5′ 1.5″ Dynamo- How to Be Short in a Tall world
I’m 5 feet 1 and a half inches tall. I know this because I went to the doctor the other day and when the nurse measured me I made it a point to ask her the result. Normally, all I know is that I’m shorter than most everyone.
I have never been tall. During that time when girls went through their growth spurts first and were taller than the boys, I remained shorter than everyone. Now, growth spurts are distant memories and I am still short. There was a time when this was annoying. The world is not designed for short people. Going to the grocery store requires me to ask another person if they could reach something for me, at least once a trip. I have to stand on tippy toes to be able to reach the bottom of the washing machine. The upper shelves in my apartment are used only for storing things I rarely use. A step stool is a household necessity. I am an expert at boosting myself onto countertops, a result of years of practice. I have been known to boost myself onto the counter and then walk on it. This is entertaining: I am so short that even standing on a counter doesn’t make me hit my head on the ceiling and I enjoy being up high. In college I frequently climbed onto my desk to think and pace (Yes, I can pace on a desk; my stride, like my body, is short.) I have learned how to live well in a world designed for someone several inches taller.
Tailors are a good thing to have regardless but if you are short, they are a necessity. Finding clothes that fit, off the rack, is exceedingly rare. So rare in fact that when it happens, I get really excited and act like I just saw a unicorn. Unless you’re shopping in the petites section (something I rarely do since what I lack in height I make up for in breasts. Petite clothing is designed for women who are petite all over. Don’t even get me started on the fashion industry and their clothing designed for body types that don’t exist in nature.) A good tailor can take that shirt that fits except for the extra six inches of fabric in the arms and remove those six inches of extraneous fabric, maintaining the original design and making it short person friendly.
I look at shopping as comedy. It’s either that or spend the entire trip crying. Capri pants are full length pants on me. Full length pants are at least six inches too long, more usually a full foot. I feel like a clown when I try on clothes. All that extra fabric makes it hard to move and even harder to envision what it will actually look like once the tailor is through. For all the angst they cause, clothes are the easiest thing in a short person’s life to alter.
When I was learning how to drive (yes, I know how to drive [or rather, knew. I’m not sure I remember everything now.], I simply don’t) my father tried to teach me how to drive stick. He has a little truck so it was feasible to teach me with it. When I got in the driver’s seat, I had to move the bench seat all the way forward and still had trouble reaching the pedals. My father, all six feet of him, was getting acquainted with his knee caps that were now just a few inches from his nose. I never learned how to drive stick but I have a vivid memory of that moment because it was a perfect illustration of how even things that seem tailor made for short people, like a little truck, are in fact not.
I spent a lot of time with my father when I was growing up and, as he is tall and I am short, I had to learn how to keep up. Today, I walk faster than most people. I have spent so much time keeping up with others that being around slow walkers is an odd experience. You would think I would welcome the opportunity not to have to speed walk but it’s habit by now and slowing down is difficult. My mother, who is actually an inch and a half shorter than me, is one of the few people with whom I don’t have to think about my walking pace.
You would think that sitting would be one thing that would be simple, regardless of height. You’re wrong. I rarely sit with my feet on the ground, preferring to sit cross-legged or with my feet tucked under me. When I sit on a chair or sofa and don’t sit in one of my customary positions, my feet swing freely. One of my friends, I, is constantly amused by this fact. Since I am fidgety and usually cycle through several different sitting positions, swinging my feet serves several purposes, releasing energy and providing a certain amount of amusement (and not just for myself. What can I say, I’m a giver.)
Being short is a blessing and a curse. One of the biggest pluses of being short is that people routinely underestimate you. When you verbally or physically trounce them, their surprise is magnified when they realize just how wrong their first impression was and watching that realization register on their face is quite satisfying. Being “up high” requires little more than a countertop. Flying is still unpleasant but being short spares you leg cramps.
I am short. There is no way to get around that fact. My choice is to either struggle and rail against a natural fact or embrace it. Since I recognize the absurdity of life and prefer laughing over crying, I embrace my lack of height. Every time someone comments on my shortness, a few things spring to mind- Thanks for pointing out the bleeding obvious. Continue to laugh about it. When I do something usually reserved for a taller person, the look on your face is reward enough for enduring your utter lack of originality and stupidity.