Being Short Is No Joke
I have to start off by saying that I am 5 feet, 10 inches tall. I was always the tallest girl in my class in elementary school and usually the tallest, or one of the tallest, in classes thereafter. While I was in school, I hated being tall. It was not until I got older (in high school and college) that I realized the benefits of being tall. The “real world” thinks being tall is cool. It’s nice if you’re tall but not if you’re short because there isn’t anything you can do about it.
I know I’ve been treated differently simply because of my height; there’s no doubt that the opposite is true for short people, unless you are asking young children… A new study shows that short children are just as well adjusted as their taller peers. However, the National Organization for Short Statured Adults has something to say about that:
“‘I wish that were true,’” said Matt Campisi, chairman of the New York City-based National Organization of Short Statured Adults (NOSSA), who is 5 feet, 4 inches. ‘Most of the members would love that to be the reality, but unfortunately the feedback we receive from parents is the complete opposite.’”
The problems are greatest not for children but for adults. For men, the challenge is finding a romantic partner. For women, it’s about the way they are treated in the workplace. There really is something to women’s double standard when it comes to the height of a man. “Tall, dark, and handsome” may be a stereotype but “tall” and “handsome” seem to stick. What’s ironic is that some short men say that even short women will not date a short man! How often have you gone out with or talked with a friend who went out with a guy and had his height be a topic of conversation, even concern? It’s real. I don’t believe that it’s a “deal breaker,” but it’s a real hurdle short men have to overcome.
Women have personal challenges with being short. One teacher from New Jersey had this to share about her experiences as a shorter woman:
“I get walked into, elbowed in the face and have had drinks spilled on me because people trip over me.” “I can’t hear conversations in noisy environments because they are so far above me and I usually have to talk loudly to be heard.”
However, for women, being mistaken as younger — even as young as a child — can be a major obstacle in the workplace. Having to shop in the children’s section of the department store doesn’t do anything to boost confidence personally or professionally. I actually have a friend who is now a mother of four who still has to shop in the children’s section because of her stature. And while for years I thought it was “cute” that she shopped in the kids’ section, she has always resented it, and reasonably so.
Ellen Frankel, author of Beyond Measure: A Memoir About Short Stature and Inner Growth, offers an important reminder when it comes to this issue:
“Everybody has challenges when they differ in any way from the norm.”
Keep that in mind next time you’re tempted to tell a short-person joke!