For starters, I’ll just say now that I’m no doctor and I don’t pretend to have extensive knowledge on any topic in the medical field. I haven’t stepped inside a science class in at least three years, and I haven’t even taken biology since I was a sophomore in high school. So sorry to disappoint, but this post isn’t going to be filled with statistics and definitive evidence. Now that we’ve established that, though, I will say that I’ve always thought a lot about the scientific aspects of my limb difference. And recently, I heard a couple stories that made me wonder about something.
In the film Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story, which I wrote about here, Kevin’s mom and several of his coaches comment on how Kevin (who was born without his left arm, like me) is “left-handed.” They say that the way he moves and even his less-than-perfect penmanship indicate that he should have been left-hand dominant. I found this to be pretty funny, since the guy is super athletic and coordinated enough to be a Division I basketball player, but I didn’t give the whole left-handed thing a second thought until last night. As I was reading Katie Kolberg Memmel’s book about raising a son with a limb difference, I came across a chapter where she writes about baby Tony’s preference for starting and doing things with his left side. Tony, like Kevin and like myself, was born sans left hand. Weird, right? These two accounts now have me thinking: am I naturally left-handed too?
Looking back on my childhood, I distinctly remember that I would chant “Left is always first!” when pulling on my socks and shoes. And when I’d play soccer with the neighbor’s kids, I would always use my left leg to kick the ball. When I took ballet lessons (which lasted all of three weeks, since I had a hard time following directions and staying still for more than 5 minutes) as a little girl, my left leg was more flexible and could kick higher. Even now, I lean more on my right leg when standing so that my left is free to kick or move or take the first step when it needs to. So I’m definitely sure that I’m left-leg dominant, which means that I’m most likely left-sided in general. (This might explain my sloppy handwriting, which was the only subject I ever failed in school.) In any case, I did some research and found a few more interesting facts about the left-sided situation.
Twenty-one years ago when my mom first found out she was pregnant (with me!), she discovered that she’d be having triplets (two of which she’d eventually miscarry). In addition to left-handedness being more likely to occur in children of multiple births, I read in this article that left-handedness has “almost everything to do with prenatal traumas — with some sort of stress that damages the fetus.” And having two other people crowding an already crowded womb certainly counts as “prenatal trauma.” I’ve also read that since the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, left-handed people tend to be more creative. I don’t know if this means anything, but I HATE math. I’m decent at it when I want to be, but even seeing a calculator can trigger the gag reflex for me. I’d much rather write or play guitar or listen to music than solve algebraic equations or do a logic puzzle. And I’m not alone in that.
It turns out that the two other “left-handed” people I mentioned earlier are a basketball player (the right side of the brain is more responsible for athletic coordination) and a musician (certainly a creative profession), respectively. Coincidence? I’m not so sure. Whatever the case may be (and whatever the reason), it seems that some of us with limb differences have strong preferences for the side of the hand we don’t have.
So can someone be left-handed if they lack a left hand? I guess maybe it’s possible.
(Guitar photo my own. Other images found on Tumblr.)