Sunday, September 04, 2005

A short rant

I am five feet tall. Well, five feet and a quarter inch, if you choose to believe my medical records, but I don't usually feel the need to “round up”. I’ve been short all my life and in general, I’m O.K. with that. I am O.K. with having stools and ladders in various rooms of the house to help me reach things. I’m O.K. with moving the seat of the car forwards before I start driving and then back again to climb out of the car. And I’m O.K. with my 28” inseam that requires either shopping very carefully for pants, or making friends with a tailor.

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.

Sometimes, if I want to give someone a laugh, I’ll slide right back into a chair and instead of pointing my toes downwards, I’ll lift them up, so my feet are flat and parallel to the ground… and then swing them back and forth. This usually elicits a chuckle from whoever is sitting across from me, again, because I think it’s unexpected. So even dangling feet can be used to a positive end.

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.


Ami said...

I could not have agreed more with the head patting thing! On a good day I'm 5'1. I can usually get away with murder being the 'short little one' which has its advantages for sure. But don't test me with any classic patting of the head, or even worse . . . resting your arm on my head. Trust me - not a good thing. Shorter people should not be messed with!

zouzou said...

ewwww. I SO relate to the arm resting thing: I was on a DATE once and a guy did that!!!! ...!!!(speechless with indignation) Needless to say it was a very SHORT lived acquaintance...

Grapho said...

You got at least 2 inches on my mom!

Of course is better... said...

I was tall Grade 7. I had just moved back to Canada and I was taller than most of the kids in my class.

Truly, it was a lovely feeling to be able to see the tops of people's heads, and in most cases, see over them!

Today, 15 years later, I'm the same height as I was in Grade 7. Needless to say, I enjoy all the benefits of being short that have already been mentioned here. There's also the benefit of being able to sleep on a king sized bed, with my arms stretched straight above me, in any direction I please without being off the mattress! hee hee

I was once asked to defend that position in an impromptu style "Small" is better than "Big". They couldn't have picked a better topic for me. Of course, the topic morphed into "Short is better than Tall" and I'm not sure that anyone noticed...boy, did we ever cream them!!

Emz said...

Awww, u are so cute! lol.

I would've gone for the...

"Yes, I suppose I am in a little cute dog sort of way, but you know those little cute dogs have a tendency to nip ure ankles sweetie and they normally hurt worse than the big dogs!!"

Oh, and I now have an hilarious image of the two latinos and u in a dark alley!

And ure fingers aren't stubby!!!

Love ya!

Emz. x x x