And That's the Short Story Version
by Teresa Barlow
September 2011

I am a 49 year old female, and have managed to live through my adult years being viewed as "cute". I am four feet eleven inches tall, 125 pounds. My "dress" size is commonly a 5/6. It's a long way from the size 2 at a soaking wet weight of 85 pounds when I was 20 years younger. The reason for this "short story" is to share with the taller population that the way we short persons are challenged in the average height way of living is not "cute". From door handles to stairs, from table heights to chairs. Not forgetting to mention driving a vehicle, reaching for things in the "average height" construction of homes and work places. Even a shopping experience can relate to many of the just said endeavors. Debit machines are sometimes too high, searching for a taller person to assist in retrieving items too high to reach from the shelves in the home or the stores

Shopping for clothes, shoes or accessories is an entirely different "short story". The sales clerks that "look down" at us (literally) without bending are the most polite. The ones that assist in the shoe fitting adventure often comment that children's shoes may be the way to go for a better fit. At my age I would prefer something in a black, brown or tan instead of the latest cartoon character that sport a flashing light at the heal of the sole. I will admit that some of the children's clothes are very nice but a twelve year old girl may not have an hourglass figure or measure out at 36-26-36.

Let's just touch base regarding public restrooms. Do I need to include the simple fact of the height of the towel dispenser? In this day and age no person in their right mind would actually sit on a toilet seat but having legs that do not measure over 30 inches in length creates hygienic difficulties straddling the porcelain monolith.

Another dilemma that has hindered me since puberty was dating. I was fortunate enough to marry a man that was 5' 8", the size difference was not ever mentioned. However, the others (during the single years) that were of the taller version always proposed issues in the vertical position, stating of course that height doesn't in the horizontal position.

It has always baffled me when a person's comment is "Wow, are you ever short!!!". One would not ever think of saying to an obese person "Wow, are you ever fat!!!" or "you have a really big nose...you must have to drink your coffee from a bucket!!!". I have endured comments from "where do you buy your clothes, the kids department?", to, "you could go un-noticed in a playground", "get in to events for a child's admission", "you must have extensions on the gas and brake pedals", or "do they make you stand at the height marker when you go on carnival rides?" I have heard them all!

Those types of people will never know that my grandfather was 4' 9", worked in a bush camp in the early 1900's through the late 1960's. He logged by hand using "swede" saws and swung a double bladed axe. My grandfather raised 10 children and could drink any average height man under the table (literally). He never drove a vehicle as he trained and used teams of horses to pull the wagons that he and his family used and to haul the inevitable logs that he had felled. Those types of people will never know that I have a niece that at 11 years old is enduring the same challenges that were and are imposed on the rest of us who are "vertically blessed". She has accomplished more than many average sized adults that I have encountered and she may grow to be average height. None-the-less, at the ripe ole age of preteen it has been offered by our medical system that she be given growth hormones. Why? Because she is small, as I am small, and genetically we must change that.

I have received influence and inspiration from people that function without arms or legs, are physically challenged through spinal injuries, blindness or are hearing impaired and endure such criticism and scrutiny that still exists in the shallow people that think they are empowered by their lack of congeniality. I embrace my under tall stature and laugh in the faces of those who have said I was too small to do certain tasks.

Through the thought process of our clever engineers with the demand for accommodation, we now have "wheel chair accessible" everywhere, however, somewhere along the line they forgot to include us that still swing our legs in discomfort on any form of public seating, and rely upon ladders, lifts and high healed shoes to raise ourselves to the common public height.

Larger household appliances; fridges, stoves, washers and dryers are all designed for the people of average height. Furniture and regular construction has been given precedence over the just mentioned. For those of us who were ever 8 and 1/2 months pregnant and under five feet tall, trying to reach into a washing machine or a deep freezer should know what is meant by "challenge."

The hemming of clothes is not a daunting task but when it is a forever task it becomes dreaded and costly. More so, having your vehicle customized, adjusting the interior seating, mirrors, pedals and steering wheel are all frustrating necessities. Renovating a home to a comfortable counter top and cupboard height. Adjusting to the work place, office chairs, desks, filing cabinets, doors that have security windows for on coming co-workers, or signs that are at eye level for the average height people...these are everyday obstacles that are never considered in the everyday life of a short person.

In closing I would like to express how proud I am of my height and what I "stand" for. The situations that have arisen and are now accomplishments should be inspirations to other short people. Let it be known: sometimes to stand out and be heard in a crowd is to sit down and shut-up. In this case, stand tall and be proud, speak out and be loud.

I remain,
Teresa L. Barlow