Being a Southpaw

Apparently, the term ‘southpaw’ has it’s origin in the way baseball fields were built where home plate faced east so that the sun would be less likely to be in the batter’s face.  Pitchers would then in turn face west and if the pitcher was a lefty, the ball would be thrown from his ‘south’ side hand.

Southpaw is the mascot for the White Sox

I didn’t want to write this on August 13th (International Left Handers Day) because it was also Friday the 13th and that’s more than enough potential bad luck for one day.

For centuries, anything to the ‘left’ was considered bad.  As the story goes, ancient worshipers mostly lived in the northern hemisphere and faced south to pray.  The sun would then go to the right and everything to the right was considered good and things to the left considered bad.  A bunch of crap?  Maybe…but I’ve heard worse theories on things.

Lefties can’t win.  In Latin, the word for ‘left’ is sinister which in English, we relate to evil.  In French, the word for ‘left’ is gauche which we’ve adopted to mean awkward or tactless.  Even the English word for ‘left’ comes from the word ‘left’ which means weak.

If you are right-handed you have no idea how difficult it is to live as a lefty.

  • A lefty can only use ‘normal’ scissors for so long before our hands start to hurt.  In grade school, I used to have to carry around special scissors with green rubber handles.  Kids are cruel enough in grade school and this is just one more way to be different…and a target.
  • I get laughed at every time I play cards.  A righty can fan the cards out and see the number and suit.  A lefty has to hold their cards upside down.  Think about it.
  • Number pads on a keyboard are always on the right and difficult to use.
  • I’m dating myself here a bit but every try to put the record player needle onto a record with your left hand?  Good luck.
  • I believe that Polo players were not allowed to be lefties.  I’m sure some equal rights (ironic name for this post, no?) has made polo playing eligible by all but at some point we were banished.
  • For guys that still carry their wallet in their back pocket, you have to be sure to buy pants with a pocket on the right side.  Bet you righties never even thought to look did you?
  • Sitting in a restaurant.  If you are right-handed, you can sit anywhere at the table.  Sitting at a dinner table takes on a whole new meaning to a lefty as elbow bumping always has to be considered.
  • Any idea how many shirt sleeves a lefty ruins in their lifetime just by simply using a pen when writing?  Not to mention the smudges that often results in a reduction of points on homework assignments.
  • Remember desks in school or ever go to a school as an adult to take an exam or class?  The one piece chair/desk combo almost always had the desk part on the right.  How comfortable is that when sitting through SATs or a Civil Service exam?
  • Power tools…a lefty friend of mine is looking for a left-handed circular saw.  As expected, the big-box home improvement store worker gives the “you have 3 heads look”.   Yes, there are such things as left-handed circular saws and YES, it does make a difference.

There aren’t as many good things to list about lefties

  • supposedly, lefties are more creative.
  • We have an easier time conducting transactions at toll booths…Big Deal!
  • Lefties are also said to have more adaptability.  Of course, we have to adapt to conform to the world of the righty.   Think handshakes and the mouse next to your computer.
  • Lefties that can pitch are more likely to get signed to the majors over a righty pitcher of equal ability/talent.

About 10% or so of the population is left-handed with notable lefties being Babe Ruth, Paul McCartney, Lewis Carrol, Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld, and 7 US presidents.  I’m comfortable being a southpaw and am apparently in good company but cringe every time I struggle doing something set up for the right-handed world.  We’re people too you know.

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About Jason

Always thinking....about something
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One Response to Being a Southpaw

  1. Amanda says:

    Good article! I embrace being a lefty. The whole sinister superstition bugs me. You throw salt over your left shoulder because that is where the Devil is thought to hide. Whenever you see an Angel & Devil on someone’s shoulder the Devil is on the left. It was once believed that lefties are more susceptible to schizophrenia and other forms of madness. (Vincent van Gogh is cited as an example.) I say hog-wash.

    I do believe that we are more artistic & visual in general. I was watching the Daily Show the other day w/ Emma Thompson. She & Jon Stewart were having a fun discussion about being left handed. Mostly they were lamenting the perpetual smudging of pens & markers. It was a major p.i.t.a. when I was in college and taking drafting classes. We would get graded on neatness so lead smudges were a big no-no. I plotted my drafting from right to left (“backwards”) which always made my teacher pause. Added to this is the stereotype that lefties have horrendous hand writing. I think that is because we are forced to write with spirals or binder rings digging into our hands and on desks that don’t support our arms.

    There are many other obstacles as well – playing guitar or violin, learning to knit, driving a manual car in the US, winding a watch, using a can opener…

    However, we are sought after in baseball as first basemen as well as pitchers. We can catch a ball from anywhere in the field without closing ourselves off to the approaching runner.

    But we adapt & over come. We are stronger. And, always in our right minds 🙂

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