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Short People

With two of my granddaughters in 2022

When Randy Newman’s song, Short People, came out in 1977, I laughed. Clearly, it was a satirical statement about people’s prejudices in which he substituted shortness for things like race and religion. Still, as a short person, sometimes that song is an earworm that runs through my mind as I become even shorter. Most of my grandkids have passed me in height, leaving only younger two, and they are on their way. They tease me about being short, just as my kids teased my mother, calling her their little Grandma.

I wasn’t always short. As a kid, I seemed to be average. In fifth grade, I was one of the taller girls. Then, I watched my peers continue to grow while I seemed to be stuck at 5’2”, which was okay. Well, that’s a bit of a lie, because I never really reached that height, falling short by one-half inch. Still, I was petite, not short. Clothing came in petite sizes and I believed it was better to be shorter than the guys I dated.

Women’s average height is 5’4”, and 4’11” is officially short. Although I tell people I am 5’ tall, I have slipped into the officially short category. Why do I fret about this?

The guy on the left is only nine. The tall dude is thirteen. And then there's Gramma, dwarfed by these guys.

Aside from having grandkids that tower over me, it’s really hard to find clothing that fits. When I needed something to wear to my grandson’s Bar Mitzvah, I went to Nordstrom seeking out the petite department. Gone. Probably another casualty of the pandemic and the popularity of online shopping. I decided to shop local and went to a women’s clothing store, where I happily found a top I liked. But after trying on tons of skirts and pants brought to me by the determined sales woman, I left in frustration. Everything was so long, and couldn’t really be shortened without ruining the look of the garment. So, I took the top and found a black skirt in my closet that was probably twenty years old. Not the look I hoped for, but what can a short person do these days?

Then, there is my frustration with checking out at stores. I often can’t see the top of the electronic thing on which I’m supposed to sign my name with my finger or press the OK button. Some of them tilt down, but there are many that don’t. When the clerk offers to do it for me, I’m not pleased but have no alternative. Yet I wonder if the placement of these items assumes shoppers are at least average height and “short people got no reason to live.” How hard would it be to place them at a height that those of us who are challenged by shortness can see? Taller people can always bend over a bit, right?

Speaking of shopping, I can’t reach items on the top shelves in the grocery store. This leaves me with two options. I need to find an employee or kind, taller shopper who can reach it for me. In lieu of that, I have to climb the shelves and try to tip the item over onto the floor (not recommended for glass items). This technique was fine when I was younger, but is not super safe for a senior.

Which brings me to not being able to reach things in my higher cabinets or shelves at home. I have a handy stool in the kitchen which I always use after one of my friends fell off a chair trying to get a bottle she couldn’t reach down from a cabinet. She was lucky she didn’t break anything but the bottle, but she was pretty battered for quite some time.

Which brings me to the grand finale of short people complaints: performances. Despite having paid for good seats for theater or concerts, I have to hope that a man or tall woman doesn’t sit in front of me. The same is true for movies unless they have stadium seating. My husband gallantly offers to trade seats with me, but that only works if he is behind a short person. Otherwise, I end up hurting my neck trying to peer between the folks in front of me. If the performance is for one of my grandkids, I feel especially annoyed.

As Randy Newman’s song reminds me, as a short person I “wear platform shoes on [my] nasty little feet.” I wish I could. But as an older short person, I have to wear sensible shoes. Despite that, this short person still has plenty of reasons to live, even if they are taller than me.

I'm even wearing my sensible shoes here, but my granddaughters are in socks only. Oh well!


by Laurie Levy
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