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My 'Short' Experiment in Online Dating

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The only way short guys survive is by knowing that we live longer and can weave through Costco aisles faster than our taller, wealthier, calmer, happier and more powerful, popular, employable, educated and sexually active counterparts.

Shortness is great when we are four years old and get to hold the plaque in our soccer team photo. And when every other kid on the field piles on the ball, short boys wait for it to pop out and score a goal on the opponent's or our own net. In baseball, pitchers can't come close to our smaller strike zone so our on-base percentage exceeds 1.000. We learn to shoot the basketball well because opponents reject all our layups. We win tons of Gushers playing H.O.R.S.E. which we use to barter extra tater tots at school lunch.

Grade school teachers find our smallness endearing and award us extra stickers and desired parts in class plays. Girls, who are often taller than boys until middle school, also find us cute -- although, since our height-valued culture makes us feel insecure, we pretend not to look when our crush lets us sneak a peek at her underwear.

Middle school bullies assume we are brainiacs and threaten to beat us up unless we provide our homework to copy, and then actually beat us up after receiving their unsatisfactory grades. Our friends think they can bully us, too, so we learn to punch them really hard. We begin strength training which stunts our bones further. Older girls at school dances bully us by spinning us in the air like helicopters. We do not return this favor.

We play tennis in high school because the soccer scrum and mini strike zone no longer apply. We become the lucky charm at sporting events which is like an acceptable form of bullying. Girls are curious why other guys rub our head and backside for luck, and they give us attention unrelated to helicopters. These would be our prime years if we understood how alcohol works.

We are upset about paying the same amount for clothing that requires far less material than for taller guys' apparel. In rebellion, we buy children's extra large underwear, which costs less.

College girls can't find us in the sea of giant guys at frat parties. Young women can see us, but not as potential partners when our eye levels aren't at least equal when they wear heels. To them, we are simply there.

Is that correct, or are we just in denial about some more profound traits that make us unattractive?

The Social Experiment

I increased my height on OkCupid to 5'9", just below the American adult male average. I retained my profile description -- a combination of goofy humor and honest responses. I also kept my profile photos -- all of me alone and mostly being adventurous and smiling.

I messaged young women based on the same parameters as before: I have a base attraction to her; she has been online within the last few months; her profile is at least partially complete; and her height is 5'6" or less (to prevent me from wasting my time and not because I have an aversion to taller women).

Finally, my message style was the same: I remarked on and asked questions about specific aspects of her profile; used language that leads to more responses; and included humor. In other words, the only factor that varied was my height.

I contacted 31 young women and compared the response rate to the 31 I had messaged before the height change. For those who responded, I replied that I had increased my height for this article and apologized for misrepresenting myself.

Before the change, 16 percent, or five out of 31 women, replied. Of those five, two of the women were clearly just being polite: one response was 17 words and the other 26; neither contained a follow-up question; and neither woman replied to my next message. That leaves a real response rate of 10 percent.

After the height change, 29 percent, or nine out of 31 women, replied, which is the average response rate given my gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity. All responses were over 30 words and contained personal questions.

I got dates out of this experiment from two lovely young women who said they didn't value height. And I appreciated a different one's honest response after I disclosed the truth: "If you are actually that height [5'4"] then I probably wouldn't be attracted to you."

She was attracted to me at first, at least enough to type 126 words in her first reply. And nothing changed besides the knowledge that I was shorter. Short guys can be masters at improving ourselves to counteract our vertical disadvantage, but unlike most other physical attributes, height can't be changed.

Our remaining survival mechanisms are moving to Asia or turning gay. As it turns out, men can be rather accepting.