On my 16th birthday checkup, my pediatrician told me that I was done growing.
When I was younger, my goal was to be 5-foot-6, and according to my calculations via a fancy algorithm in National Geographic Kids magazine when I was around 8 years old (I’d later realize I was just averaging my parents’ heights), this wasn’t terribly unrealistic.
I had always been pretty short — and as a result, I had periodically undergone different kinds of growth tests to ensure that I was on track.
There had been bone ages — X-rays that track the fusion of bones and subsequently, where in the growth process a patient is. My testosterone and growth hormone levels were checked when I was 14 and they both came back fine.
So when I learned that I’d be 5 feet 2 inches for the rest of my life, I was disappointed but not entirely surprised. By that point, I was used to being short. Did it sometimes prevent me from reaching top shelves? Sure. But otherwise, I was (and am) pretty confident. Height wasn’t an object.
What made me upset, then, was what the doctor said in response to that news: “I’m sorry.” He apologized to me, as if my final measurement was some type of pitiable misfortune. And I hated it.
Two summers ago, I — in my patchy-bearded, 17-year-old prime — was offered a kids menu at a restaurant in Hawaii. Angling my uneven scruff into the sunlight, I looked up at the waitress, and in the lowest baritone register I could muster, asked for the regular menu. Embarrassed, she apologized and hurried off.
Four months ago, I was in the middle of an intramural basketball game, guarding a guy off an inbound who was drastically taller than me. As I hopped up to try and block him from making a pass, he scoffed at me: “C’mon man, you’re too short for that.”
This July, as an intern for The Hollywood Reporter, I was sent to cover the premiere of Let’s Be Cops. While on the red carpet, I interviewed the film’s director, screenwriters and stars. I was stunned at just how tall they all were. One actor, James D’Arcy (who played the film’s villain, Mossi) is 6-foot-3. As I interviewed him, I held my recorder nearly at full length above my head, to get the best quality of audio for his responses. He seemed amused, and I couldn’t blame him.
While visiting a friend this summer, her younger brother came out to say hello. He’s entering the third grade, and doesn’t really have a verbal filter yet. He asked me, “You’re really 19? Aren’t you small to be 19? I’m almost as tall as you are!”
Yes, I stand proudly at 5 feet and 2 inches, maybe 3 inches with the right combination of shoes and posture — and naturally, short jokes come with the territory. I’ve gotten them for as long as I can remember.
Aside from the more recent stories above, this one guy who I knew in elementary school — with whom I’ve kept in touch because we attend the same temple back home — has historically made it a point to greet me by observing, “Wow, you’re still that short.”
Here’s the thing: I have been short for my entire life, but I have never felt small.
The dictionary clarifies that to be small is to be “less than normal or usual,” or “not great in strength or power.” I’ve always been concerned about that, because I don’t want my height to limit me — to make me something weak or lesser.
I’m someone who believes that self-confidence is just that: derived from the self. So, a long time ago, I decided that I didn’t care about being short. But it’s still something about which I’ve harbored a great deal of insecurity.
I know, it sounds shallow. But we live in a world where headlines like, “Sorry shorties, tall dudes have their pick of the dating pool,” exist in mainstream media; where the phrase “bigger is better” is universally known; where voters see taller politicians as “better suited for leadership.”
I recently asked a few friends to describe me honestly, in one word. Responses included “thoughtful,” “energetic,” “dedicated,” “loyal” and “unfaltering.” Notice that not one of those adjectives hint at stature.
What I’m asking you to understand here is that I do not personally feel hindered by my height as much as I feel that society tells me I should.
And that’s why, so often, I’m angry about height. Some people call it being “vertically challenged,” as if it’s more sensitive. But why should sensitivity be necessary? Being short is not an issue; it’s not a challenge; it’s not a disease; it’s not something to be “sorry” about.
It’s just another trait. There’s no denying that being short has contributed to my development, to my personality and to the way I see the world (both literally and figuratively).
That said, it does not define me as a person — not any more than the color of my eyes. At the end of the day, I really don’t mind being short. In fact, the view’s pretty good from where I stand.