Vertically Challenged

The tissue box I need to refill the kitchen supply perches atop the shrink-wrapped cube of toilet paper. At 5’3” that puts if pretty far out of my range. I lean in and with my finger extended to its furthest, tip the cube just enough to send the tissue box hurtling toward me.

Being vertically challenged is a way of life. Most of the world is built for people 5’8” or taller. I’m used to standing on my toes to reach the labels atop the oil tanks (Fustis) at work and think nothing of climbing up and down rickety stools around the kitchen. Changing light bulbs in the ceiling fixtures requires careful balance and planning. Today I scaled the shelves in the stock room at work to reach a box. It was full of foam shippers, so the balancing was merely keeping my body upright.

In Jakarta, people were small. I was tall and lanky by comparison, I always felt I towered over everyone. Most of my life has been spent gazing no higher than other’s shoulders.  It was so convenient in a crowd, (everything involved a crowd in that city of 9 million +) as I could see over everyone’s head.  The kitchens there were designed for local hired help and were scaled to about 1/3 the height of American counters. I didn’t do a lot of cooking there but it was lovely to feel tall and willowy all day.

My father was short, my mother slightly taller. I never realized this discrepancy in height until very late in life. A person’s bearing can overcome great challenges. When my Dad walked into a room full of people, he grew six inches and filled his surrounding space with charm and control. He often commented the Kennedy’s could charm the skin off a snake but I believe he secretly aspired to that same lofty goal.

I inherited my vertical challenge, and learned to disguise it behind a wall of self-confidence. In order to never cower and look small, one must be loud in unobtrusive ways. I walk with a banging-heel step that announces my entrance, or direction of travel. Regardless if I am barefoot or in 3″ heels, you will hear me before you see me. It’s not something I ever consciously developed. In fact, I never noticed that I walk any different from anyone else until it was pointed out my freshman year in the college dorm. My roommate claimed she could tell when I entered the building, even from our room on the second floor. Good posture and a sense of purpose also help.

One day when Hanni and I were working at the store together, a rather burly, male customer remarked, “You two must be related! She is tiny but I can hear her coming a mile away!” She too has unconsciously adopted the walk.

Here’s to short people and Randy Newman be damned!!

By the way, this ceiling fan will never, ever, in my lifetime be dusted by me…



23 thoughts on “Vertically Challenged

  1. Ah, the grass is always greener….. Interesting that you wish for more height…. if you look around, the next couple generations stand with rounded shoulders, hunched posture and hollow stomachs, mostly the girls wishing they were not so tall…yet. Even the oh so famous Taylor Swift stands round shouldered… Posture can indeed make the difference, but like your dad, it is a ‘Presence” one exudes that makes the person, not their stature… You are exotic, your own person with a unique style and fill the room when you enter… 10 feet tall in my book!

  2. OK as a fellow vertically challenged person I can relate, but leave Randy alone. His tongue-in-cheek song has been so maligned and it happens to be one of my favorites. Funny about your dad. In my mind I remember him as much taller. Personality no doubt!

  3. As you know I too am vertically challenged at 5’3″! I remember the day that customer made that comment in the store, we all had a laugh! You are perfect the way you are! It is a challenge trying to get to those top shelf fusti’s, but we can handle it! Love this blog!

  4. My doctor also has identifiable footfalls. I can hear her in the halls from across the building. Your presence and personality more than make up for any perceived vertical challenge. I think we all look at our bodies and think if I were taller, my hair straighter, if I weighed more, weighed less, Society puts so much emphasis on appearances, we forget we are perfect the way we are. If you gained 5 inches, none of your pants would fit right!

    • Too Funny Laura! My pants probably would fit as I have to roll the cuffs on most pairs today. Thank you for your kind words. I guess we all wish for something different but should recognize we are perfect the way we are.

  5. I enjoyed your post. I think we all wish for something we don’t have. I’m quiet in a group of people, but wish I was outspoken and could say whatever is on my mind.

  6. I’m 5’3″ and everyone is so surprised if we have to do height line up for photos and I’m sent way down the line. Toc tocs – Mum’s high heels when we were younger – still delight to make the noise when out walking! I always thought 5’3″ was tall…

  7. I always imagine you as tall and willowy.,strange to think you are short like me. I think my dislike of crowds comes from the fact I can’t see anything but chests and I have surrounded myself with tall men for things like high shelves and lightbulbs. Unlike you both my parents were tall but my sister and I are both short, a throwback to my father’s parents.

    • Ah, that surely explains my fear of crowds as well, Marie. I am always below the action. Always wished for tall and willowy, and straight hair. But am glad at this point that I am who and what I am.

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