Kage Baker was left-handed. Not the impaired type of left-handed: she could use her right hand for some things. In fact, she couldn’t even use those special southpaw scissors, because she learned how to cut with ordinary scissors at home long before she got sent to the nuns. Paper dolls and spaghetti – we both liked the old Betsy McCall dolls in the magazines (does anyone else remember those?), and Momma’s creative solution to half a dozen small kids and noodles was to issue baby scissors with the spoons …
Not that the nuns in school were inclined to indulge her lefty tendencies. Most of the sisters pointedly ignored it, though they did issue poor grades in penmanship – a fair cop, as Kage’s cursive was astoundingly unreadable. There were only a few of them who decided to punish her handedness – the usual lectures and knuckle rapping. They failed. Kage was left-handed, and obstinately refused to change.
She always claimed this was a very wise decision on her part: had she given in to changing hands, she would have had a wall-eye and a stutter. That’s very likely true – forcibly changing handedness is one of the causes of stuttering. Kage wisely decided to skip that stigma. She had enough trouble, with the more medieval-minded nuns, in being left-handed and red-haired.
Being left-handed taught her to improvise a lot of ordinary coordination tricks. She was always interested in calligraphy – which she taught herself to do backwards and upside down, so as to avoid smearing the newly-inked letters with her following wrist. The finished script was oriented normally: she just wrote it out starting from the right, and wrong way up. Sometimes she penciled it in first, just to be careful. But I have seen her printing long passages for notes and invitations ex tempore and totally back to front with never a flaw.
She liked to assemble model ships; right-handers watching her would cringe and fret, expecting her at any moment to slice her fingers off with the strangely-held Exacto blade. On the other hand, Kage used a computer mouse with her right hand, simply because most CPU’s and keyboards initially only had ports for the mouse on the right side. By the time cordless mice appeared, she was set in her ways – the mouse stayed on the right. Besides, that left her dominant left hand free to do … dominant things.
She frankly did not care which way refrigerators or cupboards opened: but she always noticed which way they went. Left-handers do. Huge amounts of the world are hinged backwards for them. They also automatically head for the ends and corners of booths and tables in large seating arrangements – they need the extra elbow room to avoid their right-handed dining companions. The last few years of her life, Kage especially like sharing Thanksgiving dinner with the blessed Skolds and Rettinhouses – half of them are left-handed too, and everyone knew how to compensate for the forks flashing in all directions. (Thank you, Carol Skold!)
Kage was actually proud of being left- handed. Whether or not it’s true that lefties are more creative, she nonetheless shared the condition with a lot of very creative people. Leonardo de Vinci, Michaelangelo, Durer, Holbein, Raphael, Escher; Lewis Carroll, H.G. Wells, Cole Porter, Paul McCartney; W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo. Also 8 U.S. Presidents and assorted crowned heads – Queen Victoria, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Ramses II … for a star-studded list of examples, check this out:
Also, in Kage’s own multiverse, all the Children of the Sun. Every last one of them is left-handed; she made it a racial trait, striking a symbolic blow for the sinister minority of this world. Then she made them master artificers as well, so that somewhere there would be an entire clever civilization where nothing was hinged backwards. If you were left-handed, anyway …
Today – August 13th – is International Left-Handers Day. Find someone who is left handed and be especially nice to them. Buy them a drink or a left-handed pen. Open that backwards-hinged cupboard and give ’em a cookie. The world’s just not the same without them.