I grew up in a family of short women. The men in my father’s generation were tall and so was my paternal grandfather. I have male cousins who tower over my 5 foot and one/half inch tall frame. My cousin Lary (yes, that’s one R, folks!) is 6’7″, or at least he was when he was younger. He could tell you all the bad things about being tall. His brother Lee is an inch shorter than that. I read somewhere that childhood trauma curbs a girl’s ability to reach her full potential, in terms of height. That’s one more thing to blame on my childhood, even though I have tried to RISE above it. Yes, pun intended.
Here are eight things about being short that really make my life harder.
- 1. Grocery shopping. Everything I want seems to be well out of my reach. One day in the store I borrowed an elderly lady’s cane to get boxes of tissue off a shelf. I have asked countless men of all ages to get things down for me. “That box of cereal? Sure honey,” they say, “I can get that down for you.” Sometimes, I ask the wife for permission, if the tall guy is shopping with a woman. It may sound funny to someone who is even just a few inches taller than me, but it is humiliating to have to ask for help. It’s like being a child. If you are nice enough to help a short person like me, please don’t giggle about it, or pat me on the head. It just makes the whole thing worse.
- 2. Getting into SUV’s, vans, or trucks. I avoid riding with other people, mostly for that reason. I bought a small SUV, and had to have running boards installed, so I could get in the car. I love everything about the car, other than that. The first few days were miserable, though, until I got my running boards. I’m sure it was painful for others to watch me struggle to get into that car. This would not be so much of a problem, if I were young, but I am not. Age lessons a person’s flexibility.
- 3. Climbing stairs. The average step is 8 inches high. That may not seem like much to a taller person, but to a short person, it is a struggle. Curbs are a big deal, too. I catch myself looking for the lowest spot in the curb for me to step up without looking like a feeble fool. I bought a house that has one step up from the hall to the dining room, and one step up to the half bath. That’s more than enough steps for me.
- 4. Painting or washing walls. I know people who love to repaint their rooms. That’s because they are tall enough to paint their walls, including doing the cutting in at the ceiling and in the corners without standing on a ladder or step-stool. For me, it’s constantly up and down, and added to the up and down is that the ladders and step stools are geared for people who are taller, so just getting up on one is a struggle for someone short like me. A few years ago, a friend and I painted every room in my house, and she did all the cutting in. I just couldn’t do it by myself.
- 5. Hanging drapes or curtains. This is the same problem as painting: up and down on the step-stool. Really, someone needs to invent a cheap, portable, and space-considerate hydraulic lift for height-challenged people like me. It would make the person who invented it rich beyond their wildest dreams. Shower curtains are the worst. I have to get up on the tub wall, a challenge in itself, and then perch precariously there until I can put the liner and the curtain through the 13 – yes, I have counted them – hooks and then get them over the rod.
- 6. Getting things out of top shelves and cabinets in my home. I struggle to cook or store things in the kitchen cabinets because I am short. I use a five gallon paint stick, quite sturdy, to move things toward the front of the shelf, and then let them topple, so I can catch them. I have excellent eye-hand coordination from having a lifetime of doing this, so I can catch like a baseball player on steroids.
- 7. Everything I buy to wear is too long. I buy petites, but even those clothes are made for a woman who is 5’3″, so they are all too long for me. I have spent hours of my life hemming up slacks, jeans, and skirts. Unless I had custom made coats, blouses and sweaters, and that is cost prohibitive, all of those garments are too long. I have spent a lifetime of pushing up and turning up all sorts of sleeves. My sleeves are always wet, dirty, and otherwise in my way.
- 8. Being in crowds. It is impossible for me to see anything in front of me except someone’s back when I am in a crowd of people at a concert or event. It is scary to not know when steps or slopes are coming up. It is frustrating to not be able to see an event because you gargantuan people are in front of me. I also get pushed and shoved this way and that because those same gargantuan people don’t look down to see me there. Back at the grocery store, the people behind the deli counter often ignore me because they can’t see me on the other side of the counter, patiently waiting for some spinach dip or some pastrami.
I know it’s not easy being overly tall, and my cousin has my sympathies for the too short beds, cars, clothing, and all of that. He probably gets tired of people joking about how the weather is up there. One thing is sure; he never has to worry about someone patting him on the head or mistaking him for a child. I just wish I could somehow wake up one morning just a few inches taller.