If there was a game show called "Are You Shorter Than a 5th Grader?" I would so totally win.
I stand exactly five feet tall. "Only sixty inches high," as the song from "South Pacific" goes. You hear all about the issues men have when their height begins with the number 5, while the womenfolk are cut way more slack in that area. I'm here to tell you, however, that it's not always easy being a short woman in a tall person's world. People have sung "Short People" to me more times than I can count, and it's still not funny. My older son, all of eleven years old, is just about to eclipse me in height (his hands and feet are already bigger than mine; at least his father is a tall, thin man). More than once on a New York City street have I heard, "Hey, short love!" Nice.
When you're a woman lacking in height, you overcompensate in other areas. I'm loud and mouthy -- did I mention I also grew up in New Jersey? I need to be pushy when I want something badly enough; people think I'm too little and cute to be tough, so I have to represent. It's like the female version of the Napoleon Complex: let's call it the Josephine Complex, to keep the reference historically accurate. I think we should make this a thing, by the way. We ladies haven't had an official thing named for one of us in a long time.
But I digress. As a woman of minute stature, I've been called 'feisty', a 'firecracker', and a 'tough little cookie' (I've been called lots of other things, of course, but as they aren't relevant to my height, we're going to gloss over them). I prefer "petite flower", and use it liberally. Us little'uns have to remind you all that we're there so that we don't get passed over for cool things, or get stuck standing behind huge people in the GA area at rock shows. As an aside, we do not like being patted on the head, as though we were obedient children, nor do we appreciate being told how tiny we are. Like we don't know! We know, people, we know. I have lost count of how many times I've had to bust out my go-to funny line when something is out of my reach: "Hey, can I borrow your height for a minute? I don't have any of my own." It always gets a laugh, and I always get my bottle of Diet Green Tea Snapple from the hinterland that is the top shelf at Safeway. In other instances, I've said, "I'm really five-ten, I'm just stuck in here."
Along with being treated like Shirley Temple your entire adult life, another byproduct of petiteness is the difficulty in finding clothes that not only fit you properly, but also don't make you look like you've got one foot in the grave. Do a Google search for "petite jacket", and you're liable to end up with something that clearly comes from the Shady Pines Collection. Sorry, but you're not catching this chick sporting the "Garden Club" jacket. At the other end of the spectrum, I can fit into clothes from the girls' department; it's actually a great way to save money. However, those items aren't exactly my style. I mean, it's not very becoming for a 41-year-old mother of two to rock a shirt festooned with glittery butterflies. And clothes for, well, larger citizens are super easy to find.
Happily, lots of clothiers have gotten hip to the fact that not all Americans wear a size XXXL. Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor are but a few places where one can score fashionable clothes that are meant to fit someone with the height of a child but the body of a woman. It's always nice to put on a shirt that accommodates what my friend Marc Acito refers to as my "killer rack", or pants that fit over my birthing hips, yet sit at the waist.
The boyfriend look, however, is out. When the fashion magazines recommend "grabbing your boyfriend's sweater" and belting it to make an outfit, I just laugh. My boyfriend is 6'4" and wears an XL. Putting on one of his shirts makes me look like one of the kids from the "Kick the Can" episode of "The Twilight Zone".
And so, the daily predicament of what to wear is a never-evolving one. I'm sure I will someday find pants not made of denim, pants that will fit properly and not make me look like I'm wearing an unflattering uniform. If they could also not cost $200, that would be great, too. While I'm asking, would it kill you designers to dial back on the rhinestones on jeans? Not that it has anything to do with being short, I just don't like it. I told you, I need to speak up, or else people won't be able to get the message.
Know what I mean, Josephine?
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