"The two-cheeseburger value meal." I stated the words like any American would, apathetic and professional at the same time. Ready to engage in my greasy transaction. I was waiting for her to ring in my order, and ask what I wanted to drink. I was ready to say Dr. Pepper. Instead she looks at me and says, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you look like that guy off 'Lord of the Rings'." I immediately knew who she was talking about. I was hoping my silence would end the conversation, but she wasn't satisfied. "You know, the short guy with curly hair, the hobbit guy." "Frodo Baggins," I replied. I wanted to sound stately, but it was more like I was defeated. And if that wasn't enough to call me a hobbit, she started to talk about how she looked like an elf, which are the gorgeous immortal creatures who are of course tall. While the hobbit is a short hairy footed bastard scared of water. My mind ran, neuron's scampering beyond the speed of light for all the different reasons she wasn't an elf: her dirty shirt, her poor grammar, her unkempt blue McDonald's visor hanging crooked around her face proving her unimportance to society. I wanted to explain to her that I was the educated one, the one with the degree, and the one in the suit. If anyone should be an elf it should be me. But I smiled, looked her dead in the eye and said, "Its okay, I guess we do kind of look alike."
The Economist reported that height discrimination is pervasive and widely accepted in the world. Regardless of your age, race, or gender, the short are simply looked down upon. The following are a collection of stories that range from the obscure to the nominal, from the disheartening to the empowering, as I attempt to reach the height of my life.
The waiting room walls were beige. Any more neutral and they would have been Switzerland. The older nurse approached from the hall and called my name, "Mr. Moore, we are ready for you now." Setting down my magazine, I followed her to the scale. She weighed me, 148 pounds. She was nice enough to translate the kilos into pounds for me. And then she stopped. Her eyes running inches above my head. "How tall are you?" Her words sincere. I was puzzled. "Don't you want to measure me? Isn't it required for my physical?" I asked. "I don't really have to. What do you want me to write down?" She was going to falsify my physical form. Pity so true and deep. "Four foot ten." I lied. I am actually five one. I felt like being spiteful.
Maybe I am in the wrong here, but when did being short justify breaking medical law. The medical profession has an obligation for truth. I took growth hormone for 10 years. It didn't do shit. Ten years of little glass bottles with neat blue labels that read Protropin. They were shipped like a well dressed man. Ten years of me moistening my thighs with alcohol in preparation. Ten years of my thighs being penetrated. Ten years of watching stainless steel shafts being pulled out, leaving behind scars and drops of blood. Ten years of witnessing million dollar medicine fail. So when I was 15 and in the middle of puberty, I was prescribed supplemental shots of testosterone. The objective was to give me a super puberty, puberty good enough so I would grow to be taller than Wilt Chamberlain's nut sack. It failed.
And each time the blood ran down my thigh I sat in awe. Here I was putting artificial chemicals into my body that I didn't need, while watching a little bit of my humanity exit through a man made hole. Chemicals made by bacteria unseen by the naked eye. But their size made my size more valuable to you. To you.
"I just want to inform you that I think it soooo cool that you are soooo short." I had never seen this guy before. He was sitting on a street corner I was passing, smoking a cigarette. And I would bet dollars to pesos he was trying to make my day. Make me feel like my height makes me special or as he put it "cool." I wanted to kick his ass. I wanted to tell him how my height didn't define me at all. It didn't make me cool, it didn't make me uncool, it made me short. And that is it. And I hated him. His Doc Martins, designer jeans, Ralph Lauren shirt, well oiled leather jacked, and his tattered Abercrombie hat. Purchased that way, not worn from use. And I was this close to hitting him. But reach is valuable in a fight, and reach is not an asset of mine. So I said, "I just want to inform you that I think it is soooo cool that you are average."
And sometimes it just gets old. I am tired of walking through grocery store isles to have parents yank their kids and scold them under their breath for pointing at me. I am tired of answering questions of why I am so short. But maybe you would like to know. I don't have a growth hormone deficiency. I don't have dwarfism. My bones didn't grow as fast as yours. Or as fast as ninety eight point seven percent of other American men. I am just short. I don't have a temper. I have never yelled at anybody in my life. I have never been in a fight. And I don't feel the need for power. I am not Napoleon. I am just short.
Former President Bush once referred to the President of Nigeria as a "short little bastard" and got away with it, the media more passive than the Amish. Title Nine protects Americans from age, race, nationality, creed, as well as other discrimination, but not height. Society has become far too complacent in allowing others to demean people based of stature. Imagine if Bush had referred to the Nigerian President as a "black bastard". Would anyone have been so complacent then?
"Don't take this the wrong way, but you look like that guy off 'Lord of Rings', what's his name?" I couldn't believe it. He was the second person today. Not to mention the second person in food service. And here I was in a truck stop with good friends enjoying better conversation until our waiter felt the need to speak. "Frodo Baggins" I answered again. This time a little more prepared. I'm not sure what compels people to say such things. Are people that proud of their ability to be observant? He left and I returned to my cup of coffee.
But do you want to know the true irony? The true irony is I am writer. And literature just isn't kind. You could say I have drawn the short end of the stick, or maybe I got short changed, my vision was just a little short sighted. But it is time for a change. I am short dark and handsome and I know when it is raining. And while you are busy hitting your head on stairways and ducking through halls, I'll walk with my head higher than God. For when I face the world, I am looking up, or should I say looking down. I don't need height to be good looking. I don't need height to get a job. I don't need height to be human.
One in forty woman say they would not date a man shorter than them. Fuck. Talk about getting screwed. More like not getting screwed. As a pimply freshman I went to the "Welcome to High School" dance. I caught eyes with this real attractive sophomore, Cherry was her name. Her hair matched her name. I walked up to ask her to dance and she exited the floor. Her friend approached me later and said, "Its not you, its uh, it uh, its because you're so.." "Short." I interrupted. "Yeah," she replied, her eyes staring at her shoes. I walked home.
A good friend of mine had a really short younger brother. Their parents asked me to talk to him about growth hormone. I obliged. I began explaining to him how the shots wouldn't really hurt. I gave myself a shot to prove it. I then let him give me a shot. Then he let me give him a shot and finally he gave himself one. He was a real short kid, plump, glasses, smart the whole works. I understood his pain. I knew what it was like to be picked up by bigger kids at recess and how it feels to sit in a school desk from the year previous, because your legs aren't long enough to reach the floor. His childhood agony was very real. He looked at me through two inch glasses and asked, "Will these shots make me taller?" "Yeah," I said, "they are suppose to make you taller." He pauses. Two seconds. I was counting. Then says, "Will these shots make people like me?" I wanted to say no, but times of true honesty are few. I tried to explain to him how some people will treat him better because he will be taller. He then asked if the shots will make him a better person. "No," I said, "these shots won't make you a better person, just a taller person." He paused again. I thought he was mulling over my explanation of why people will treat him better. But he wasn't. He looked at me, smiled and said, "They won't make a damn bit of difference." I laughed, "Not a damn bit of difference."
If you have any comments on these stories, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org