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12:38pm on Saturday, 31st December, 2005:

Right Handedness


Here's another in my occasional series of weird things about me.

I'm right-handed.

Yes, I know, so is most of the population, but they're not as right-handed as me. I'm very right-handed. I can barely do anything with my left hand unless my right hand is doing something similar. I hold a fork funnily, and if I put down my knife then the fork is useless. I grip a pen in my left hand, well, it's probably different every time; I do know that if I try to write I can't get the pressure on the paper correct and will either leave no mark or (more likely) press so heavily that I dent the writing surface underneath the paper. Take someone else's hand in yours and try to guide them to write, it's like that only slightly worse...

If I have to pick up a cup with my left hand, I have to do the same motion with my right or I'll spill what's in it. I can type with my left hand (index finger and thumb) but only if I'm also using my right; as soon as I stop using my right, my left hand slows down by a factor of at least 10. When I was young, I started learning the piano but had to give up because I couldn't do the left-hand exercises unless I was doing the right-hand ones at the same time (and I also had trouble hitting the right notes when I had to move my hand a long way: I knew where I was aiming, but the fingers didn't usually end up on target).

There are some things you can't, for physiological reasons, do with both your right and left hands at the same time. One of these is throwing a ball. I can throw a big ball with two hands just fine, but I can't throw a small ball left-handed. With my left arm, I throw like a girl. Believe me, I've tried to do it like I throw with my right, it just doesn't ever work. Those people who say that girls throw badly "because they don't get the practice as kids" are not entirely correct: there's something else weird going on, I'm sure of it...

There are some things I can only do with my left hand, for reasons beyond my control. One of these is changing gear in a car. I can actually do this, gear levers being big and clumsy and forgiving: if I push it in vaguely the right direction, it'll find its own way there. Heaven help me if they start having gears where you only have to press a button to change them, I'll have to buy a car with automatic transmission.

There are other things that I avoid at all costs doing with my left hand. One of these is using a hammer. If, for reasons of geometry, I'm unable to hold something in my left hand and hit it with my right, I'd rather leave it not hit at all than smash my right fingers to pulped matchsticks by trying to hold it in my right hand and hit it with my left. I'd prefer to have a 7-year-old child hit it than for me to hit it with a hammer in my left hand.

All this means my problems with my right shoulder are having a rather more disabling effect on me than they would with most other people.

Now comes the question, though: why am I so useless with my left hand? Why do I have to lean over and plug my headphones in with my right hand because my left misses the socket or pushes the plug in at the wrong angle?

The answer is, well, unknown to me, that's for sure! I'm aware that 90% of architects are left-handed, and that even more are male, so there's obviously something to do with analysing space going on there. I'm actually pretty good with space, though. Maybe my brain is using its right ("creative") side being imaginative rather than wasting effort doing what it's supposed to be doing, ie. controlling the left side of my body? Or maybe it's missing a bit it's supposed to have? Are there people as extremely left-handed as I'm extremely right-handed?

A quick scoot around the Internet reveals doesn't really help much. The measures they seem to use for testing right-handedness are along the lines of answering questions such as "which hand do you use to hold the toothbrush when cleaning your teeth?", where getting a full set of "right" means you're extremely right-handed. Not in my book, you're not! They'd need to ask "could you hold the toothbrush in your other hand when cleaning your teeth?" to pick up my condition (I'd have to answer "only with incredible difficulty").

I'm sure that one of these days, someone's going to this together with this and this and this and this and figure out they're related in some way...

Referenced by Game-Specific Injuries.

Referenced by Unshouldered Burden.

Referenced by Musical Notes.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).