Much of the last century or so has been dedicated to alleviating the plight of minorities, from one human rights campaign to the next. But in all this time, one group has consistently fallen through the cracks, remaining disadvantaged in almost every category. We're talking about left-handed people. It seems innocuous, but being born with this crippling condition means that ...
#5. They'll Die Sooner
Studies have shown that the number of left-handers who make it to old age is drastically lower than the number of their right-handed peers. In short, lefties tend to check out earlier. Why? Well, for one, lefties just have more accidents. Lots more accidents. One study surveying nearly 2,000 college students found that lefties report far more accidents than righties, especially car accidents. And another study of around 1,000 people living in Southern California showed that the risk of getting into a fatal accident was nearly six times higher if you were left-handed, and the risk of getting into a deadly car crash was four times higher. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was also found that right-handed people usually make it through nine more birthdays than left-handers.
So why are left-handed people so much more likely to kill themselves accidentally? Are they just fatally clumsy? Are they, as many cultures believe, such an affront to nature that nature actively seeks to destroy them? The most agreed upon explanation is that lefties get in more accidents simply because they're trying to maneuver in a world that's upside down and backward to them.
Know what? We're OK with the whole no flying cars thing.
Probably the most notable example of dangerous right-bias is United States road laws -- we travel on the right side of the road, right-hand turns are acceptable on red lights and even parking lots are designed with the right-handed flow in mind. Imagine that you're driving to work during peak hours when a squirrel (most likely a right-handed squirrel) darts into the middle of the lane. If you're right-handed, your response is likely to swerve to the right, up onto the sidewalk, causing a potentially hilarious scene like hitting a fire hydrant. But if you're left-handed, you jerk the wheel left into oncoming traffic, resulting in a situation with far less comedy potential.
Unless you're British. Then it's a great way to end an upbeat romantic sitcom.
Southpaws also get sick more often, possibly due to left-handers' lopsided brain chemistry. Research done on "true" left-handers (excluding those fence-sitting ambidextrous types) showed that lefties were 2.7 times more likely to suffer from immune disorders and 2.3 times more likely to have been hospitalized at some point. It's not their fault -- the double curse of left-handedness and the risk of spending your life in a plastic bubble likely came from your mother stressing out during pregnancy. Ironically, she may have been stressing about the possibility of pushing out a left-handed freak of a kid.
"I can feel the devil inside me."
#4. They're More Likely to Go Insane
Here's a fun fact that you can share on your next socially awkward date: Although left-handed people make up only 10 percent of the population as a whole, they compose a full 20 percent of schizophrenics. If you like those odds, you should know that left-handedness is also associated with dyslexia, ADD and some mood disorders.
Be aware of warning signs.
Is it because all those right-handed can openers slowly drive them mad? Possibly. But Clyde Francks, a researcher at Oxford University, believes that it might have something to do with a newly discovered gene. Unimaginatively called LRRTM1, the gene is closely linked with left-handedness, as well as being related to increased odds of mental illness. You wouldn't think those two things would be related, but Francks believes the gene affects the symmetry of the brain.
As seen in this actual photograph of a left-hander's brain, governed by the forces of hell.
You've heard about how different sides of the brain control different functions in the body -- scientists have known for a while that schizophrenia and other disorders are caused by a kind of confusion between the two about which side should handle what. Now they think that a similar glitch in brain symmetry is one reason people might favor their left hand over their right.
Metten Somers, a psychiatrist and brain researcher in the Netherlands, suggests that most of the left-handed population still have normal brain symmetry. It's the other 30 percent who are more likely to fling cats at passersby and scream at their dumpsters.
As a simple test, if you see only a blue dumpster in this picture, you're totally fine.
#3. They're Screwed at School
If you think about it, it's kind of surprising that left-handers are as emotionally balanced as they are. Right out of the box, left-handed kids realize the world wasn't quite made for them. At school, they do worse on timed exams and suffer awful back and neck cramps in the process. Why? Freaking right-handed desks. And scissors. And everything else.
Even the goddamn cheat sheets are designed for righties.
If you're one of the 90 percent or so of people who were born right-handed, you probably weren't even aware that there was such a thing as a "right-handed desk," but in fact most school desks are biased toward right-handed people, forcing lefties to contort themselves uncomfortably in a desperate effort to reach across and take notes in our awkward left-to-right written language, their hand smudging everything they write, on a desk designed for their reflection.
There's no grand conspiracy involved -- left-handers just tend to fall through the cracks, being that there are so few of them. In a recent survey of left-handers in 50 different countries, the number of lefties who were ever taught how to operate as a left-hander in a right-handed world sits frequently around 10 percent -- everyone else just has to work it out on their own, until they finally try to drown the pain by spilling beer down their shirt from a right-handed beer mug.
"This has to violate the Americans With Disabilities Act."
And we're just barely kidding there -- pens, pencil sharpeners and other tools are also designed for the right hand, making life difficult (and even painful) for lefties. On computers, the mouse is set up on the right side. Interested in wood or metal shop? Be careful! The safety switches on all those spinning and stabbing blades are set up to be quickly accessible to right-handed people.
Of course, being a left-handed student in this day and age isn't as bad as it used to be in your grandparents' time, when teachers tried to solve the problem by beating left-handed kids with paddles. Still, it wasn't the worst thing they did to minorities.
Like sucking 100 percent of the coolness out of dreadlocks.