Oh, I'm short? Hmm, I never noticed.
When I was in high school, I religiously wore one of those heavy, cross-body bags with a seatbelt strap, inundated with pins and buttons. Most were sarcastic sayings that I dug out of the $1 bin at Hot Topic or Spencer’s. One was just the Batman symbol. And one, the one that I probably got the earliest in my quest to cover my entire messenger bag in bubble pins, said, “I’m not short, I’m vertically challenged.” It was my motto for years, until I realized how stupid it sounded.
I am 5’1” on a good day, a day where my knees aren’t aching and my back isn’t hunched from the hours spent staring at a computer screen. I try and wear heels as much as I can, but it’s exhausting, and it’s 90 degrees outside right now and I don’t want to be dragging my feet by the end of the day, cursing at myself for strapping my toes into death traps just to add a few inches.
It’s always comes up, after wearing heels around the same people every day and then switching to flats or sneakers. People take notice of my height, or lack thereof. It’s always met with a curious comment, because apparently, my existence outside of my stature is one of someone who’s above average on the height chart. I constantly just laugh it off because some people just can’t help it, but the next sentence out of their mouths is usually The Worst.
As a 25-year-old woman of below-average height, I have been called “cute” practically my entire life, in every way possible. It’s been a compliment, an excuse, a bridge that I constantly walk across to prove my maturity.
I’ve worn in “cute” like a pair of jeans. It fits and it’s pretty comfortable, I guess, even if it doesn’t make me look all that great, and it definitely doesn’t stop me from staring at how good everyone else looks.
I don’t blame the people that perpetuate the problem, I really don’t. Shortness will always equal cuteness, and I’ve come to terms with that. It’s the same reason that small puppies and miniature-versions of normal things elicit squeals of delight. It’s not a bad thing that being short means you’re cute; at least it’s a compliment (I think).
But it starts to become an issue when your shortness defines you as a person, one that people see as childlike and immature.
A lot of my discomfort with being called cute because of my height comes from the word itself having a connotation of youth and therefore, condescension. There are multiple significant studies that prove there is a Goldilocks range for success when it comes to how tall you are. Too short (regardless of your gender), and you’re not taken seriously. Too tall, and you’re freakish. Give me a freakin’ break.
I thought about all the times that I had been called cute, or adorable, or any other synonym. I recall a friend I had in high school that I would have weekly phone calls with, and he would stop me mid-conversation sometimes and simply say, “You think you’d be taller, but you’re not.”
I’m still unsure if that was an insult.
I get frustrated to no end when a store’s children’s section is larger than their petite section. I find myself standing on my tippy-toes when talking to people or kissing my boyfriend. The first words out of my mouth when trying on any skirt/dress/pair of pants are, “I wish this was shorter.” I will consistently ask the people that work at grocery stores to get me the packs of toilet paper that they insist on putting on top of the freezer aisle because I still can’t reach them, even with the grabber thing. And that’s okay.
Constantly proving that I am capable and responsible and strong is hard enough while being a woman, but being a small woman, and one who often gets told how young and little I look, is a whole other beast.
It’s incredibly demeaning to literally look up to everyone you talk to, even if you’re their boss or their elder. Being ID’d at bars isn’t fun for anyone really, but how about being ID’d at a movie theater to see a rated R movie? What about being told by an 18-year-old cashier at Burger King that you definitely you look his age because you’re so tiny while you’re just trying to eat your Chicken Fries in peace?
It’s honestly exhausting.
But I’m not ashamed of my height, nor am I ashamed of any other part of my body. I don’t exist for the consumption of others, but I do worry that my image has been unfairly judged before I can even do anything to change it. I was born small and grew into the impressive 61 inches that I am today and, save for strapping on one of the 10+ pairs of heels that I own, I cannot do anything to change that.
This article was originally published at The Gloss. Reprinted with permission from the author.