March 25, 2011
I’m shorter than average. Well, shorter than the average person in the United States, anyway, and even shorter than the average person in Sweden, although in Indonesia I’d just about fit right in. And it doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was at least average, or at least closer to it than I am now. Of course just a few centuries ago I would have been on the tall side. I believe it was Emperor Leopold II who put together an army of men who were at least six feet tall. That would be like finding a bunch of guys who were eight feet tall today. I’m taller than Napoleon, who everyone thinks was short, but who, for his time, was really about average. I can always tell when I’m in an old house because I can reach up and touch the top of the door frame as I walk through it. And I can tell when I’m in a really old house because I can reach up and touch the ceiling. At times this can be frustrating. Everyone I meet seems to look down on me. In the grocery store I sometimes have to get someone to reach something on a high shelf for me, because apparently only really tall people eat oatmeal.
On the other hand being shorter than average can have its advantages. Once where I work there was a security alert that advised people to be on the lookout for-I’m not making this up-a man between the ages of eighteen and forty-five who was of average height, had an average build, and brown hair. During this Everyman’s reign of terror being less than average height probably saved me from being stopped by the cops every twenty minutes or causing panic just by crossing the street. The annoying thing, though, is that, while I’m not tall enough to be average, I’m not really short enough to qualify as short. If there were a story of Goldilocks And The Four Bears I’d be the slightly lukewarm porridge between the one that was too cold and the one that was too hot. I’m too tall to shop in the children’s section-although being able to match my clothes by the cartoon animals printed on the labels would save me a lot of time on the morning. But I’m also too short to shop in the adult section. The other day I was trying to buy some new jeans but I couldn’t find any that were short enough. I had no trouble finding any that were just the right waist size-they were just all designed for guys who could have been in Leopold II’s army. And I did find a few pairs of jeans that were just the right length but, for some reason, the waists were always too big. I found one pair-I’m not making this up-that had a 28-inch inseam and a 54-inch waist. I don’t know where clothing makers got the idea that all of us short guys are built like Danny DeVito, who, I’m pretty sure, is still taller than Napoleon.