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Hey Shorty ...

Ah, to be an average height. It was one of my big wishes as a child. But alas, such glory would never be mine. And so, I learned to accept my short stature. It has come in handy at times: "Honey, you need to change the light bulbs." You see, even on a stepladder, I can't reach the spots in the ceilings all over our house. And over the years, it meant that I never had to think about what it would be like to date a man shorter than me.

Sure, it's had its downsides: I use my kids' stepstool these days more than they do to reach kitchen cabinet shelves a normal person can. I have to drive with the seat as close as possible to the steering wheel, putting me at high risk of getting punched in the face with an airbag if I ever get into an accident. And I definitely cannot reach products on top shelves at the grocery store.

But overall, being short is not traumatic. That's the word out of a new study being released in Pediatrics today by the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics. The study aims to find out whether there were significant differences in behavior and peer relationships between kids who are short and kids who are normal-sized. Here's what the researchers found:

"Teasing is a normative experience for children; however, we speculate that short children who receive comments from peers such as “midget,” “shrimp,” or “shorty” may perceive this teasing in a more-personal way. Furthermore, these comments may be reinforced by parents who verbalize concerns about their child’s height and its possible negative impact on social functioning, in the present or in the future. However, short children in our study were no different from their nonshort peers with respect to exclusion by their peers, social support, popularity, asociality with peers, teacher report of peer victimization, childhood depressive symptoms, or externalizing or internalizing behavioral problems."

In other words, being short doesn't mar you for life. Or does it?

Do you have a short child? Are you short yourself? How important is height to you?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 17, 2009; 4:50 PM ET  | Category:  Health
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Comments


I suspect that shortness, particularly in boys, may become more of an issue when kids get old enough to want to attract the opposite sex.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 17, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Our family tends towards the taller end of the normal range.

Over the years, I've met an awful lot of people with what I refer to as short-person attitude. Best example: the former housemate who alway drove a big 4-wheel drive vehicle. She *never* went off-road, never even drove off pavement, but she always wanted to *loom* over the rest of the cars on the road and look down on the other drivers, and she did. When she totalled her first one, (driving 35 in a 25mph zone, but the other guy was at fault!) she bought an even bigger truck, drove that until it was wrecked (serious transmission abuse: "you mean I shouldn't have shifted into reverse while it was still rolling forward?"), and then bought a still bigger monster truck. And what does she do - drives to the BART station and uses public transit because her commute would cost too much otherwise.

And then there's DH's supervisor from the Air Force. He's long since retired, but he was well-known for walking up and introducing himself to attractive women with a line something like, "short, chubby Italians try harder." When his taller, smart-alec subordinates would point out that it was a necessity, he'd cheerfully respond that it didn't matter *why* he tried harder, just that he did so. Of course, he was also a sweet and charming fellow who never made a woman feel uncomfortable or threatened, and his three daughters (beautiful young ladies) could always be counted on if he didn't have a date and needed one at the last minute.

I guess I'm saying that whatever one's "issues", most people find harmless ways of compensating.

Posted by: SueMc | August 17, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

There really needs to be a distinction made between the experiences of shorter-than-average females and males. As a female, I am happy to be of short stature, but I would not choose to be a short man.

Posted by: rh36 | August 17, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Short people are creepy. Like jockeys. Jockeys are super creepy.

Posted by: falltillfly | August 18, 2009 6:28 AM | Report abuse

Aren't there studies out that say that taller people earn more money? I thought I read that somewhere.

I have a cousin who's male and is maybe 5 feet 1 inch. He never dated, not til he met his wife. She's under 5 feet. He was always incredibly shy, etc. I mean, it might not have to do with his height, but perhaps part of it is. Definite difference between being a shorter man and woman. My husband is kinda short ish, so he's only a few inches taller than me, but it's not a big deal to him or me.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I used to date a guy 2 inches shorter than me. he has no confidence issues whatsoever. And he LOVED the fact that I was taller. He especially loved it when I wore heels to his gigs (he was in a band). Go figure.

Posted by: falltillfly | August 18, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

My daughter and my niece are both 8 (right now; they were born 7 months apart). My daughter is average height while my niece (my husband's by his sister, actually) is battling for inches against my 6-yr-old. I purposely don't say anything in front of them about her being so much shorter and I admonish any adult who thinks it's "cute" to comment about how little she is.

There are definite drawbacks to her size such as not being able to get on certain rides at a park while others her age can or not being able to do stunts on gymnastics equipment but she gets it honest: neither parent is over 5'2". But overall, her attitude makes up for it: she refuses to believe there's nothing she can't do b/c of size and I try to help her make that truth whenever I can.

Posted by: 1moreandthen | August 18, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I'm short and come from a family of mostly shorties. My maternal grandfather and brother are both 6 even, so they are the tall ones. My husband comes from a family of giants. His maternal uncles are all 6'6"ish and his paternal aunt is 5'10". His parents are both above average, but short among their families. So far the girls are on the taller end of the spectrum. I hope they end up between average and tall. There's nothing particularly wrong with being short, but for whatever reason, average to tall seems somehow better.

Posted by: atb2 | August 18, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

My husband and I are both on the short side of average (I'm 5'3" and have been since the fifth grade; he's 5'8"), and our daughters are on opposite ends of the growth spectrum. Our 7-year-old has been off the height charts since she was a baby, while our 2 1/2-year-old is small for her age (she's still in 18-month clothes). However, in her case, we think a combination of our "short" genes combined with a heart problem may be to blame, and she'll probably catch up as she gets older. Being short isn't a problem for me, except for having people in a crowd stepping on my feet all the time and not being able to see over all the heads in my way, but I've learned to compensate at the firehouse by cracking wise at anybody who razzes me. I just tell them "I'm closer to the ground than you are! My center of gravity is lower, and I don't have so far to fall!" Not to mention if we ever need to call a helicopter to transport a patient or somebody needs to get inside a wrecked auto to help treat a patient, guess who's more likely to get picked on or "kidnapped?" Being small does have its advantages!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | August 18, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree that the question is very different for men and women. In our society the expected norm is that men are taller and women are shorter. While there are exceptions, most men want to date women who are shorter than they are. Women who make them feel like a protector. I am very tall for a woman (6 ft.) and I was teased all my life. I can't tell you the number of men who wouldn't date me because I was too tall, or who did go out with me but yelled at me if I wore heels (try wearing a cocktail dress and flats and see how it looks.) Anyway, as a tall woman, I know that I have a rough time. I can imagine it is similar for men who are short. There are expectations out there in society and they're hard to ignore sometimes.

Posted by: singlemom | August 19, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I like the fact that my husband is close to my height. It makes hugging him a lot easier, and dancing with a guy is a lot more fun when you don't have to look UP to look into his eyes. Two or three songs' worth of that, and your neck is begging for mercy!

This subject got me to thinking about when I was working as a security guard; that was one of the few times my height was a slight problem. Locking doors at one site involved climbing on a chair or jumping at the lock with my flashlight trying to hit the latch (and knowing the guards watching the monitor were laughing themselves silly watching my acrobatics), while checking the motion detectors at another was crazier. Several were in such hard-to-reach locations that setting them off involved climbing on chairs or even a file cabinet and waving something at them in order to trigger them (this was a site with a main building and several satellite buildings; the guards at the main building would monitor the motion detectors as I set them off to make sure they were functioning normally).

Anyway, I digress...I agree there are still certain expectations for height in this society, but hopefully we are starting to realize that a person's character is more important than their height, skin color, religion, etc.

Watch me say that and something proves blatantly otherwise....

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | August 19, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

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