In Medieval times, left-handed people had more to worry about than smudging their own handwriting: Being a lefty was associated with demonic possession. While southpaws aren't likely to be labeled as the devil's puppet today, life for those in that 10 percent of the population can still be a struggle. Check out some common tasks that lefties rarely get right.
1. Using scissors
Unless you special-order left-handed scissors, the act of cutting up paper can quickly become an exercise in frustration. Scissors typically have blades with distinct handles, including one for the thumb—a lefty’s thumb will usually get stuck in the finger hole because they’re holding it upside-down. Fortunately, most operating rooms are equipped with scissors for both hands.
Because a lefty’s hand is running through everything being written, signatures, notes, and other scribblings often turn into a smeared mess. Writing in three-ringed binders or notebooks is even worse, since the spine makes it difficult to rest your hand against a smooth surface. The worst part? Gripping the pen cap with your left hand forces it to loosen up, making for a writing utensil that comes apart while you’re trying to use it.
3. Eating with other people
If you know anyone who prefers to eat alone, ask about their dominant hand. It might be because using their left arm to dig into food means engaging in a constant battle for table real estate with a person on their left who is eating with their right arm. It also means their drinking glasses will be parked next to one another, with spillage always a looming threat.
Even sober, a lefty’s locomotion is affected. Why? Because when they cross paths with someone walking in the opposite direction, both tend to lean into their dominant side—putting them in front of each other yet again.
To make sure their pens don’t wind up lost or stolen, most banks will tether them to a flimsy chain on the table. It’s non-invasive for right-handed people, but lefties are forced to try to sign checks with a chain constantly pulling against their hand movement.
6. Getting dressed
The zippers on jeans, coats, and other apparel usually open on the right side, creating a barrier of entry for lefties. Buttons escalate the difficulty. Some women’s clothing reverses this, putting closures on the left. The tradition is thought to have started when servants would dress their charges in the Victorian era: Left-sided buttons would be to their right.
7. Using cell phones
Many cell phones can be problematic for lefties. For one thing, cradling the device with your left hand can sometimes obscure the antenna, affecting reception. For another, control blocks can default to the right side in landscape mode, putting them out of reach.
8. Measuring food ingredients
Glass or plastic measuring cups frequently print serving amounts to the left of the handle, meaning lefties who pour with their left and hold the cup with their right will either see nothing at all or the metric system side.
9. Using a car's cup holder
Most lefties get used to shifting with their right hand, but it’s still awkward to try and fetch your water bottle or cappuccino from the cup holder on the right side of the driver’s seat.
10. Using a can opener
Manual can openers favor right-handed operation, meaning lefties are forced to either obscure the knob with their left or move in the opposite direction. (Pull-tab cans have saved the sanity of many a lefty.) The same holds true for potato peelers, which are engineered for the right-handed majority. Fortunately, a few stores sell mirror-imaged kitchen tools.
11. Painting one's fingernails
Most day-to-day tasks can be modified or at least tolerated by lefties, but those who opt to paint their nails find that their left hand winds up a mess. The same is true for right-handed people, too—all the better to give them a taste of lefty life.
A version of this story ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2021.