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Why Being Left-Handed Makes Life So Much Harder

Woman writing in a notebook
Photograph by Getty Images/Canopy

I’m not proud of it, but the other day I got into a wrestling match with the weird fake pen attached to the credit card machine at my local grocery store. I’m not proud of it because my 7-year-old daughter watched me lose my temper at an inanimate object.

“Mommy, why are you so mad at that machine?” my daughter asked without a hint of irony.

“Because it’s made for a righty, and the cord isn’t long enough for us southpaws,” I replied through the gritted teeth and sweat of someone who has been left out (pun intended) her entire life. Living life as a left-handed person can make you feel like a square peg in a round hole. The world is made for righties. We lefties are expected to grin and bear it, and try to fit in.

To a right-handed person, my near-breakdown at Whole Foods over the pen cord being too short might seem extreme. But when you’ve spent your entire life feeling as if the world is made for everyone but you, it doesn’t seem so out of left field (so to speak).

The world is made for righties. We lefties are expected to grin and bear it, and try to fit in.

Show up to elementary school with a pencil in your left hand, and you’ll be dealing with lead marks all over the side of your hand before the day is over. Try to use a spiral notebook, and you'll spend the bulk of fifth grade trying to figure out how to “write all the way to the margins,” as your teacher, Mrs. Whatever Her Name Is, continually hounds you to do. (Lefties can’t write that close to the margins on a spiral notebook. Their hand ends up resting uncomfortably on the spiral.) Righties never have to deal with that.

Life sucks for lefties in school P.E., too. Sure, there’s that one left-handed baseball mitt for all the lefties to fight over. It’s been the school’s only mitt since Babe Ruth’s time, and it smells like an old shoe, but there will be only one—despite multiple lefties vying for it.

Art class is another lefty nightmare. Between the pen and pencil you’ll get all over your hand as you write from left to right, and the scissors that are rarely made for lefties, navigating being a leftie will sap the creativity right out of any budding artiste. And that’s before your teacher corrects you for your art not looking as neat and perfect as that of your right-handed counterparts.

Everything from keyboards (which have the number pad on the right side) to can openers to video-game consoles are made for righties. Oh, and right-handers live longer, too. Studies show that lefties die nine years earlier on average than righties.

But before you go thinking that being a lefty is totally depressing, think again. While we live shorter lives than righties, left-handed college grads earn more than their right-handed colleagues. Left-handed athletes have an advantage, especially in baseball, tennis and boxing. Also, we lefties are often more creative, and better at using our imaginations and intuition.

But despite the advantages, it’s still hard being a lefty. Fitting into a right-handed world isn’t easy. That is, unless we all want to take up careers in boxing. Though, after the pain my kid saw me inflict on that store credit card machine, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

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