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Lefty Living in a Righty-Run World

Southpaws unite!

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Robert Kunco, Vince Kunco, Wade Kunco

BATTER UP When it comes to the all-American sport of baseball, Robert Kunco and sons Wade, 7, and Vince, 9, (pictured, from left) are lefties all the way. (Photo:

Let’s hear it for the southpaws, cranking that hand-held can opener at absurd angles to get to those peas, risking life and limb with power tools, navigating that computer mouse on the right. 

We aren’t known for beautiful penmanship. Our side palm resembles a Rorschach inkblot test, sopping up fresh ink as we plow through what we’ve just written. 

That’s me, a lefty since birth. I’ve known it since I first picked up a chunky crayon, coloring wildly outside of the lines. My husband will tell you that my writing still runs amok, with gigantic loops and crossed Ts that fly off the page, leaving smudges behind. “Your handwriting is out of control,” he says. 

Even I must work to decipher my grocery list. 

Robert Kunco, Vince Kunco, Wade Kunco

It’s “like father, like sons,” in Robert Kunco’s family, where left-handedness rules. Pictured: Robert, Wade, and Vince. (Photo:

As a wee child, full of goofy vocabulary and mispronunciations, I called it “wept-handed,” recalls my mom. Perhaps that’s because I knew my future would involve scissors. Want to make a “wept-hander” feel clumsy and self-conscious? Tell them to cut stuff and watch them weep.

There’s a reason my husband does the gift wrapping. I’m eyeing a southpaw T-shirt that reads, “I Am Left-Handed, and I Hate Your Scissors.

Yes, the world is largely built for righties, roughly 90 percent of the population. So, it’s only, um… er…. right, that lefties are acknowledged for their under-the-radar struggles and all that soldiering on with kitchen gadgets.

International Left-Handers Day, celebrated annually on August 13, does just that, giving a shout-out to our tribe that includes an impressive list, including a southpaw streak of U.S. presidents: James A. Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and more recently, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. 

Memorial resident Robert Kunco and sons, Vince, 9, and Wade, 7 – “painfully left-handed,” says their dad – are proud members of this minority club, poor penmanship and all. Robert recently discovered that his grandfather, uncle, and aunt on his mom’s side were all lefties.

“My handwriting is atrocious. My sons’ handwriting is atrocious,” says Robert, who works in midstream oil and gas commercial business development. 

Robert Kunco, Vince Kunco, Wade Kunco

Wade throws the ball left-handed to his brother, Vince, as their dad looks on. (Photo:

Writing from left to right is harder: instead of pulling the pen across the paper, lefties must push it, causing poor pencil and pen grasp, smudged work, and arm strain. Some lefties angle their paper to see more easily what they’ve written and prevent smears. Robert does battle with paper straight-on, not at an angle, same for his sons. “If you watch me write, you would think it’s a mirror image of a right-hander, from an angle perspective. But I’ve always written poorly.” 

His mortal enemy is the dry erase board, a common workplace tool. Not great for southpaws whose hand drags through everything they’ve just written, erasing as they go.

Robert is somewhat ambidextrous, like a lot of lefties, me included. While a scant number of people are born truly ambidextrous – neither hand more dominant than the other – we learned to use our right for some functions out of necessity, due to lack of lefty items and conveniences. 

He learned to golf right-handed because he didn’t have left-handed clubs. “I bat left-handed, throw left-handed, but for some reason I play pool right-handed, and I throw a frisbee with my right. I was an athlete and did all the things with my left, so that’s a puzzle to me,” he says, asking “How do you open a jar?”

“Right,” we agree.

His kids are lefties to the core, playing all sports as southpaws. Baseball. Golf. 

As a political science major at the University of Texas, Robert recalls the dreaded desk with chair attached, a torture chamber for lefties who must twist and turn their arms and body to write comfortably. A real problem, not just ergonomically, but during timed essay tests.

“A lot of my poli sci tests were essays, blue book type of stuff, and in those auditoriums all they had were those very small right-handed desks. I would have to write 15 pages of blue book in three hours, sitting in one of those. I never felt persecuted, but I remember thinking, ‘Man, UT needs to invest in some left-handed desks.’”

And eating a steak? Robert is my true comrade in arms, an ambi-eater like me. We cut with our right and eat with our left. “I never realized that most people, if they are sitting down and cutting a steak, will cut with their dominant hand, and then set the knife down and switch the fork over to their dominant hand. Weird,” he opines.

His sons inherited his love of music. Robert plays drums open-handed, a technique where a lefty opens up their arms to play the hi-hat and snare, instead of crossing them over each other. He plays guitar and bass right-handed. Vince and Wade play drums left-handed.

“I love being left-handed,” says Vince, “but the one thing I hate about it is I can’t use other people’s stuff.” He recently told his dad that he and his buddies want to start a band, but he can’t play their drums, set up for righties.

Vince is tackling guitar, too, and both boys have embarked on piano, Wade starting this fall. Robert bought Vince a right-handed guitar for Christmas “because I play guitar right-handed and figured I would turn him around.” 

Nope. Vince is solid left. “So, I’m going to have to get him a left-handed guitar.” Jim Duncan can help with that. As owner of Bellaire’s Southpaw Guitars, the world’s oldest left-handed guitar store, he sold a lefty guitar to Paul McCartney for his 2013 tour, ditto for Justin Bieber, also a southpaw. The lead guitar player for The Killers rock band in Las Vegas is a loyal customer. 

“When we have a little kid come in and the parent says they need a lefty guitar, I’ll hand the kid a broomstick and say, ‘Pretend like you’re playing guitar.’ If the left-handed child picks it up and handles it right-handed, I’m going to suggest they get a right-handed guitar. But if they turn that broom around, I’m suggesting a lefty.”

Phoebe Murphy, Charlotte Murphy

Sisters Phoebe (left) and Charlotte, both adopted, slap left hands when it comes to this symbol of solidarity. (Photo: Grace DeJong)

Bellaire sisters Charlotte, 19, and Phoebe Murphy, 22, are lefties, but not genetically related. They were adopted.

“Ironically, yes, we are both left-handed,” says Charlotte, a University of Georgia sophomore, majoring in human development and family science, with an emphasis on genetic counseling. “I think being adopted has a lot to do with that interest,” she says.

Charlotte is pretty much solid left, but her sister is ambidextrous. A creative type who studied communications and creative writing at San Antonio’s Trinity University, Phoebe crochets, knits, and does paper crafts from watching tutorials. “Basically, in that ballpark, I just do them right-handed because that’s what all the instructional videos are.” 

Charlotte boasts better handwriting than her sister. “It’s not beautiful, but it’s pretty good for being left-handed. Phoebe’s is horrendous.”

“Yeah, my written work is pretty smudgy,” admits Phoebe, who abhors three-ring binders that compete with writing space, obstacle courses for a lefty’s hand. “For me it’s those spiral notebooks,” joins in Charlotte.

Charlotte Murphy

While her sister is somewhat ambidextrous, Charlotte Murphy is left-hand dominant for nearly every activity, including carving this juicy watermelon. (Photo: Grace DeJong)

The sister’s hand preferences are most telling when they play Wii Sports, where participants choose to play left- or right-handed. “I’ve always clicked left for everything and Phoebe uses different hands depending on the sport,” Charlotte explains. 

Bowling is pretty telling, too.

“We went recently, and I switched to my right hand mid-game because my left wasn’t cutting it,” Phoebe explains. “That right hand just does it better for me sometimes.”

“Yeah, and if I try with my right, it’s straight to the gutters,” quips lefty purist, Charlotte. “It’s left all the way for me.” 

I know about gutter balls. I bowled a 40 once in my neighborhood women’s bowling league and received an award for clumsiest bowler. And that was with my dominant hand. Lefty let me down.

Phoebe Murphy

Phoebe Murphy tackles this diamond painting – a craft where you apply hundreds of multi-colored rhinestones to a canvas – with her left hand, but she learned to do many activities, like crocheting, with her right. (Photo: Grace DeJong)

Thankfully, the Kunco family and Murphy sisters have never been made to feel that being left-handed was wrong. At times, being a lefty carried enormous stigma.

As TIME explained in 1969, “southpaws, gallock-handers, chickie paws and scrammies” were seen as sinister – literally, since the word means “left” – for centuries. “In the Middle Ages, for instance, the left-hander lived in danger of being accused of practicing witchcraft,” the article explained. “The Devil himself was considered a southpaw.”  

The term “southpaw” is said to derive from 19th-century ballparks that were laid out so that the pitcher looked in a westerly direction when facing the batter. The throwing arm of a left-handed pitcher would then be to the south, hence the term. But some historians say its origin pre-dated baseball, appearing in political satire for the first time in 1813, as a term for someone who is left-handed.

I’m giving away my age here (66), but teachers of my generation didn’t always appreciate my dominant hand. My second-grade teacher tried to break me, holding my left hand behind me as I wrote on the blackboard. My mama bear mom, mother to four daughters (all righties but me) was up at the school a lot that year.

I prevailed, smudges and all, wearing graphite stains from pencil smears like a badge of honor, hand “correctness” be damned.

Studies say we’re a creative bunch. And in Buddhism, the left hand represents wisdom. So, take that, second-grade teacher. I’m gonna go with that.

Myths, Fun Facts, and Famous Lefties


Lefties are more intelligent: A study examined more than 7,000 grade school children and found no difference in intellectual ability between left-handers and right-handers.

Lefties are “right brained”: Righties and lefties don’t have reversed brains. According to studies, 98 percent of righties are left-brained, but so are 70 percent of lefties.

Lefties are more likely to be leaders: Psychologists say there’s no hard scientific evidence that handedness has anything to do with leadership skills.

A Few Fun Facts:

There is a Left Hand, West Virginia, (this writer’s home state!), named after the nearby Left Hand Run Creek. With a population of approximately 390 people, the unincorporated town is located 30 minutes northeast of the state capital Charleston.

Left-handedness tends to run in families. This writer is still researching family history but knows of a paternal great-grandmother who was a southpaw. 

One in four Apollo astronauts were left-handed, 250 percent more lefties than the normal level of probability for the group.

Studies show lefties adjust easier to seeing underwater. Just us and the fishes.

A recent study published in the journal Brain found that lefties are linked to better verbal skills and have a lower risk for Parkinson’s disease. In left-handers, the left and right brain hemispheres had stronger links in the regions associated with language, correlating with greater language ability.

Famous Lefties:

Billionaire media icon Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, comedian Jay Leno, baseball superstar Babe Ruth, business magnate Bill Gates, Apple founder Steve Jobs, Jimi Hendrix, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and a streak of U.S. presidents, to name a few. 

Albert Einstein’s handedness is somewhat a matter of discrepancy, according to research. There are claims that he was left-handed, due to the way he smoked his pipe, folded his hands, and other small details revealed in photo archives. Others point to the fact he wrote with his right hand. Those who claim he was left-handed say he only wrote with his right to avoid smearing chalk and ink as he wrote. Some historians claim he was likely born ambidextrous, with neither hand dominant.

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