Research shows that between 10 percent and 12 percent of the world’s population is left-handed. That means there’s maybe as many as 750 million lefties on the planet. The mystery is that scientists have no idea why! Some research suggests it’s in the genes and being a lefty may run in the family. In fact, in the British royal family, the Queen, Prince Charles, and Prince William are all lefties.
And it’s not just the royal family: lefties are in good company. Barack Obama, Lady Gaga, Robert DeNiro, Paul McCartney, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Bill Gates, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis, Jimmie Hendrix and Oprah are all lefties.
While there are no obvious differences between those who are right-handed and those who are left-handed, research says that lefties tend to excel at visual and spatial tasks, and that lefties die up to nine years sooner than righties. Men are more likely to be left-handed.
One stat is for sure: Lefties are definitely a minority, and because of that, they face challenges most of us righties never have to think about. In many quirky, annoying, inconvenient, and even hazardous ways, it IS a right-handed world!
Here’s a taste of what it’s like to be a lefty living in a righty’s world:
1. Pens and Pencils Are a Smudgy Mess
Lefties who write with a pen or pencil are used to chronically smudged palms. Their hand trails over the writing, causing smudges on both the paper and their hand. Erasable ink is notorious among lefties for this reason. Ballpoint pens don’t work as well because you’re pushing, not pulling the ball. The ink will never flow as well for lefties, so their pens stop up more.
2. Scissors Are Literally a Pain
Many lefties, when learning to use scissors for the first time, pick up a pair of right-handed scissors, place them in their left hand, and start cutting. Unfortunately, using the wrong scissors can cause muscle cramps and even carpal tunnel syndrome.
It’s natural for the thumb to push out while the other four fingers pull in. Because of that, lefties tend to force the cutting blades laterally apart. Also, using right handed scissors, lefties have trouble seeing what is being cut. Scissors for lefties do exist, but they’re certainly not likely to be found in your average classroom or office.
3. Playing Cards Are No Fun
Here’s one you’ve probably never considered if you’re right-handed:
In a card game, when lefties fan out the cards left-handed style, the numbers and suits cannot be seen. Lefties have to either read the cards upside-down, fan them out the opposite way, or buy left-handed cards with the number and suit in all corners.
4. School Desks Don’t Accommodate
Most (not all) school and college desks-with-chair-attached are shaped so that you get in on the left side, and rest your right arm while writing. A lefty’s left arm has to stick out off the edge of the desk. Left-handed desks, built the opposite way, can be very hard to find.
5. Computer Keypads Aren’t Lefty-Friendly
Although Bill Gates is a leftie, almost all computer key pads stack the number keys on the right. Lefties have adapted and routinely either reach over or get used to working the keys with their right hand fingers.
6. It’s More Expensive to Play Sports
It is a notorious fact of leftie life that it is noticeably harder to find baseball mitts or golf clubs for left handed people, and when you find them, they are noticeably more expensive. Supply and demand is no friend to the lefty.
7. Upside-Down Can Openers Are the Norm
There’s a rumor that there’s no such thing as a left-handed can opener. Some say they exist, but most lefties just use regular can openers upside down so the turny thing is on the bottom and they end up pushing the wrong way. Most can openers, when forced to roll the wrong way all the time, have a very short life span. And if the lefty uses them the proper way, with their left hand, they can’t see what they’re doing at all.
8. Tape Measures Test Your Upside-Down Reading Skills
It’s one of those subtle facts of leftie life. Tape measures can be used by righties or lefties, of course. But when lefties hold the tape measure in their left hand and yank out the tape for the measure, they have to get used to reading the numbers upside down.
9. Dinner Requires Careful Seating Arrangements
In a restaurant or at a dinner party at someone’s house, chances are the people at the table will be right-handed. But if there’s a lefty present, beware! Sitting a righty to the left of a lefty guarantees they’ll be bumping elbows throughout the meal. At a square or rectangular table, it may not be such a big deal because they lefty can sit at the end, but at a round table, it is a problem!
10. Handshakes and High-Fives Can Get Awkward
Tradition and social habit call for handshakes around the world, and handshakes are typically performed with the right hand. If a lefty sticks out their left hand, it confuses the other person and makes for a very awkward and uncomfortable scene. Same goes when a lefty high fives a righty.
11. Clockwise? More Like ClockUnwise (Sorry)
Light bulbs, screws and most items that are threaded are turned clockwise. This makes simple things like screwing in a light bulb an awkward challenge for lefties.
12. Spiral Notebooks Are Torture Devices
More than some other things, spiral notebooks are obviously designed for righties. For lefties, writing in spiral notebooks is literally and figuratively a pain—-mostly on the side of the lefty’s hand. The worst are the five-subject ones with the extra big rings.
13. Three-Ring Binders Are Dexterity-Testing Challenges
By necessity, lefties have gotten used to doing the maneuver where they fit their hand between the top two rings, do their work, and eventually have to pick it up and then fit it in between the bottom two to complete the bottom half of the page. What a hassle.
14. Driver’s Cup Holders Are Rather Inconvenient
Especially for the morning drive-thru fix, lefties adjust and make-do. Most cars that have cup holders are designed for right handed drivers. Lefties either get used to reaching over, or they learn to get their fix by holding their cup with their right hand.
15. Measuring Cups Test Your Knowledge of the Metric System
Lefties looking at a measuring cup are forced to look at the metric side. The cups/ounces side is strictly for righties. Or lefties strain their neck around and twist their arm to read ounces and cups.
16. Signing or Swiping the Credit Card Machine Is an Exercise in Frustration
It’s classic leftie frustration. The pen is never long enough! Pens on chains and signature pads are strictly designed for righties. The plastic or chain attached to the pen/stylus is always too short or too tangled to reach the other side, where lefties need to write. With handheld credit/debit machines, the card swipe slot is always on the right.
17. The Path to Rock Stardom Is Littered With Obstacles
Almost all instruments are designed for righties, except those few that use both hands (like clarinet and French horn) where you finger with your left hand. Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney play their guitars upside-down. While left-handed guitars are becoming less rare, they’re only available in limited models and must be ordered special
18. Doors and Handrails Are Frustrating
Almost all doors are designed to be opened with the right hand. Hand rails are almost always on the right. This isn’t generally a problem until you’re carrying something heavy and have to switch hands just to open the door.
19. Hand Tools and Power Tools Can Get Dangerous
Trowels, rotary cutters, paint rollers, box cutters, utility knives, garden pruners, wire cutters and strippers, wrenches, pliers, Swiss army knives, tweezers, even coffee cups (the design faces you instead of facing outward) — almost everything you can put in your hand and do something with is designed for right-handed people.
Many power tools, when held with the left hand, can be very dangerous. For example, a circular saw blows sawdust to the right, which is very convenient for a right-hander, but when held in the left hand, makes a mess.
20. Kitchen Utensils Are a Hassle
Some kitchen tools, like straight wooden spoons, are naturally ambidextrous. Others are not. Some spatulas, most peelers and almost all oven mitts are designed for right-handed people.
21. Even Zippers Aren’t Safe From Lefty-Prejudice
For some lefties, most days start with a very basic challenge: getting dressed. Zippers and buttons pose quirky, annoying problems. While many lefties adjust to it, the cloth flap covering the zipper hides the zipper from your left hand. Putting on pants is not as easy as it is for righties. And belts are confusing, too! Lefties have to put their belt on upside down.