Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Long and Short of It

A Long Post on a Short Topic

It's interesting thinking about the world from someone else's perspective. And today, for the sake of research, I'm going to give you a few insights into what it's like to be a very short adult. Stephanie and I were talking about it the other day, and I realized it's actually useful information if you ever want to write a short character. And if you don't, well, you can just laugh and think, "Man, Kiersten is short!"

First, The Legs: I have all the leg space I could need on airplanes (yeah, take that tall people!) and in the back seats of cars. It's awesome. Not so awesome? On couches and benches and table chairs, etc, my feet never touch the ground. Ever. At best, my toes will. At worst, on deep couches my knees don't even go over the edge and my calves stick straight out like I'm a five-year-old. I usually sit with one leg curled up underneath me because having them hanging is hard on the knees.

Second, The Interaction: It's much easier for me to talk to people when we are all sitting down or if they aren't standing very close to me. Let's say Whirl, who is 6'2", was standing directly in front of me, telling me about Maurice the Donkey. Once I got over my excitement because this would mean I was in England, I'd realize how awkward it was. Not awkward as in, I'm having a conversation with a man I've technically never met and he's telling me about the neighborhood donkey, but awkward as in, I have to crane my neck at a 90 degree angle to look up at him. It's just not comfortable. In these cases I always prefer to stand next to someone, and we can talk not looking at each other (with the ensuing neck pain) but rather at Maurice the Donkey, who is really more interesting to look at than I am, anyway. (Also, oddly enough, if I'm ever talking to someone who is my height, I have to back up a step. I'm used to having more personal space because people's faces are so far away from mine, and when they aren't, it makes me uncomfortable.)

Third, The Assumptions: People think I'm a kid. We've been over this one. Besides people thinking I'm seventeen and trying to figure out how old I would have been when I had Nayna (yes! fourteen! lovely!) (NOT REALLY, I was nearly twenty-one. Which I realize will still sound ridiculously young, but I had been married for two years at that point and had a degree. It's far better than fourteen, right?) they also ignore me in stores or, for some odd reason, stand way, way, WAY too close behind me in lines. Maybe it's because they can see over my head so they don't realize how close they are, but really, old men, BACK UP.

When I was sixteen I got in a car accident. While I sat sobbing in the rain on the side of the road, not one, not two, but THREE different police officers came over to ask where my mom was. I kept telling them she was on her way, not understanding why they insisted on asking this until one of them asked me which seat of the car I was in. Umm, the DRIVER'S?! Yes, none of them thought I was old enough to drive. Talk about adding insult to smashed beyond repair car.

Fourth, The Relationships: There were at least two boys growing up who liked me for the sole reason that I was shorter than them. It's true. Very short guys LOVE extremely short girls because we are the only ones who make them feel normal. Sometimes they love us so much they stalk us, but that's another story. I had a prom date who flat out told me my best feature was that I made him look really tall and he was disappointed that I wore five inch heels.

There are also the practical matters to consider. There are a full thirteen inches between Hot Stuff's lips and mine. That's far too much space for my taste. (Well, right now he's at work and there are like thirteen miles between our lips, which is even worse.) If we are standing up, I have to go on my tiptoes, put my arms on his shoulders or around his neck for balance, and tip my head all the way back. He has to bend at the middle and lean down about a foot. It's a lot of work, but if you've seen Hot Stuff's lips, you'll understand that it's worth it. We are very concerned, however, for when we're old and feeble and arthritic. Our solution is to build a house where every room has two levels, with one half of the floor thirteen inches above the other. I can always walk on the higher side and he can walk on the lower side, and we'll be able to kiss without bending and creaking and cracking our poor old bones.
An Old Family Picture
(I am the one in the middle)

Finally, if you are a very short girl and you date or marry a rather tall guy, people will get mad at you. I'm serious. I had one lady ask in me in rather accusing tone why I took a guy away from tall girls. Yes--that was my main motivation in marrying Hot Stuff. "Ha! There's some 5'10" girl crying herself to sleep out there tonight because there's one less single guy out there who's taller than her!" Trust me, I didn't pick Hot Stuff based on height. I picked him the first time I saw him, and he was sitting down at the time. Playing the guitar. And when he looked up at me with those gorgeous blue eyes and smiled, that was it for me. The fact that he gives our kids a shot at not being freakishly short is just a bonus.

So there you have it. You can either have more sympathy for short people, more reasons to laugh at me, or fodder for a new perky, spunky, and adorabley short main character.


Sarah Laurenson said...

I like your descriptions. I identify with some.

I challenge the bumping in line as being a short characteristic. I get bumped all the freaking time and sometimes even by someone's cart. People seem to think that if they inch closer to the front of the line, that means they'll get there faster. Elbows are really good for that one. Except for the cart thing. I could push back with my butt and bump them right back, but I usually settle for politely (with gritted teeth) asking them to stop hitting me with their cart. They back off. No one likes to be challenged by the crazy lady.

As for you and Hot Stuff getting older, don't worry. Just make sure he's more stooped over than you and you'll meet in the middle. Though I like the split level idea.

sraasch said...

Well, as a semi-freakishly tall person, I can assure you, I do not feel at all remorseful that you "stole" a tall guy from us. So you can sleep easy tonight.

Megs said...

These are some great insights! I can't believe someone accused you of taking away a tall guy; what a ridiculous thing to do. I'm sure if she thought about it, she'd be very embarassed for saying so.

And I like your idea for "split-level" rooms. It should work quite nicely. :)

fairyhedgehog said...

Stairs are good. I'm tall (5'7") but my Beloved is taller (6'2") and stairs come in very useful.

Failing that, you could stand on a chair.

lotusgirl said...

This is great stuff to know for writing about short people.

I can't believe either that someone accused you of stealing one of the tall guys. That is sadly some people's opinions though. I suppose it's as sad as some guys liking you just because you're short. That's nuts.

Ah, but plenty of people are completely nuts.

heidikins said...

I am by no means "short", not even close. And my constant wearing of 4" heels makes me almost as tall as Hot Stuff. However, I dated someone who was a foot taller than me once, and I loved the height difference. Sigh. Too bad the rest of him was sleazy. ;o)

I think you and Hot Stuff will age quite nicely together. And the split-level room as a fallback plan is a fabulous idea.


Patti said...

Coming from a reasonably tall family this is great insight, especially since my sister in law has told me that she won't allow her 6'5 son to marry anyone whose shorter than 5'9 or taller.

sylvia said...

I usually sit with one leg curled up underneath me because having them hanging is hard on the knees.

I do this (and am doing it right now in my office chair) and never realised why until I read that and thought, oh, of course. How funny.

I tend to think of people as "My height" and "tall" - there's no real in between for me. Mental laziness, maybe. But it was very odd in Japan, when for the first time in my life, I slow danced with a man who was my height. I still have no idea where you are supposed your head if there isn't a big chest to lean on.

One of my favorite quotes from Sally Struthers in response to a man grinning at her and saying "You are short."

"Yes, and from where I am, I can see straight up your nose."

He stopped grinning.

Bevie said...

"I usually sit with one leg curled up underneath me"

That's the way I like to sit on a sofa, too. And I'm 6'6"

"it's actually useful information if you ever want to write a short character."

Actually, it is. Thanks for the post.

Maybe I should make a post on my blog about what it's been like being 6'6" since I turned eighteen.

Renee Collins said...

My mom is 5'10 and when she married my dad who is 6'2, her aunt was furious with her. She told her, "You're kids will be freakishly tall!"

And, actually, that's not the only time I've heard people say that. People have said that to my hubby and I. So, I guess, to please everyone, tall guys should marry only average height females.

P.S. Bevie, I think you totally should write that post!

JaneyV said...

At 5'6" and a bit I am the average offspring of a 6'1" tall man and a 5'1" woman. I have two sisters who were small of stature like my mother and another two who were 5'8". Both my brothers were over 6'. And it seems that my daughter is going to be 5'1" or so when fully grown. Genetics are weird.

I loved the description of you with your feet dangling over the edge of a chair. It reminds me of my Mother. She either had to perch on the edge of a seat or she looked like Lily Tomlin in that oversized chair on Sesame Street. It's a fond memory - not pokey-fun one.

I really don't like having my personal space invaded. People who do that are seriously lacking in social skills.

Fab post Kiersten.

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks for sharing! Having a mother who is 5'2 (and three quarters!!! she'll insist on that distinction) just that height provides some interesting challenges. I've shrunk an inch and am now 5'7" but that's a lot taller thanMom and we have some reaching things issues. Or counter height. Or stair height. Or picture height. It's an interesting perspective to toss into your story for a dose of reality. The kind of realistic details that ground the story in the setting. Those are important.

And tall men seem to date short women. My mother only ever dated one guy who was below six feet tall. It does seem like a truism that the shorter the gal, the taller the guy.

Regarding the standing too close in line, you find the same thing with drivers. Nine times otu of ten drivers will tailgate motorcycles or people hauling empty trailers because they are looking and guaging distance based on the thing in front of the mc or trailer. So it's possible they might be doing it with you, too. Not that this is an excuse.

Litgirl01 said...

Just thought I would stop by and say hello. This post is adorable...I love it. :-)

Whirlochre said...

Phew. No-one mentioned width.

But anyway...cover up...cover up.

SO, YEAH,, last time I rode Maurice, my feet dug troughs big enough for potatoes the size of Conan...

Kayleigh said...

Wow. That's pretty cool. Just insight on something that I've never really thought of before. (Haha, don't hate me, but I've thought about the tall guy/short girl thing before...."Why did they have to take away a tall guy!?" Being 5'8" [which isn't as tall as my 5'11" friend] wasn't always a fun thing for me....since then, I've gotten over that complex.)

Ashley said...

Short girls rock!

jessie said...

Don't forget about all the short guys that look at Hot Stuff and think, "Why did he have to take a perfectly good short girl away from us short guys?" Those poor short guys that are too short for tall girls, and then to have tall guys come and take the pickings from their short girl pool. Poor poor them.

Kiersten said...

Gah! This is what happens when I get behind on responding to comments. Bad, bad Kiersten.

So, basically, here is my response to all of your comments: ha! You guys are so great.

Bevie, yes, you really should! You've got such a unique perspective on life! Sometimes I stand on a stool in the kitchen and just look around, amazed at how things look from up there...up there being like 5'6". I can't even imagine 6'6"!

Also, Hi Litgirl! Thanks for stopping by.

And Jessie, cute new pic!

All this being said, I actually like being short. What can I say, it's part of my identity. Plus, I figure if I'm going to be short, might as well be really short, right?

writtenwyrdd said...

And you will be laughing when people still think you're a kid at 48.

Then you can do a post about looking younger than you are and make us all laugh again.

I must say that teh fact that mom looks so young for 69 has provided some interesting gossip for the small town. We are, ahem, considered a *couple* by people who don't know us. It took a while to figure out what the odd knowing looks were all about, lol. Then someone told us... *eye roll* Good thing neither of us are bothering with the whole dating thing any more!

lotusgirl said...

yep! It shows how totally committed you are.

Lady Glamis said...

Well, I am short, too, but not as short you. Just a tiny bit taller. My husband isn't too tall, so there isn't that much of a dramatic difference. Both my sister in laws are shorter than me, too, which is interesting.

I think it's cute and makes you look spunky! Focus on the good things! I try to. :)

candicekennington said...

I just laughed out loud when I read your description of sitting on the couch. My dad's parents are like 4' 10" and 5'4" Yet, somehow my dad is almost 6' and my mom is 5'8". It's really funny when we go to my grandparent's because everything is really low (even the kitchen is custom made with low counters). I honestly feel like the Jolly Green Giant tromping around their house (I'm 5'8" like my mom). The first time my grandma met my husband(who is 6'2") She got her step stool out of the kitchen and said, "come here so I can give you a hug and take a good look at you." LOL!

cindy said...

beautiful foto! and so funny, my a bit over 5' tall girlfriend had 6.3 and 6.4 beaus. i know many short guys who love tall girls and tall guys who love petite girls!!

you are lovely, shortness and all, kiersten!

and this post made me laugh!

Pen Pen said...

:) I'm a shorty too! 5'3". I remember being in 3rd grade and being the tallest one in my class. I thought--I'll keep growing and be tall enough to be a model!

Sarah Laurenson said...

I wanted to be a jockey. I was less than 5 ft, 90 pounds soaking wet and horse mad. Then I turned 14 and all heck broke loose. Gained 30 pounds and 5 inches over the summer. Only reason I have stretch marks.

Kristan said...

Ok, wow, I thought the short boys who wanted short girls were bad, but this lady takes the cake:

"I had one lady ask in me in rather accusing tone why I took a guy away from tall girls."

WTF. UNacceptable. Someone needs to go back to Socialization 101.

Liz Czukas said...

So, I'm 5'9" and my kid's estimated adult height is 6'4". I can tell you that it's lonely at the top, as well.

I was the tallest person in my class (boys and girls) until 8th grade, when we finally got a transfer student who was 6'. All prospects for romance were shorter than me, and nothing makes an awkward teenager feel more awkward than towering above all the boys at the dance. Ugh.

I also have people ask me if I play basketball (or at least they used to) all the time. The reality is that I am athletically disinclined in all sports involving a ball. The usual response? "What a waste." Another real ego booster, trust me.

So, if you ever want to write a book featuring a gawky, awkward adolescent, I'll happily be your resource.

Kate said...

@ Liz,
I can definitely identify with you; I'm just a tad shorter than you, at 5'7". Our school had our Year 10 semi formal last week, and let me tell you, wearing 3inch heels didn't help my situation one little bit (though the shoes were ADORABLE!!!).

Anyway, in nearly every single one of my photos, I was crouching down (not attractive) because everyone else is just so damn short!

Like you, I also find that my height aids in my humiliation; it's hard to not stand out when all the other kids are taller than you.

Plus, doing anything sports related usually ends in injury, embarrassment, or various types of makeup running down my face.

Wow, I just realised most of these comments were made last year... even posting comments ends in humiliation.

I hate this acronym, but it feels necessary: LOL!