I started life ahead of the height curve as a 21-inch-long newborn. From that point, though, being short caught up to me. As a kid I dutifully drank all my milk, but I guess no amount of calcium and bovine growth hormone can fight against the powers of genetics. With my dad standing 5’ 4” and my mom ringing in at 4’ 9”, I guess my whopping 4 feet, 11 inches is just what one would expect.
So being short is very much a part of how I label myself. I remember being the smallest each time we made a class “height chart” in elementary school, and being very insistent that my fifth grade teacher mark me down as 3’ 10” and THREE-QUARTERS. It didn’t help that I started kindergarten early, so I was always two years younger than my classmates. It also probably didn’t help that I sported that impressive Asian bowl cut and large glasses until sophomore year. Since I was so small, my parents made me use a rolling backpack to save my spine from textbook-induced stress. Once in seventh grade one of the “cool” athletic kids came up to me and asked if I was lost from kindergarten. My smart-assed ten-year old self replied that no, I was actually a psychology student from Harvard studying the inner workings of middle school life. And then I scampered before he could react (hey, he was a lot bigger than I was).
Looking back on all of this, I’m still amazed that I’m not permanently scarred by rampant teasing or negative body image from those years. I guess my middle school self was just too young to care when people thought my tininess, bookishness, or penchant for wearing large t-shirts with leggings was weird. (I still do this; in fact, that is what I’m wearing right now.) And luckily I went to a high school where you could pretty much dress and act however you wanted without fear of judgment. I did hit puberty in high school, which brought with it all of the normal self-consciousness and insecurities that every teenage girl experiences. But years of not minding what people thought of me definitely helped me worry less about my teenage awkwardness. Although I did ditch the rolling backpack.
So how does being short affect me now? I’d like to say it doesn’t, but that wouldn’t really be true. I still wear heels to boost me up to the “average” height of 5’ 2” or so, and have only recently started scaling that back, since being taller isn’t really worth foot problems. I probably have a mild Napoleon complex, overcompensating for my size by being loud. Probably the worst part is not being taken seriously. People are more likely to think I’m “cute” and tend to pick me up without asking, which doesn’t bother me, but it’s just something that tends to happen. Since I’m naturally perky and get excited about random things, I risk being seen as a tiny, ditzy bundle of bubbliness. Yes, I know I’m tiny, and no, you cannot keep me.
I’ve heard it all—travel/pocket/fun-sized, Oompa-Loompa, munchkin, achondroplasia (dwarfism for non-med students)—heck, my roommate still calls me Midge. And you know what? It’s fine. It’s probably also easier on me since I’m not a guy. Being short has its downsides, like not being able to reach shelves and gas pedals, or having people use my head as an armrest, but what can I say? I am short and always will be. (Thanks, genetics!)
Tune in on Thursday for when Lori talks about being TALL!