Throughout grade school, I was the second shortest kid in my class. The shortest kid was an actual little person, yet I remember her being way more confident in her stature than I was.
I hated being short. It made me feel powerless and insignificant. I hated being at perfect head-patting height, like I was everybody’s pet dog. The worst was being teased and called “Little Amy.” This was long before Lil’ Kim and Lil Wayne made that sound cool.
From an early age, if you asked me what qualities I sought in my future husband, I always said the same thing: tall. I wanted to breed with someone whose genes would obliterate mine, saving my kids from the plague of shortness. And guess what? I succeeded, at least with the husband part. He stands a glorious 6’2″, so I assumed my kids would eventually tower over me.
I may have assumed wrong. At her last checkup, my 6-year-old clocked in around the 30th percentile in height, which isn’t so terrible. If you lined up all the kids in her kindergarten class, however, she might very well be the second shortest, just like I was.
I don’t think my daughter is nearly as neurotic or self-conscious as I was. But if she ever does start to resent being petite, I’ll be there to share these things that every short girl should know:
1. You’ll wish you looked older. People will make snap judgements based on your height and think you are younger and less mature than you really are, working against all of your best efforts to seem grown up. I was mortified that my mom could still get the child price for me at the movies when I was in my teens. But years later, when I was still getting carded in my thirties, it wasn’t so bad.
2. You might get left out. There will be that moment when your whole third grade class is boarding the best ride at the amusement park and you get stopped by a sign reading “You must be THIS tall to ride.” And it sucks. But you’ll catch up in a summer or two and never look back.
3. So don’t count yourself out. My very first time playing volleyball in gym class, as the balls whizzed over my head and my arms failed to connect, I made the decision that sports couldn’t possibly be for me. That was such a mistake. I missed out on so many cool experiences, like being part of a team. Be whatever you want to be and your height won’t stop you. I think Spud Webb, the 5’7″ NBA slam dunk champ, would agree.
4. If you can’t be tall, stand tall. Like every mother in the history of time, I’d like my kids to stand up straight. But for my petite daughter, this is extra important. Good posture not only makes you physically taller, it also makes you seem more commanding — literally large and in charge. And while you may not have height, you do have a voice. Use it. Be loud. Be bold. Take up space.
5. But you’re allowed to wear flats. Heels can be a short girl’s best friend, especially when you’re trying to see the stage at a rock concert. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to wear heels all the effing time. I used to be so self conscious that I wore high-heeled sneakers on a hike. They broke, I tumbled, and it was way more embarrassing than if I’d just shown up in proper footwear, rocking my real, perfectly acceptable height.
6. Short is beautiful. There will be times when you might feel jealous of tall girls. They do look amazing in clothes, plus people are always telling them they should model, and no one will ever point you towards the runway. But for every giraffe-like supermodel, there is a Hollywood star who is really short! Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria, Salma Hayek, and Jada Pinkett-Smith are all under 5’4″. (They are totally standing on boxes when they’re looking deeply into their co-stars’ eyes.)
7. Someday, you won’t care. In adulthood, my diminutive height has never mattered. It didn’t keep me from being the boss at my job and managing 100 people. It didn’t stop me from dating a ridiculous line-up of giants who could look down on Vince Vaughn. And the only people who ever tease me anymore are my family members, who insist that I’m exaggerating my height on my driver’s license. Which is my prerogative. So try not to waste as much time as your mom did sweating the, err, small stuff.