I had the distinction throughout my formative years of usually being the shortest person in my class. In my younger days, kids weren’t overly cruel to me about my height, but I had my share of diminutive nicknames. Fortunately, I had some athletic ability so I was rarely the last one chosen for schoolyard games. My dream was to play High School baseball at a very competitive college prep school in the Bay Area. Baseball was, after all, my game, and I was determined to make the JV team. After I survived the first two cuts, my world came crashing down when I didn’t make the team. At 5’0″ (at most), I looked like a middle school kid against young men, who had more height, speed and power than I possessed.
My first driver’s license read 5’2″, a height I remained at until the beginning of my Senior year. It didn’t help that I was one of the youngest in my class (I was 17 when I started college). Everywhere I went, I was self-conscious about my height. I hated going to movie theaters and concerts, or any venue where I had to sit down, because my view was usually blocked. Something as simple as walking down the street made me brutally aware at how tall everyone seemed to be. All I ever wanted was to be able to look someone in the eye, not up at them. I would walk on my toes sometimes, trying to get an extra 1/2″ of lift to appear slightly taller. But nothing filled me with as much self-doubt than when I was desperate to begin dating. What girl would be interested in a five-foot something boy when there were much taller, manlier, muscular and, well, more mature looking guys to choose from? I spent the majority of my H.S. weekends home, alone, instead of going out with friends and face my fears of comparing myself to others. My version of Friday Night Lights was watching reruns of Happy Days and Love Boat.
From my Senior year through my 1st year of college, I grew 6″, topping the chart at 5’8″. I once read that the average worldwide height of all adult males is 5’7″. That’s right, I was above average in height! But my insecurities didn’t end when I started dating, when I found my true love and married, or when I became a father. I’ve remained acutely aware of my height my entire life: in the work place; at the supermarket; school reunions; vacations in absurdly tall countries like Denmark and Holland; or at parent meetings at school. It dawned on me recently about society’s obsession with physical stature. Do we ever hear a friend or relative say “My, look how short you are!”? No. What we all hear, and what we’ve been raised to say is “My, look how tall you are – how you’ve really grown!”. And yet, when I meet an adult shorter than me, I feel good about myself. That’s just sad and fucked up.
At almost 50, I can say I’ve come to terms with my height. The personal insecurity we harbor, whether exposed and overcome, or painfully hidden, makes everyone of us the same, and yet, makes everyone of us unique.