When I was in grade school, I bit people. I did it because bigger kids poked, prodded, and teased me about being half their size. I warned them I would bite; not believing me, they mockingly stuck out their fingers. Then they ran crying to show the teacher the teeth marks. Since then, I’ve learned how to better handle a situation many find themselves in: being short.
My family is German – also known as very tall. My grandfathers are over six feet. My uncles are over six feet. My father is just under six feet, and my brother and sister are still growing. I, however, stopped during my sophomore year of high school at 5 feet 2 inches.
Despite all genetic odds being in my favor, I am short. Not as short as my Mexican grandmother – who at 4 feet 11 inches is the source of my height – but still short. And you know what? I am okay with that. More than okay, actually; I enjoy being short!
Or maybe ‘small’ would be a better term. I am not only vertically short; my entire person is petite. I can wear shoe size 5 1/2, drown in the “small” t-shirts Corban loves to give away, and you would not believe how hard it is to find a ring size below 7.
On days when I forget makeup, I have been mistaken for under 16 (I’m 22). So you may be asking, am I just making the best of a bad situation?
Absolutely not! Although I have many (many) tall friends, I am of the opinion that being small is a wonderful thing. It is a unique, defining characteristic – just like having green eyes, straight hair, and weak nails in winter. As I’ve learned over the years, being short and small doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
I love being petite for hundreds of reasons, some ashamedly superficial and some legitimately serious. For example, I am afraid of needles; when the Red Cross comes to town, I can decline to participate with no (alright, with few) moral qualms. Why? Because in order to give blood you must surpass a minimum weight and size. I am too small and so am spared the needle.
Okay, that one was selfish. Balance it out with travel arrangements: I can sit in the backseat of a car the size of a sardine can and still have plenty of legroom. This frees up the front seat for someone whose legs are longer, saving him from losing circulation in everything below the knee.
This works on airplanes too; last year I moved from an aisle seat to a center seat a few rows back, suffering little discomfort, so a woman could sit with her 5-year-old son.
Being petite is also handy when you’re out shopping. For instance, when you are petite you will almost never have to ask for a shoe from the back room; the shoes on display are already your size. Clearance racks are typically picked clean of sizes S-L, leaving some nice XS selections.
Now shift from the mall to a ballroom dance floor. I enjoy dancing, and being small is a definite asset. Moves from simple turns to complex lifts are made easier when the woman is petite, and it helps guys who aren’t so tall to have a partner matched to them.
I admit there are moments when a few extra inches would be nice. Riding horses is one of my favorite pastimes, and if you haven’t been around horses very much, let me explain the problem that typically arises: horses are big. Horses are strong. Horses do not have much respect for tiny people trying to hoist enormous saddles onto their backs.
Another of my favorite things to do is theater, an activity where being small lends itself to getting you typecast (typically as a child or damsel in distress). During my years in high school drama I played three children, two ingénues, and a rabbit.
Being cast as a child may get old, but it is not always a bad thing. When I was 19, I performed in “Narnia” as Susan Pevensie. The rest of my co-star siblings were 14 and under. If I hadn’t been small and young-looking, I wouldn’t have had that amazing experience.
I could go on forever, and at the top of the list would be my favorite thing about being small: I take people by surprise!
I’ve groomed, tacked, and ridden a Clydesdale. I’ve performed Shakespeare, playing twin to a guy who towered over me. I dealt with bullies in grade school, directed my own theater shows in middle school, and belted Phantom of the Opera in high school cabarets.
Now, in college, I’m learning to prove to myself and others that my size is wonderful. It makes me different. It makes me surprising. More than once it has made a good conversation starter. But most importantly, it makes me Rachel.