You’d like to be taller, wouldn’t you? A couple more inches maybe, just enough to reach to the back of that kitchen cupboard or that last tin of anchovies on the top shelf in the supermarket. Course you would. Well imagine this – imagine being 4 foot 11 with no chance of ever getting taller because you’re 39 and from now on, it’s spinal compression and shrinking bones all the way. Yeah that’s me, that short one over here. Can’t see me? That’s because I’m standing behind this dwarf rhododendron.
Being short sucks. Do you have any idea how many times in my life people have pointed out to me, in a sympathetic tone of voice, just how short I am? “Wow” – they say, looking at me like I’m some kind of optical illusion- “wow you really are very short. How tall actually are you?” I tell them I’m 4 feet 11 inches because there seems little point in lying and they shake their heads in disbelief. “Are you even human?” their tone seems to imply, surely no one could be as short as you and still actually alive. Let alone a functioning adult. They let you have a mortgage? But you’re a Hobbit! Next time someone asks, I shall tell them with a straight face that I am 5 feet 5 and a half and see what they say.
I am from a family of short people, it is true, so my diminutive stature shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s unfortunate for me though that no one else in my family has got the shorts to quite the same degree that I have. Even my sister, who had a really good go at being short, eventually went careering past me in the height stakes. She towers over me now, all the way up there at the fabled 5 feet exactly mark. I can only dream of that kind of height.
(That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to write something about my love/hate relationship with high heels and how they make me feel like an angry pony. Maybe next time.)
What exactly then, is so bad about being short? I know my mum will be reading this and will phone me soon to say “Ah but Lisa, you’re so sweet” which is all very well but you have to remember that she herself is a full 5 feet 2 inches and knows nothing of being short. You could think that maybe shortness confers some advantages on a person. It’s true that I have rarely had to duck to go through a doorway but this doesn’t make up for all the multitude of things I am missing out on due to my height. In essence, I’ve distilled the badness down to three main points;
1. Going to watch live music
2. Buying trousers
3. People who lean on you in the pub
Let’s start with the third point. People (and for ‘people’, read ‘men’) occasionally think it’s quite funny to come up to a short person in a bar, pint in hand and lean, with their elbow, onto the shoulder of said short person. If that sounds like the kind of thing you might do, here’s a pro tip for you: don’t. It immediately marks you out as the kind of person you don’t want to be. There’s also a small yet significant chance that I will come to your house, while you sleep and stab you during your REM phase.
The trouser thing. I have had to roll up or re-hem the bottoms of every single pair of trousers I have ever owned. Do you have any idea what that does to a person?
And on the first point, at concerts I have a number of choices. I can squeeze into the front row before the first support comes on and stay there, bladder straining until I can’t hang on any more and have to go for a wee half way through the main act. I can go up to the balcony, if there is one (my preferred option.) I can stand at the very, very back hoping to get some kind of glimpse of the action across the crowd. Or, I can stand somewhere in the middle with everyone else and spend several hours looking at the back of the tall person in front of me. Sometimes, the tall person takes pity on me and lets me go in front of them which is a kind gesture and will be repaid in karma. Still, however well meaning they might be, a) it makes me feel like a child and b) the new person in front of me is still taller than I am. I’ve got good now at knowing which venues in Manchester have nice high stages (Deaf Institute) and which ones make me feel like I’m standing in a basin (Ruby Lounge.)
A few years ago I went to Japan. I found it rather life affirming. Yeah yeah, the temples were great and all that but the biggest revelation were the seats on the bus. For the first time in my whole life, I could sit on a bus and put my feet on the floor. Flat! On the floor! There’s a big wide world out there, just teeming with people and it turns out that not all of them are giants. I found something else out a few years ago too. I took part in a pregnancy related study which, amongst other things, required me to be measured in a number of interesting ways. One of the measurements was my height. There were no surprises. Another measurement was my ‘sit height’ from the seat of the chair to the top of my head when I was sitting down. This came as something of a shock to the researcher. “But, but, but” she said, “your sit height is really average. So why are you so short?” Oh I dunno, is my incredibly stumpy legs, maybe?
So what am I going to do about it, you all ask? Well, not a lot I suppose. Embrace my height and be grateful for my good health. The best I can hope for is that I bury the curse with me, my own personal Jumanji, and don’t inflict it on the next generation. I’ve done my bit already in this respect by marrying an entirely average heighted man and giving birth to two very average heighted children. Should they go on to have children of their own, I can only hope that they do so with extremely tall women. Perhaps a hundred years in the future a stumpy legged child will be born and my descendants will look back on the family photos and curse their great, great, great aunt Lisa and her ridiculous genes.
Now that you’re all thoroughly sick of my whinging, before I go and collect my completely normal children, I will recount one final story and defy you to not feel just a tiny bit of empathy. When I was about 12 or so, I was in a biology lesson at school. Mrs Whatshername, you know the one, the biology teacher, asked me a question. The rule in her class was that when you spoke, you stood up behind your bench so that’s what I did. I started to answer the question but was interrupted by Mrs So-and-So telling me, sharply, to stand up before I answered. But Mrs Thingy, I said, I am standing up to which my entire class collapsed into helpless laughter because as we’ve already determined, I’m really short… I doubt anyone remembers that except me but it’s firmly engrained in my id and may yet see me in therapy.