I’m short. There’s no way around this fact. If I wanted to round up I could pass for being five feet, one inch tall.
While I stopped growing when I was twelve, the fascination other people seem to have with short people seems to continue to heighten. The curiosity and wonderment seemed only to amplify once I started college. People loved that their little brothers, sisters, and cousins were taller than me, going out of their way to say that a 10-year-old dwarfed me.
The truth is, I poke fun at myself for my height (or lack thereof), and I go to sleep at night feeling pretty good about myself (most nights). But, I’m destined (or doomed) to live with these bones in this skin until I eventually grow old and shrink even more. This gives me an excuse to make jokes about any insecurities or just plain truths surrounding my shortness. The average human being doesn’t necessarily have these same pain points, and therefore should act a little more civilized in the presence of their shorter peers. In hopes of saving the general public from violence or humiliation (we short people have the advantage of being closer in kicking distance to your knees, shins and groins) I’ve come up with a few guidelines that should help you with your inevitable future interactions with those who are five feet, four inches and under:
1. When you meet someone who is shorter than you, treat the introduction as you would with someone who is your same height – at least for the first few lines of introductory small talk. Instead of, “Hi, you’re so small and cute, just like my younger cousin Darci,” you could simply introduce yourself and make a normal comment like, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I understand this may take some getting used to, but I promise people react better when they are treated like human beings and not American Girl dolls. I’m also fairly certain shorter guys still feel completely emasculated when they are gawked at and reassured they are shorter than the average male.
2. Unless a short person asks you to, please don’t pick him or her up. For example, during my first weekend in college this enormous human/ogre whom I’d never met before picked me up and threw me over his shoulder, calling me “Pixie.” Granted, this whole evening was driven by alcohol, but this guy went above and beyond by both totally violating my personal space and addressing me as a tiny, magical woodland creature. The only thing that could make the experience better would be if he started yelling, “I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!” When you wish upon a star … right?
3. It isn’t polite to pull and prod. While it isn’t as invasive as picking someone up, touching someone and tugging at her clothing just because you think it’s cute that she had to hem her pants in order to wear them with heels (yes, I have to do this, and yes, even when hemmed my pants are too long) is still invasive. Short people shop at the same stores as tall people, even if they sometimes shop in the kid’s section because the clothes are cheaper and, thanks to childhood obesity, the sizes in the children’s department continue to get larger. Anyway, I don’t touch tall people’s clothing just because I wish I could wear maxi dresses and long tunics without being completely drowned in yards of fabric – that would just be rude.
4. Making a big deal out of short people not being able to reach things on top shelves just makes the situation worse. I already feel frustrated about not being able to reach the paper or sugar or drinking glasses without you coming over and telling me how funny it is to see me standing on my tip-toes, struggling with my fingers hyper-extended, trying to grab that same damn item I’ve been working to obtain for the last 10 minutes. Yes, it’s hilarious.
5. If you work somewhere serving alcohol, please just ask for my ID even if you have a huge urge to say I look like I’m 14. I know I will be carded for at least another 12 years, but it’s a little humiliating when I go to get lunch with a friend and have to wear a lime green wristband with “Over 21″ stamped on it in order to drink a beer. The cashier in this example seemed so smug about his decision to put this scarlet letter of sorts on me at noon so passerby wouldn’t jump to conclusions about a pizza joint serving a visiting high school student a beer in a college town (note: I had graduated from this college six months earlier). As he’s clasping the bracelet together, the cashier starts to flirt with me, which could have been flattering if he hadn’t just embarrassed me in front of the entire restaurant. Nice try, man, but this short chick (and I’m assuming most other short chicks and dudes) don’t find being patronized super sexy. Essentially I’m trying to say that it isn’t nice to loudly and insensitively rattle someone who just wanted to drink her damn beer just because she could pass as a high school sophomore.
6. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe short people don’t like being your personal armrest just because we happen to conveniently be equal height with your elbows? What about our armrests? Oh, come on, you know parents don’t take well to strangers resting their arms on their toddlers! How dare you suggest that!
7. Don’t call me your “mini-me.” Besides the fact that I’m miniature in size, what makes you think I want to be mini anything, especially a mini you? Your attempt at self-flattery is offensive, and it’s only warranted if I say I wish I were exactly like you.
8. When taking group photos, I will automatically go towards the front. I know that I’m shorter than you – let’s not test either my patience or the patience of the poor photographer who is waiting while you make an ordeal about how I absolutely need to get in the front of the group.
9. If we go to a movie or to a concert, kindly think about where we are going to sit. I’ve had to endure a number of shows either on my tip-toes or craning my neck to the side because an enormous individual is blocking my view. I know you love sitting or standing in the middle of the fifth row, but you invited me here, and I’d also like to enjoy the performance. In addition, unless I ask you to pick me up so I can see better, please don’t. Refer to #2 if you have any questions.
10. Ask me about my hobbies and interests before suggesting I try something just because of my height. I’ve been told I could be a jocky, that I should start gymnastics again, and have been asked to join the rowing team because of my size. I actually had both the women’s and men’s collegiate rowing team fight over me to be the coxswain on their teams without even asking me if I liked rowing. It was funny for a few minutes, and then I started feeling uncomfortable as I tried to escape. I’m open to suggestions for fun things to do, but let’s get to know each other’s names before we start making decisions for one another.
I could continue with should’s and should not’s, but I’ll spare you the pages of lists and will let you ponder your past and future interactions with little people. In short, act normally around those people who are shorter than you are, because at the end of the day we’re the ones who have to be eye-level with your crotches.