There are times when my (lack of) height is an advantage. I can stand on my kitchen counter and paint the wall above my cupboards without having to duck my head, for example.
I have found myself chatting with interesting gentlemen in the grocery store because I asked for help reaching something down from a shelf. It’s not my typical way to meet men, but hell, if they want to use my genuine need for a food item to strike up a conversation, who am I to say no?
Once, I was out Latin dancing in Toronto with my friend Claire, who is 5’10”. We ended up getting ourselves into a bit of a predicament with two unusually large, tall and very drunk Latinos who wouldn’t leave us alone. We left the club and ran six Toronto blocks to her car, only to find these guys just paces behind us, on a poorly lit street. After a brief exchange when it was clear that the situation was approaching dangerous, I – in a moment completely out of character with the British social conditioning I received growing up – lost it.
Claire later said she was torn between fear of the situation and laughter, watching me, the smallest on the scene by at least 10 inches, scream at these jerks in Spanish and walk towards them, pointing my stubby little index finger at their chests until they held up their hands and slowly backed away. She had no idea what I was saying, but said the whole situation had a rather comic element. I suspect there was an element of surprise involved for them… Not only was I the least likely in the group to say anything, because of my diminutive size, but the fact that I let them have it in their own language probably threw them for a bit of a loop.
The same Claire and I were out Christmas shopping one year and got separated in the crowd. She later told me that she looked for a space in the sea of Christmas-shopper-heads. That space was occupied by the air above my head. Needless to say, she found me.
So, there are times when being short can be an advantage.
Having said that, I do have two height-related pet peeves. One is dangling feet. I positively despise it when I’m sitting down and my feet dangle. Usually, I can touch the floor with my toes, but rarely can I settle back into a chair and have my feet firmly planted on the ground, which is what I really prefer. This is especially annoying when I’m at a job interview or in a doctor’s office or some other place where the tables of power are turned in favour of the person on the other side of the desk. In those cases, I do a lot of perching on the edge of the seat. Needless to say, I love the low, streamlined, black leather IKEA sofa that sits in my living room.
The second pet peeve is head-patting. And there is no positive spin on head patting, as far as I am concerned. This happens much less now that I’m getting a bit older, but it used to happen all the time. And it happened again last night (hence the reason for today’s rant).
I was out with friends and ended up sitting next to a woman I didn’t know in the group. We were introduced and then joined in on the conversation. She happened to be much taller than I, but I didn’t notice this until a certain point during our conversation when something I said caused her to reply, “Aw…You’re so sweet!” And she patted me on the head.
My gut reaction to this sort of behaviour is, “I’m not going to be sweet much longer if you keep doing that!” Followed by a quick kick with a dangling foot.
But I refrained.
It did get me thinking though… This particular gesture is often accompanied by a phrase that starts with “Aw…” As in, “Aw…. You’re so sweet!” or “Aw…. You’re so cute!”
Interestingly, it’s usually women who do this. Men never pat me on the head (which, by the way, gentlemen, I appreciate immensely!) If men feel compelled to say something starting with “Aw…” and accompany it with a gesture, it’s usually a quick squeeze around the shoulders or a hand on the upper back, both of which are far more respectful. (And my well result in you getting a proper hug to thank you for your kind words.)
Like I said, being patted on the head is a much rarer occurrence now that I’m not quite so young any more, but I wonder why, when it does happen, that women are the ones doing it? Is it some sort of messed up maternal instinct? After all, that particular gesture is usually reserved for small children and furry pets, not other grown ups. Is it a need to feel superior by emphasizing a size difference? (And yes… size can matter… ask the two big Latino dudes I scared the b’Jesus out of in Toronto…)
I don’t really know what the answer is. But I do know it’s annoying.