According to scientists, left-handedness occurs in only 10 percent of the population, but they still have no idea what causes it. As a member of that minority, however, I can tell you that we can't help it, and that being a southpaw in a world of right-hand dominance can be a real struggle at times.
A recent askreddit thread invited left-handed folks to share some of the difficulties and frustrations that complicate our lives. Let's help spread left-handed awareness and maybe someday we'll have scissors that work for ALL Americans.
1. One word: scissors.
Growing up, there was always a bucket of lefty scissors in the classroom, but they were always horribly abused — rusty, bent, dull, or completely broken. Over the years, I've trained myself to use right-handed scissors just to save myself some grief, but I don't have the steadiest hand. No scrapbooking for me. A user by the name of "tbirdthebignerd" says they "can never find a good pair so I just use right handed ones with my left hand." I'm not sure how they manage to do that, since most of the time when I try that it just bends the paper rather than cutting it.
2. People try to "train it out of you."
This sounds like some 19th century BS, but I know I have dealt with older people good-naturedly trying to make me be right-handed. My kindergarten teacher, who was probably in her 60s, not only tried to force me to be right-handed but suggested to my mom that I might need special education classes or to be held back a year for my "remedial" writing skills.
Often, discouraging right-handedness is a cultural thing, and eating with your left hand is considered poor manners in some countries. "I was 'born' left handed, but my parents made me use my right hand for things because in their culture, left-handed people just aren't a thing," said a user.
3. Pencil and ink smudges.
While this can happen sometimes to right-handed people who write with pencil or very slow-drying ink, it's far more prominent for southpaws. I remember as a kid going home with a grey smudge the entire length of my hand. If I wore long sleeves, it would sometimes get on my shirt, too. The moment taking notes on a laptop became an option, I was an adopter, mainly for this reason.
One commenter suggested, "Have you tried moving to the Middle East and learning Arabic?" I've honestly considered it!
4. Ballpoint pens are a particular bone of contention.
A commenter named Esqueda0 dropped some knowledge explaining why this kind of pen has always been especially obnoxious for left-handed people to use. "Almost every right-handed person and even a lot of left-people don't know that writing with a ballpoint pen in particular is extremely difficult with your left hand," they said.
Why? "Ink is supposed to be dragged across the page out of the ball, but lefties push the ball across the page and the ink is much more reluctant to come out." This explains why my pens were always "running out of ink" but worked fine for others, or why I would sometimes see a big gross blob of sticky ink on the tip of my pen.
5. This kind of desk is torture.
Curse the southpaw-hater who invented this kind of desk. Sometimes you'll encounter a classroom that has a few left-hand-oriented chairs (or even a whole row), but it's rare. "As a right handed person who goes to a Uni where there are special rows for people who are left-handed, I HATE when I see right handed people struggling with the desks MADE FOR LEFT-HANDED people,' writes one kind ally on reddit. "There is an entire room full of right-handed desks and they durdle with the left-handed ones." Also, thanks very much to this person for introducing me to "durdle as a verb.
6. People act like you're a freak because you're left-handed.
"oMg, aRe YoU LEft hAnDeD?" jokes NoodleSlayer008. Sure, this is a minor aggravation, but it can get a little annoying to be treated like you have a horn growing out of your forehead for using your left hand. What makes it worse is that people constantly forget and then ask you the question again several months later when they notice you picking up a fork.
"Dad, you were the one that taught me how to write," joked one user whose father always seems to forget the fruit of his own loins is a southpaw. Honorable mention annoyance: when people called us "wrong-handed." Not only is that mean but do you honestly think we've never heard that one before? Stop it.
7. Your coffee mug never faces the "right" way.
Almost all novelty coffee mugs seem to have the design printed on just one side so that it shows facing outward if you hold the handle with your right hand. How are left-handed people supposed to let the world know they're the World's Best Boss or the No. 1 Mom?
8. Eating alongside a right-handed person is messy.
When we go out to eat, left-handed people will often demand to be seated so they don't find themselves to the right of a right-handed person. It's as much for their benefit as the lefty, because if we don't do this, we will be bumping elbows all night.
9. Three-ring binders and spiral-bound notebooks are ouchy.
Writing on paper bound with either of these methods can be hazardous for lefties. The rings on the binder can pinch the fleshy part of your hand on the pinky side, and while slightly less painful, the spiral-bound versions also pinch. One workaround is to write only on the back sides of paper, but then your teacher might think you turned in a blank page!
10. Watches aren't made for us.
Watches are made to be worn on the left hand because it's the non-dominant hand for most people. This prevents you from scratching the face all the time — if you're right-hand dominant. For left-handed people, the options are to either wear it on the left and get your lovely watch all scraped up or deal with the irritation of the crown to adjust the time or date being on the inside. Most of us have to take off our watches off to adjust them and have to deal with having the crown constantly poking our forearms.
11. Learning new sports and skills can be hard.
I experienced this when trying to learn how to knit — everyone who could teach me was right-handed. And the same frustration can come up for people interested in learning to play guitar or a sport like golf, tennis, or baseball. LeluWater writes, "On the high school tennis team all three of my coaches were right handed. Every single person on our team was right-handed. I had to be instructed the right-handed way and attempt to apply it to my left-handed playing."
12. Computer mouses are always set up for righties.
Sure, you can change things around on your desk and in settings, but any lefty will tell you the first time they come into work to start a new job, they have to deal with that. And if we're using a public terminal we just have to deal. Thankfully, I learned to use a right-handed mouse and that's what I'm comfortable with.
13. Power tools can be dangerous.
I'm by no means Ms. Fix-It, and now I guess I have an excuse. As several redditors pointed out, power tools, like pretty much everything in this world, are designed for the 90 percent. "I will never use a chainsaw if I can avoid it," says rattyis. I mean, when can you not avoid using a chainsaw is my question, but point taken. Also, "The foot guard on a weed eater is always adjusted for right-handers," says Pants4All.
14. Firearms are even more dangerous.
"Pretty much all handguns eject casings across our line of sight (sometimes directly into our face)," says one commenter, adding that they often have to use two hands to set the safety of release the magazine. The casings are very hot when they've just been fired, so in addition to obstructing vision, those spent shells can burn!
15. Dry erase and chalkboards are a struggle.
Lefty teachers know what I'm talking about! As you're writing on the board for the class, you're dragging your palm through, smudging and partially erasing what you wrote. When I went up to the board in school to write out answers, I developed a technique to avoid this, but let's just say the penmanship that resulted from this contortion wasn't the prettiest script anyone's ever read.