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The Perils of Being Short

Updated on August 24, 2012

©B. L. Bierley 2012

It’s not every day that I have to deal with issues regarding my unfortunately minimal stature. It’s every third day. Just kidding. But when my daughter DaVelma brought me her recent woes, I felt the urge to expostulate.

DaVelma has recently embarked on her high school sophomore year. For the first time she is a little guppy in a big shark tank. High school juniors and seniors are increasingly more adult-sized these days. At almost five feet tall, poor DaVelma has fallen into the rabbit hole--one where everyone but her ate the little cake and got taller.

Hello Up There!

While most people are moving through their day unaware, the vertically challenged must be aware of their surroundings at all times. One of DaVelma’s friends—whom I’ll endearingly refer to as Data, has also sadly yet to breech the five-foot marker. Data mentioned the issue of always having to look up to see things being a pain in her neck: people’s faces, numbers of her new classrooms, directional signs, top lockers, etc. What most people take for granted, we shorter individuals must work to overcome.

Another harrowing ordeal is how people treat less-tall individuals. Many people assume that just because a person is not very tall they are automatically immature or incapable of doing ordinary tasks like opening doors or driving. It’s a touch prejudicial. Not that perils are always avoidable for us.

The Sky is Falling!

Something people might not be aware of about being short is the hidden danger we constantly face doing everyday tasks designed for average height people. In a world where the average American is around five foot five inches tall, things are sometimes not designed for those of us who cannot reach past the middle shelves of life. High shelves are fraught with hidden dangers. When we “shorties” have to get something at a department store or supermarket from a shelf or rack far above our heads, we often get more coming down on our heads than we initially meant to jostle over the edge. I’ve learned from experience that a sturdy pencil with a nice gummy eraser adds about three to five inches to my reach when I want … say, a box of cereal from the higher adult-brand shelves.

Step stools are a staple in our home, though they often cause more peril than they prevent when one of us forgets to put the stool back into its storage spot. And I won’t deny that we shorter individuals can cause our fair share of perils to others, too. DaVelma, in her attempt to navigate the halls of her high school, can occasionally lock up the flow of traffic if a larger and taller individual fails to see her until nearly at the point of impact. As he or she side-steps to avoid crushing my petite princess, there is a jam up for others moving in other flow lines or directions. I think DaVelma may be developing a sort of hallway anxiety, worried that her dependence on her taller friends for traversing crowded passages might eventually be a burden on their time.

I tell my daughter the same thing I was taught: just stand up straight and make people respect your space. Cap suggested fashioning a bicycle flag to fit into a holder we could attach to her belt so that everyone would know where she was in a crowd, or at the very least have a warning of her approach. DaVelma and I were less-than-amused.

What Perks?

Okay, there are—I will begrudgingly admit—some perks to being shorter. I’ve compiled a list below.

1. Pants that fit you in the waist as a petite individual are rarely ever too short! And it is arguably easier to have them cut to fit your height than it would be to add length.

2. Some people like being babied and looked after all the time (not everyone, but some do).

3. You can ride kiddie rides years longer than others (obviously ignoring the fact that this also excludes you from rides with minimum height requirements).

4. Shorter females never have to worry about being taller than their date!

5. Shorter people tend to age slower than taller people. (Okay, this isn’t a scientific fact, but an inferred observation of many short people such as myself. And maybe I am assuming they’re older and short and not just young and yet to grow up. But I do think the air down here is less radical and wrinkling).

6. Our hearts have less distance to pump our oxygen-rich blood making our brains more alert. Also the pathways between our brain and nerve endings is considerably shorter. In turn this allows our nervous response times to be a little better than average. We can react faster to incoming problems, and therefore we are better at making decisions for safe outcomes in times of stress. (Again, this is a personal theory here, not scientifically supported by facts. But if you look closely this could be linked up as a plausible cause of number five. Just saying).

I Wanna Be Short When I Grow Up!

Okay, nobody says that … ever! People always want to be taller, unless they’re hoping to work in a profession where a lower center of gravity might be to their advantage. Professional cheerleaders, gymnasts, horse jockeys, race car drivers and celebrities in niche roles all seem to do quite well if they’re under five foot five inches tall. And perhaps there are other professions out there with similar bonuses for the under-tall.

Not that I’m ever really worried about it, for DaVelma and Ziggy’s career paths I mean. Neither one of them is aspiring to be a supermodel or a basketball star. And even if they were, there are sometimes exceptions. Devon Aoki, the 1998 face of Versace, is just five foot five in a field where most agencies will not even consider you unless you are at least five foot six or taller! Spud Webb was an NBA slam dunk champion in 1986, and he was only five foot seven inches- a tiny man among giants in his profession. So I say never give up hope if you’ve got talent just because of a few measly inches!

The point is that height doesn’t usually hold someone back if they are confident and determined. So I say stand proud, fellow “shorties,” and never let anyone use you as a human armrest. Let’s at least have some dignity, people!


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