Thursday, October 6, 2011

Default to Cute

Colleague: Do you have any mental illness in your family?
13 year old girl: We've got dwarfs!
Me (sotto voce): Hi ho, hi ho...

We didn't have the heart to tell the dear wee thing that dwarfism is not a mental illness.

i do not have dwarfism but i am significantly short statured at about 4' 8". In the USA i am oficially a Little Person and eligible to join the LPA, the Little Persons' Association of America.

The height limit there is 4' 10". I would be considered willowy. i would be in the back row in group photos. i would be in their basktball team. i would be the Irene Van Dyk of Little People. (OK, netball then.)

Being a short statured woman has some drawbacks. When you are young, the default setting for social interactions is Cute. People (mostly men) would put their hands on their knees and say "And how are YOU today?" with beaming smiles. Honestly, i once answered that i was just wondering why the deconstructionalists want to undermine the onto-theological presence. Honestly i said that. And he said 'Oh' and walked away. Maybe now that nerds have taken over the world things are different, but at the time nobody could get their heads around Cute and Brainy at the same time. Nor could they walk and chew gum, clearly, as JFK said about Gerald Ford.*

i am the daugher of a short statured man. My father was 5' and my mother 5' 1". For my father height was a serious issue. He would tell my brother, never show your anger. A big man who is angry looks intimidating; a small man just looks funny. He had had a childhood punctuated by ridicule for his size and his intellect. He learned to drink his Harden the Fuck Up juice. i suspect it made him bitter, but he was also a careful and occasionally compassionate observer of human nature.

People talk about Small Man Syndrome and at times i comment on that ugly phrase. Would we have Black Man Syndrome or Tall Man Syndrome? i am unsure what it means, but it seems to indicate that small men have a kind of syndrome that makes them easily piqued and agressive. i wonder if anger in small men amuses or surprises or even threatens us. Maybe it is that same inability to manage two thoughts at once - we can't grasp Cute and Brainy together, nor can we grasp Small and Angry. Perhaps anger in small men is more readily seen as aggression. In a taller person the same behaviour may be seen as assertiveness, or holding the line, or making a stand. My father felt his anger would not be socially sanctioned. He had no right to those emotions. He tried to teach this to my brother for his protection in a world he saw as hostile. It was an adaptive lesson.

i guess us short people are not Smurfs, is all.

*acutally he didn't say walk.

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