Left-handed folks still shafted in largely right-handed world

Joan of Arc had a bigger problem than being burned at the stake. She was left-handed.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

OK, maybe being burned at the stake is a tad more disturbing than being a southpaw. Yet being left-handed still has its drawbacks in a right-handed universe.

Left-handedness has come a long way – we’re no longer paddled at school every time we pick up a pencil – but discrimination is clearly evident, even today.

The struggle starts in the classroom. The left-handed scissors are always the rusty, crummy pair stuck with some type of goo to the bottom of the craft box.

Pencils smear as our left hand drags through the graphite across the page. The notebook spiral digs into our forearm, gets in the way.

And never mind trying to successfully take a test on those right-handed wooden desk platforms in auditoriums or those attached to plastic chairs that pass themselves off as desks.

The last straw comes when we’re stuck with right-handed rulers, with the scale running in the opposite direction. So we drop out of school.

We decide to get a career in sports or music, neither of which matters if we never finished our education. Here we are readily outfitted with mitts, golf clubs and guitars – geared for the right-handed player.

“Whaddya mean I have to restring the whole thing just so you can try some Hendrix?”

Never mind, we say. We’ll make ourselves feel better by fixing ourselves something to eat – yet the right-handed kitchen brings us grief. Can openers and potato peelers slip from our fingers. We have to wear some oven mitts backwards or sideways, upside down.

Even measuring cups and coffee mugs are right-handed. Both display either the measurements or the fancy little design on the mug’s side so they are visible for the right-handed person.

Doesn’t matter. No one wants to sit at the dinner table next to us, anyway, as our elbow is always warring with the right-handed eater.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

It makes us frustrated enough to want to shoot something. But, alas, we are faced with right-handed rifles. Thankfully machetes are equally effective in either paw.

Top all this off with the negative associations that come with the left – like the devil. It’s his domain. He even baptized people with his left hand.

The left side is known as the evil side.

We throw salt over our left shoulders to ward off the demonic spirits that lurk there. If our left palm itches, we will lose money. If our left ear rings, someone is saying something very bad and ugly about us.

Pour wine with your left hand and it’s like you’re pouring a round of bad luck. Make a left-handed toast and you are cursing the person you are toasting.

Heck, if we get out of bed with our left foot first, we’re supposed to have the worst day imaginable.

Some say we left-handed folks are more creative and smarter – but kookier or more eccentric – than our right-handed counterparts.

Just please refrain from burning us at the stake.


A to Z (more or less) of famous left-handed folks:

Alexander the Great

Boston Strangler, Barack Obama

Cobain, Kurt

Da Vinci, Leonardo

Escher, M.C.

Fidel Castro

Greta Garbo

Helen Keller

Isaac Hayes

Jack the Ripper, Jimi Hendrix

Kermit the Frog

Lydon, John – aka Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame

Marilyn Monroe, Michaelangelo, Marcel Marceau (ew!)

Napoleon Bonaparte

Oscar de la Hoya

Pryor, Richard

Queen Victoria of England

Robert Plant, Ramses II

Savalas, Telly

Tiny Tim

Uri Geller

Van Beethoven, Ludwig

Wells, H.G., Wookie Choobaka

X – anyone?

Yrjana, Aki W. – musician

Z, Jay – as in Jay-Z

Primary sources: Indiana University, AnythingLeft-handed.co.uk


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who writes, draws, paints, tattoos, eats and plays what little bad guitar she plays with her left hand yet has adapted to do other things with her right. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

wb-logolilWhat do you think?

What other products or designs are a struggle for left-handed folks?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
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33 Responses to Left-handed folks still shafted in largely right-handed world

  1. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! Haha! The old southpaw curse. Good topic, as I am one those so ‘afflicted’. I can remember my grade school teachers trying to discourage me from doing things left handed, never paid ’em much mind. Used to come in handy in a brawl, not too many guys expect the left handed haymaker. 🙂
    Nice to hear that Joan d’Arc and Leonardo were lefties, two of the most interesting historical figures and personal favorites of mine.
    BTW-Hendrix played an upside down Strat with the strings reversed, I did the same on my 1st ever guitar. Got a lefty Strat now, but I kept the old one for sentimental purposes.
    Always remember when you are tryin’ to get that pair of right handed scissors to cut correctly or become annoyed that you are dragging ink across your final draft, that God created some people perfect, and the rest are right handed. 😉

    • Rynski says:

      hahaha – mornin’ radmax!
      yes, the left-handed curse. i’m most annoyed by the dang measuring cups – hahah. the ink dragging is also horrible. erasable pens were notorious for that. i remember assignments coming out as one big blur. i’ve since learned how to adjust to make sure my drawings don’t look like blobs. or at least not more blobby than they are supposed to look.
      cool info on hendrix guitar method – and your emulation of it! do you jam like him too? how’s your star spangled banner? haha
      my vote for two most interesting lefties, no surprise, are prob. boston strangler and jack the ripper – although i also find it neat that kermit the frog was left-handed.

      • radmax says:

        Hahaha, no, not much similarity between Hendrix and my pluckin’, but every once in awhile I get this feeling/inspiration that something other than my own ‘gifts’ is guiding my playing…as I generally suck at such. 😉
        PS-perhaps the left handed are actually more prone to the arts and other forms of notoriety, as there are so many gifted/notorious historical figures proportionally to the percentage of the populace witch are born ‘special’. 😉

      • radmax says:

        Which… 🙂 it’s the lefty curse in action Rynski!

      • radmax says:

        Now, if we only had special parking places close to the storefront… 😉

      • azmouse says:


      • Rynski says:

        ditto on ha!
        special parking spaces, discounts on wednesdays, free haircuts and vet care should also be awarded those suffering from the lefty curse – hahahha.

  2. Carolyn Classen says:

    Elem. school teachers when we were growing up used to treat the “lefties” as different and odd.  I noticed one day the right handed metal pencil sharpener on the classroom wall, and wondered how a left handed person could ever turn the handle to sharpen their pencils well.  Things have improved with mobile unisex pencil sharpers or desk ones,  but I bet there’s lots of other gadgets (like you mention above) that make it tough to be left handed.  I’m just glad I’m a “rightie” but I try to use both hands as much as I can.

    • Rynski says:

      hi carolyn –
      yes, woes range from sharpening pencils to not having a batting helmet that can protect the proper side of the head.
      i am very glad things – and attitudes – have improved. i recall grandma g stories about being forced to write with her right hand – and the sloppy, unnatural writing style that resulted.
      using both hands as much as possible is always a good habit – esp. if one hand gets injured and you’re stuck with just the other one.

  3. Jennatoolz says:

    Hi Ryn!! I was just thinking about this the other day! I remember wayyy back when I was in 2nd grade, I joined a tee-ball team. One of the other kids came up to me and asked if I was right-handed or left-handed, and I told him I was both. My logic — I have a right hand and a left hand, so I must be both! It wasn’t until later on that I realized what the kid was really asking…haha. I’m a rightie! 😀

    • Rynski says:

      heya jenna!
      you’re too funny! love the ‘both’ answer.
      as mentioned above, it IS good to get into habit of using both hands…and even your teeth or feet if you can – hey, why not? hahaha

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Yeah, I was a silly little kid, lol. That same day when I was up to bat, I hit the ball, and ran to first base. Mid-run, I threw off my helmet because I saw a kid before me lose his helmet as he was running, and I thought it looked cool. Well, it wasn’t…the coach scolded me for it. So much for trying to be a cool kid! Haha.

        I’ve tried writing with the left hand…and its just a no-go. My boyfriend’s a leftie though! Hey…is being a rightie or a leftie genetic?

      • Rynski says:

        lucky you on a left-handed boyfriend – lefties are just incredibly awesome – hahahhaha. my guy, too, is a lefty.
        good questions on genetics – i did a quick search and found that the answer is genetics AND environment are thought to play a part, at least according to article posted at stanford school of medicine site:

        If a classic dominant-recessive model were in play, then left-handed people would only have left handed kids. But they don’t even have left-handed kids most of the time!

        What’s going on here is that genes aren’t the whole story. Good evidence that something besides genes are involved comes from looking at identical twins.
        Remember, identical twins start out with exactly the same DNA. If something is completely determined by genetics, then if one identical twin has it, the other in the pair should as well.

        When one twin is left handed, the other twin is left handed only 76% of the time. Clearly genes aren’t enough. So, what else is involved?
        Most likely, the environment plays a role. There are probably one or more genes that make you more likely to become left-handed. You then need some sort of environmental trigger for it to happen….

        So, handedness is most likely due to a combination of genes and environment. Some people have a greater chance of being left-handed but something needs to trigger it.

      • azmouse says:

        Me and my Dad are right handed, my Mom and my brother are left handed….never really thought about it, but it’s interesting.

      • mорское says:

        i was a righty. both my parents worked so a local woman watched me. every time i picked anything to write or whatever with my right hand she would slap the hand and put it in my left.

        by the time my parents realized what was occurring they decided to let it goes it course. i stayed a lefty as far as writing, etc.

        it does create problems though. the right hand and arm are stronger and i have greater endurance with the right side as well.

        btw, my mom grabbed the woman and slapped her a few times. not on the hand though and her hand wasn’t open.

      • azmouse says:

        Hi mopckoe,
        Good for your Mom. How dare that woman hit you for any reason, but why would she try to make you left handed? Any ideas?

      • mорское says:

        “but why would she try to make you left handed? Any ideas?”

        none. outside just being a moron.

  4. tiponeill says:

    I support your cause wholeheartedly and firmly believe that one day soon you will not be harassed and jailed and will be free to serve in the military and even marry.
    Solidarity forever

  5. azmouse says:

    I’m pretty much ambidextrous, except my left handed writing isn’t as neat and doesn’t feel as natural.
    One of my son’s is the same way, except he writes leftie, plays guitar either way, bats either way, etc.

    Works out good in the hair biz! 😉

    • Rynski says:

      ambidextrous is DEF a plus in hair biz! you prob give the best dang hair cuts in town.
      i cut my own hair and do have more of a struggle with the side that’s more difficult to reach – i just leave it uneven and pretend i wanted it that way – hhahhaha

      • azmouse says:

        Asymmetrical hair is all the rage, so you’re hip!

      • Jennatoolz says:

        I’m too afraid to cut my own hair, hahaha. I tried it once and failed miserably. I’ve decided to leave the chopping up to the professionals!

      • Rynski says:

        yeah, way back when i REALLY botched it bad – but i’ve since learned to use clippers instead of straight razors – hahahhahahha.
        yes! i am sooo glad asymmetrical is in – hahah

      • azmouse says:

        Lucky for me not everyone is handy at cutting their own hair and coloring it too…I’d starve!

  6. Rynski says:

    hey! the poll just erased itself when i corrected a typo in my text and saved new version.
    please vote again if you care to.

  7. mорское says:

    the reason a lefty (i m one) will smear the pencil lead on the paper, etc. is that lefties are taught by example to turn the paper the same as a righty.

  8. Jonathan DuHamel says:

    Ever drive a stick-shift car in the British Isles? The shift is on the left.

    When doing geological field work, I always told my colleagues I used a left-handed rock hammer that would be dangerous for them to borrow.

  9. Rynski says:

    Here’s one for the link exchange program – A site called Simply Lefty alerted me to the gads of left-handed products for sale.
    Check it out if you wish at http://www.simplylefty.com

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