How Not to Be A Dick To Your Short Friends

Sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously when you’re a child-sized adult.
Publish date:
March 29, 2013
how not to be a dick, short

Last week, I took my younger son to a local playground to kill some time while we waited for my older son to finish his violin lesson.

Going to the playground means I actually have to play; I don’t sit on my ass like the other moms and stare at my phone the whole time. Ben makes me swing, run, climb, and slide, and it really is a lot of fun (try it sometime: playing like a kid makes you feel like a kid, all silly and carefree like you don’t have mortgage payment woes).

At one point, I was climbing this ladder to get to the top thing where the big slide is. When I landed, a little girl of about five was standing there, waiting her turn for the slide. She looked at me and said, “Are you a kid or are you a regular person?”

“I’m a Mom,” I replied.

Her eyes grew wider, as if this was a complete impossibility. Poor thing. My size confused her.

Because, I’m short. Seriously short. I’m like a lady Garmin. It doesn't help that my son Ben, at nine, is getting perilously close to my height. (Jack, 14, has been taller than me since he was 11).

People always feel compelled to remark on how "tiny" I am.

“You’re just so cute!” they’ll squee, like I’m a baby furry animal in an Internet meme. They think it’s okay to ask my stats because of this (five feet tall, 108 pounds these days, fy-to-the-izzo. Although I was really heavy as a kid, which I’ll eventually write about I’m sure).

As a woman of minute stature, I've been called "feisty," a "firecracker," and a "tough little cookie." (I've been called lots of other things, of course, but as they aren't relevant to my height, we're going to gloss over them.) I prefer "petite flower," and use it liberally.

Petite women are expected to be demure, so it shocks people when we’re occasionally mouthy. When I was on the radio and would meet listeners, they would always say, “I expected you to be….bigger.” Us little'uns have to be louder than anyone else, to remind you all that we're there so that we don't get passed over for cool things, or get stuck standing behind huge people in the GA area at rock shows.

As an aside, we do not like being patted on the head, as though we were obedient children, nor do we appreciate being told how tiny we are. We know, people, we know.

Along with being treated like Shirley Temple your entire adult life, another byproduct of petiteness is the difficulty in finding clothes that not only fit you properly, but also don't make you look like you've got one foot in the grave. Do a Google search for "petite jacket," and you're liable to end up with something that clearly comes from the Shady Pines Collection. Sorry, but you're not catching this chick sporting the "Garden Club" jacket.

Some designers are catching on to the lucrative petite market, but who can afford designer clothes? Happily, Old Navy has a fine and dandy Petites line and the jeans actually fit where they’re supposed to on the smaller-boned.

And while sometimes I can get away with clothes from the kids’ department (Hello, cheap leggings!), not everything there works. I mean, I’m almost 44, I can’t be rocking a pink glitter tee with a butterfly appliqué. I mean, I could, but NO.

Because I’m an ADULT, which is something people tend to forget when dealing with me. I went to college, I’ve held actual jobs, I’ve introduced Green Day to a sold-out arena, but tall people will still occasionally bend over to talk to me. When that happens, I expect them to ask me how kindergarten was today and what I want to be when I grow up.

So when encountering those of us who make up in mouth for what we lack in height, please allow us the dignity we’ve worked hard to maintain. A few tips to make the short feel 10 feet tall on the inside:

• Don’t complain about always hitting your head on things or always having to have your pants hemmed because you’re so tall. We cannot sympathize, only seethe.

• When you reach something for us, please don’t say “Here you go” in a tone usually reserved for newborns and kittens. It’s cute for them, but condescending for us. In fact, any baby talk whatsoever will make us want to kneecap you (because we can’t reach your face to smack it, lucky for you).

• If you drop something, pick it up your own damn self. Just because we’re closer to the ground, this does not make us an extension of your arm.

• Like what we’re wearing? Thank you! But don’t tell us we look like “a little doll.” That kind of kills it.

I’m used to being the size that I am and have come to accept that I’ll never be described by anyone as “leggy.” Certain styles will never look right on me, and I own a collapsible step-stool and one of those grabber things to get stuff normal people can reach. I’ve even learned to love wearing flats.

They’re just sometimes hard to find in my size.