Saturday, April 01, 2006

Post No. 60: The (Un)Bearable "Shortness" of Being


“Size matters not. Judge me by my size, do you?” – Master Yoda, “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”

In this world of ours, there are people who are tall and people whom are not so tall. In other words, people who are short. Standing at a height of about 1.63m-1.65m (strangely, my height varies over different measurements of it), I, as a guy, would qualify to be in the second category of people. Why am I writing all this? Well, I don’t know about you all but it seems to me that most people have the (mis)perception that being short in stature is a form of disadvantage. People seem to think that if you’re short, you have drawn the short (no unintentional pun intended) straw in Life. In fact, there are those who jokingly said that “short” is a politically-incorrect term but rather we should refer to short people as “vertically-challenged” (it is as though shortness is a disability). Also, if given a choice, I suppose most people would not choose to be short in height.

Yet, being “vertically-challenged” myself, my question would be: is being short really such a bane? Are there really no advantages that can be gained from being short? Are short people really somewhat “inferior” to people whom are taller than they are? Well, why don’t we take a look at the lists, complied by me, of possible disadvantages and advantages of being short to find out the answers to these questions?

Disadvantages of being short

1) You get teased about your height (or rather your lack of it) e.g. you get called “shortie” or “矮冬瓜” by those taller than you.

2) You find it difficult to reach for higher places (often requiring the assistance of a chair to do so).

3) You often get mistaken for being a young kid (of course, this requires you also having youthful looks). Do you all know how irritating it is for your IC to be checked when you want to watch movies rated NC16 and M18 when you will 21 on your birthday this year? However, this also can be an indirect advantage (see below: Advantage no. 3).

4) You can’t take rides in amusement parks with signs that say: “You need to be Xm and above to take this ride”.

5) You find it difficult to get into things that you want to participate in because of a minimum height requirement that these things have e.g. air steward(ess), beauty pageants, Presidential Lance Guard etc.

6) You lose out in basketball (unless you’re very good at it or you have amazing jumping ability).

7) You have to constantly “look up” at people (do you all know how strained the neck muscles can be from doing so?).

8) If you’re a guy, girls who are attracted to taller guys or want their future boyfriends to be of a certain height won’t really be attracted to you. For example, I have a friend of a friend whom stated in one of her blog entries that she prefers her prospective boyfriend to be 1.7m or taller in height. Also, I have a female JC classmate, who’s quite tall herself (by my estimate, she’s about 1.75m-1.85m tall), saying, during a civics/PCCG class discussion on what qualities we wish to have in our boy/girlfriends, that she would preferably want her boyfriend to be taller than her [well, I suppose I wouldn’t make it into these 2 girls’ list of prospective boyfriends since they have such “high” standards (眼光放的很“高”)… :P]

9) If you’re a girl, guys who find taller girls more attractive or are attracted to “long beautiful/sexy legs” (of course, I’m assuming that if one is short, one won’t have “long beautiful/sexy legs”) won’t really be attracted to you.

So much for the disadvantages, let’s now move on to the advantages…

Advantages of being short

1) You don’t get teased for being a “高佬” (“tallie”, think the opposite of “shortie”) or for resembling an upright bamboo pole. Never, I emphaise.

2) You don’t have to worry about knocking into ceilings, doorframes or beams (you have no need to bend your head down when entering a room either).

3) You get mistaken for being a young kid (youthful looks required). For example, I have an army friend who is both short and possess youthful looks and he supposedly managed to convince a shopkeeper (if I’m not wrong, it was a computer games/parts shop) to sell him something at a discounted price by telling the shopkeeper that he’s just a young secondary school student surviving on a meagre sum of pocket money (come to think of it, you all will also need a glib tongue and good bluffing skills to pull this off… :P).

4) Being less conspicuous (unless, of course, you’re the only short person in a group of tall people), you can “siam” (avoid) being chosen for tasks you don’t like (or as it is known in the army: “sai kang”, literally “shit job” in Hokkien).

5) You can avoid doing unpleasant/tedious tasks that require height e.g. cleaning of fans & windows. Another apt example is when choosing people to form a contingent for my unit’s recent COC (Change of Command) Parade, my CSM (Company Sergeant Major or more commonly known as “Encik”) chose only those taller in height. Hence, on the day of the parade, while my taller army comrades were marching under the hot sun, I, together with those shorter in height, were relaxing under shelter as part of the audience. Hee…

6) People can’t ever accuse you of “looking down” on them.

7) You don’t fall down that easily (having a lower centre of gravity). Of course, this is yet to be scientifically proven.

8) You seem more attractive to people who find shorter people attractive (though it’s quite rare for girls to be attracted to guys who are shorter than them unless you have some other attractive attributes to compensate for your lack of height. A crude example: you’re filthy rich, no offence to the ladies reading this. A less crude example: you’re quite good-looking. Think Elijah Wood of “The Lord of The Rings” fame who is about the same height as me).

9) You find it easier to fit into or squeeze through small places.

Hmm… It seems to me that the advantages and disadvantages of being short are quite balanced out… Of course, it may be disputed that the disadvantages that I have listed above are but the tip of the iceberg. However, this does not negate the fact that being short also has its own unique advantages. Yes, while being short may has its comparative disadvantages with regards to certain situations in Life, being short is nowhere near being an absolute disadvantage (pardon my use of Economics terms). Yes, while being short does have its disadvantages, it is also the same with being tall. Hence, considering that being short also has its advantages and that being tall also has its own disadvantages, it can be clearly observed that we cannot haphazardly equate “tall” with “good and superior” and “short” with “worse off and inferior”. Anyway, whether one is tall or short is something most relative. What do I mean by this? Well, my friend may be taller than me but if he stands beside Yao Ming, I suppose that it is most likely that he would start looking like a dwarf. And yes, with my height, most would see me as being short but if I suppose a midget (no offence) would most probably see me as a “mini-giant”. To put it more simply, if you think you’re short, there’s most probably someone who’s even shorter than you and if you think you’re tall, wait till you meet someone much taller than you. Hence, bearing in mind that height is relative, I suppose there’s nothing to be sad/embarrassed about being short or to be happy/proud about being tall.

Furthermore, let’s not forget about those who did not allow their lack of height deter them from achieving greatness in Life. These would include Napoleon Bonaparte (although his supposed height of 1.68m was considered average for Frenchmen of his time, it is still somewhat short by today’s standards), Jean-Paul Sartre (the world-famous French philosopher of existentialism who stood at a height of about 1.56m) and Deng Xiaoping (who, although standing at only about 1.5m, was remembered by many, including MM Lee Kuan Yew, as a “giant amongst men”). Of course I must not forget to mention Master Yoda who stood at a height of 0.66m. As it can be clearly seen, these examples prove that though one’s height may be limited, this does not necessarily mean that one’s chances of achieving success and greatness are also thereby limited. Ultimately, height is not important; what’s more important are your character, intellect and attitude. Without these important qualities, even if you happen to be tall, you’re just another ordinary tall person and believe me, a hundred years or a thousand years later, nobody will care whether you were tall or short but only whether you contributed anything of worth to humanity.

And if you all (if you all happen to be short) are still worried about how a lack of height could lead to the diminishing of your chances of success with members of the opposite gender, well, let me tell you all this: if the girl/guy you all are interested in shows disinterest in you just because of your lack of height, she/he is not worth it. Anyway, as astutely pointed out by my friend of a friend (yes, the same one I mentioned above) on her blog recently, it does not matter whether one is “vertically-challenged” or not because “on the bed, everyone’s horizontal”.

In conclusion, next time when someone tease you (if you happen to be short) about your lack of height, hold your head up high and proudly declare: “So what if I’m short?”. And to paraphrase the words of the late Mr. S. Rajanatnam: “I don’t care if you all call me tall or short, what is important is whether you all consider me to be a good person”. Finally, to borrow the words of Karl Marx (and Friedrich Engels): “Short people of the world unite! You all have nothing to lose but your own inhibitions and a world to win!”.

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