Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Lifts

Thinking back as I was in my last post to my teen years, I recall a humorous little incident. But first a little background. The men on my dad's side of the family were mostly short. My father only stood 5 feet and 4 inches. (For that matter, my mom is short, too, at 5'3.) Therefore, I guess I can count my blessings that I made it to 5'7 in my prime (actually now, with aging, I'm closer to 5'6 - a bit of a shorty). Lots of things that bothered me when I was young don't bother me now, my stature among them.
But as a pimply faced teenager I did resent being short and having to look up at most of the guys I hung around with.
My older brother (who was really a half-brother, although we never thought about it that way because my dad raised him since he was three, and also because he was there before I arrived) was tall, standing six feet tall as an adult. As brothers are prone to do he used to poke fun at me when we were kids, especially concerning my height. He would call me a midget or a pygmy. (He was tall but he was extremely slim, and you can bet I gave as good as I got.) Then there was that annoying time when in grade school one of my female classmates - who was slightly taller - shoved me hard during recess and called me a runt. I caught up with and even surpassed the majority of them by high school, but at the time it was a painful blow indeed. 
Of course it goes without saying that a lot of the guys also gave me the business over my height. And as often happens when a child hears something negative over and over, it eventually starts to have an effect. All of these things had a negative effect on me.
I used to go to my mom about it. Moms always try to soothe over the rough spots in their children's lives, but it didn't really help that much when she assured me that God made me exactly the way he wanted me to be. (I used to wonder what kind of sense of humor God must have.)  
Then one day, when I was in the tenth grade, I spied in my trusty mail order catalog an ad for lifts that could be inserted into a person's shoes in order to discreetly "add inches to your height." Sounded good to me so I ordered some.
On the happy day the package came, I stuck them right into my shoes. I had to make sure my pants came down far enough to hide the fact that my feet were in danger of spilling over the tops of my shoes. And I had to learn to walk carefully because a slight misstep could cause me to stumble awkwardly because my feet no longer rested firmly in my shoes.
I can't remember now how long I carried on that charade. Not long, as I recall. Probably only a few months. But I felt like a phony. That, and there was this scenario that kept playing over and over in my mind: Being in high school and really getting serious about the opposite sex, I contemplated the time I would have my first sexual encounter; the thought of getting undressed and my potential lover finding me quite a bit shorter than one would expect when someone took off his shoes intimidated me.
Time to quit pretending. I thought about it and took out my lifts for good. I told my mom about it. She didn't know about the lifts. We had a good laugh and I told her, "I'm tall enough; I'll make do." But I also made another decision concerning my height - one which over the past four decades I have rigidly adhered to: I made up my mind I would never acknowledge anyone who ever addressed as me "Shorty" or anything similar. (Where my dad worked he was universally known as "Shorty" and it didn't bother him.) For me, however, it was my determination not to let my height (or lack thereof) define me.
Shortly after I gave up the lifts I met and started dating my high school sweetheart. She was an inch taller than I am. We later married and were together for over 8 years. (I won't repeat here that sad story of how our relationship crashed.) In fact, years after my divorce when I reluctantly reentered the singles scene, I dated a woman who was 5'11 and another who was 5'10. Mind you, I wasn't trying to go for tall women, but neither they nor I let my height stand in the way.
Then there was the fact that I have been somewhat successful in the business world. I used to own my own business and for over a quarter of a century now I have made my living by supervising workers - a great many (believe me!) who were taller than I am. No problems. My short stature is obviously noticeable, but not a big deal to others evidently, because I don't feel it is a big deal. I have obtained and excelled at leadership positions, just like a host of short historical characters have done.
Also, I don't want to leave the impression that I am overly sensitive about this matter. I can laugh as heartily as the next person over a short joke. I can even poke fun at myself. But don't address me as "Shorty": I will ignore you the same way I would some young whippersnapper calling me "Pop." It's a matter of respect: I'm Doug; and if you don't know my name you can introduce yourself and ask me about my name. (Actually, I was never crazy about nicknames and never allowed any to be hung on me.)

Now I look back on the lifts and laugh. I think back to my youthful insecurity about my height and wince, and recall how painful such things can be to a young person. My height was really the least of my troubles when I was growing into adulthood. I just didn't realize it at the time.


  1. Height was always a big deal for me. I was the baby of the family, the girl with two older brothers 5'11" and 6'2"---I was a tomboy and hated being the shortest. If ONLY I could grow as tall as my mom,my Aunt Vi or her very tall friend, Ivah!! My mom was 5'2, Aunt Vi 5', Ivah clocked in at about 5'4", and I am 5'6" last time the doc measured me. My dad doesn't look that much taller than my mom in pix, so I have no idea where my brothers and I got our height from. The 6'2" brother has 2 sons, 1 is 6'5" (the other is 5'7"...over the years I have found I am attracted to tall men vs shorter ones. (not in a sexual way, just aesthetics) I think it goes back to my own desire to be tall. I was hoping for 6 feet. I played basketball. It was only in my 30s that I realized that I seemed taller than most of the women I knew. For some strange reason, at 56, I am not shrinking yet--and I am in a wheel chair! Now it is out; I saw you in my mind as 5'11"---hmmm, nope, you still remain a larger than life guy to me, Doug.

  2. @ Diane,

    Funny, but I thought you were taller, too, say 5'8 or so. I must have got that impression from some of your younger pictures posted on your blog. Good posture does a lot too, and I was always careful to stand perfectly erect in order to get every last centimeter (I'm probably not as diligent about that now as I used to be).