewed as sinister. So, yes, the marketing campaign was successful here, but that's not the case everywhere.

What are you, a bitter right-hander? You're still in a world that's designed with you in mind, after all.

Posted by: Heron | August 14, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

"In some parts of the world, those who are
left-handed are viewed as sinister. So, yes,
the marketing campaign was successful
here, but that's not the case everywhere."

That is because the Latin word "sinister" means "on the left side".

Posted by: wjbjr | August 15, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Both my brother and I are left-handed and I cringe when I watch him writing because he uses "the hook." It cannot be comfortable. Everything he writes has a smudged look to it as, like LostinThought wrote above, he drags his hand across the fresh ink.

Fortunately for me, I had a teacher in 2nd grade who taught me to turn the paper rather than hook my wrist. And rather than trying to write in a ringed binder, I simply took out the paper, wrote my notes and put the paper back in.

The only thing that concerns me about being left-handed is the thought of driving a car in the UK: I don't think I could operate a stick shift with my left hand. I've never done it!


Posted by: dastubbs | August 15, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Warren G. Harding is a terribly underrated president*, and, might I add, our truly first African American president**.

* Absolutely
** Possibly

Posted by: bend1 | August 17, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I believe lefties are successful in life because we're forced to come up with creative solutions to do even the most basic things. We're also good at "going along to get along" and picking our battles--sometimes it's just easier to learn to do things with my right hand. As a result, I'm very close to being ambidextrous. I was a whiz at badminton as a kid--I'd just switch the racket from left hand to right hand, giving me much more reach than my siblings. Heh.

Posted by: lizgwiz | August 17, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I am a proud leftie. It's been interestng. I've stripped many a threaded object (spark plugs, bolts, etc.) and my dad bought me a right-handed glove for baseball so I fielded great but every throw was an adventure.

I grew tired with telling people at the table that I am sitting on the end because I'm left handed. Now, I say, I'm sitting on the end because YOU'RE right handed. It's fun each and every time.

Carry on lefties....

Posted by: jeffrey707 | August 17, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

pork1 remarks that Woodrow Wilson could write two letters simultaneously, one with each hand.

But he was no James Garfield: He could write the same letter simultaneously, in Greek with one hand and Latin with the other.

(And for that he gets a cartoon cat named after him, even if the beast does better resemble Taft.)

Posted by: TheProFromDover | August 18, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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