I must have been about seven years old when I got the “Anything Left Handed” catalogue. Inside, the pages were full of a mad range of products – scissors to stationery, tin openers to tape measures. And as the sole (known)* left-hander in the family, it felt like these were treasures only available to me.
There was just one thing I didn’t understand. The cover of the catalogue was wrong. It seemed to have been printed back to front, and it opened the wrong way.
It was some years before I worked out why.
Anything Left Handed still exists, but as an online entity only. It used to have a shop in Beak Street, in central London. Like the catalogue, the front door opened the wrong way. I suspect seven-year-old me would have been confused by that too.
The website follows normal design rules. There’s a navigation bar on the left-hand side, not the right.
Is this a left-handed kow-towing to the demands of online commerce (or restrictions of the site development package)? Or, in a more digital age, where two-handed typing or tapping is very much the norm, is it now easier than ever to be left-handed? I suspect the latter is true.
Not only are we no longer called cack-handers (or at least, not very often) or, for the classicists, sinister, but the world is becoming ever more accommodating to the (approximately) 10% of us that are lefties.
Sliding doors open automatically before us. Formal dining is rarer – so there’s less risk of elbowing the guest next to you. An extra social distance may also come in handy here.
In sporting spheres, left-handedness is often seen as an advantage, from southpaw boxers to racquet sports. ‘Dexterity’ with the left foot is highly prized in football and rugby.
But if all this smacks of progress, of breaking down historic stereotypes and moving in a more egalitarian direction, there’s one crucial area where left remains associated with a negative: the casual swipe of online dating apps.
Perhaps the left-handed community needs an encounter tool of its own, where for once you swipe left to signal your interest. Linda, anyone?
* My father, though officially right-handed, has neater left-handed writing than – well – most of us. He thinks he may have been naturally left-handed but was never encouraged/permitted that way.