Is life better when you’re vertically-challenged? Some short musings.

So, there I am, stood on a packed Tube train during rush hour. Being 5-and-a-bit feet tall is not ideal at this moment in time. I am, quite literally, faced with a pack of armpits. I’ve had to risk it for a biscuit and estimate the position of a waist-level safety banister somewhere nearby (because obviously I can’t reach the overhead handrail). I’m slightly worried that I may have accidentally grazed a body part of the woman next to me during my blind rail-grab. Awkward. I can’t really see, but more pressingly, I can’t really breathe. To distract me from the sea of armpits, I start wondering if there are any situations in life where being short is actually an advantage.

In the circumstances, it’s hard to feel much positivity. My immediate thoughts are more related to other times I’ve regretted my stunted growth: every time I’m in the standing section at a concert when the tallest person in the building inevitably stands directly in front of me, leaving me with an obstructed view of half a drummer and in constant fear of a lanky stray elbow knocking me out as part of a dance move. And of course the regular helplessness in the supermarket / kitchen / aeroplane when despite my best efforts, things are just that little bit out of reach and I reluctantly have to ask a fully-grown adult for help.

Us shorties also get a rough deal in the world of words. All that patronising stuff about the best things coming in small packages definitely seems to be shot down (there’s one to start us off) by the connotations of “falling short” and having “short-comings”. We are told to “think big” and that, “bigger is always better”. Or am I being short-sighted? I do realise that some things in life are for practical or safety purposes, but I would be genuinely devastated if I didn’t meet the minimum height requirements for a theme park ride. Sometimes choices just seem to be made for me – even if I wanted something bigger, frankly I would look and feel ridiculous driving anything larger than a hatchback. There’s a chance I’m pushing the boundaries as it is and should actually be in a Smart car.

That thought brings me back to the theme of transportation. Let’s talk aeroplanes: finally, a bonus area for the midget. To be honest, even I feel a bit cramped in an aeroplane, so I honestly pity any 6-footer trying to squeeze a very long pair of legs into an economy seat. It’s also that bit easier to sneak over any sleeping passengers who are in your path to the shoebox-sized bathroom. If you really can’t reach the overhead locker, there’s usually a helpful BFG or high-heeled air hostess on hand, so overall I would say I tick some boxes for air travel suitability.

Obviously if you are lucky enough to be able to afford to go upstairs as you board a jumbo jet, foot room probably won’t be much of a problem. Separate issue, but my dream of getting to sleep in an actual bed on a long-haul flight is yet to be achieved. Speaking of beds, this is another aspect of life where shortness can make things a bit easier. With my head on the pillow, there’s never much danger of my feet hanging off the end of a bed. In winter, I’ve clearly been shortchanged on my share of duvet allocation if I get cold toes during the night.

The clothing I buy to stay warm can also be affected in a good way. When you’re child-sized, you can fit into VAT free clothes. You can pack your smaller clothes into a smaller suitcase, ready to fly more comfortably on a plane. Other lifestyle advantages include being able to live in a low-ceilinged cottage without banging your head and a higher success ratio at games of hide-and-seek. There is no way I could manage to walk in heels big enough to make me taller than my boyfriend. Occasionally, I can still get away with a cheaper child’s entry fee – although I fear the time is getting closer when my diminutive stature will no longer draw attention away from my increasing laughter lines (i.e. wrinkles). There are a couple of bonuses in planning for disasters: If I were to have the misfortune of being involved in a hostage situation or earthquake, I do have the ability to wedge myself into a smaller hiding place / corner / cupboard than most. Also, taller people would probably intercept lightning strikes or falling trees before they reach me.

At primary school, I was known as “Titch,” but I kept holding out for the day that I’d grow. No such luck. My housemate included “I wish [I was a little bit taller]” on a birthday CD in my mid-twenties. You know who you are. Thankfully, the slightly more endearing, “Little One” seems to have stuck as a nickname now. During my research for this article, I discovered that a Dutch scientist has found that dwarf mice, whose growth has been deliberately stunted (seems harsh), live up to 75 percent longer than their normal-sized neighbours. Like many scientific studies, this is probably flawed and there is plenty of evidence that the opposite is true. However, presumably it’s important to consider science as part of your pension plans, and it looks like I could reach my 200th birthday if things go well. I hope retirement isn’t too boring though, as by the time I’m a ‘granny’ I’ll probably have to factor in shrinking too, so I might not be big enough to hold a pencil and I’ll have to stop blogging.

All things considered, it’s not so bad being small. I may not be able to reach things on high shelves and I may take three steps to your two. But there’s room out there for the big people and the little people, and being a bit short for my height does have its advantages. Having reached my Tube stop, (which I had to listen out for as I couldn’t see the signs past anybody’s shoulders) I wiggled between the crowds easily enough via the small gap available. Please mind the midget.

p.s. As if all the troubles listed above weren’t enough, I’m also a bit short of followers. If you would like to read more of my random thoughts, just click ‘follow’ at the bottom right of your screen and sign up your email address to stay up to date with new posts. Thanks!

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6 thoughts on “Is life better when you’re vertically-challenged? Some short musings.

  1. I always loved that bit in Roald Dahl’s the Twits when the spiteful husband got up each night and shaved a millimetre or two of his hated wife’s walking stick so she thought she was getting shorter. “I’ve got the dreaded shrinks”. Or have I got the book wrong? Was it Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…..more vertically challenged oompa loompa workers.

    Timothy (or Tim for short)

  2. The other day I got ID’d going to watch American Hustle (which is a 15) and didn’t have my driving license with me, being naive enough to think I look at least 18. Luckily I was with a 6ft4 giant who argued our way in. Great blog Bex!

  3. You have obviously led quite a sheltered life. Being short opens up plenty of alternative job opportunities. From joining a pickpocket gang (you won’t be interested so much in armpits then when on the Tube) to being a burglars apprentice (you can fit through the smallest of windows you see). Or relocate to South America, lose your birth certificate and play hockey for the national u18’s until you’re 40. Your career adviser awaits your call…..

  4. Thanks for a great post. I am 5’4″, which is below average here in the U.S., yet I don’t feel short in the least. Perhaps it has to do with me not playing hockey?

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