Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Long and the Short of It

This is
the shortest man in the world meeting the tallest man in the world. The biological extreme points. The apex and nadir.  Alpha and Omega Man. 
 Or, if you prefer, the ambassadors of Brobdignag and Lilliput. 
The big guy stands 8'3" or so. He's from Turkey. Due to his extreme size, as you can see, he needs a cane to stand upright. (Alton Illinois' Robert Wadlow, who was 8'9", also had difficulty standing, and had to use a cane to get around.)Engaged to be married at the time of this photograph session, you wonder about the fiancee. She probably has to get on top. 
 Of his height, he said that the biggest advantage is being able to see great distances. Yeah, that would be pretty cool..
The little guy stands 19 inches. He's from Nepal. He lives with his nephews. There was a meeting between him and the shortest woman in the world, probably just a ceremony like this one. He said that this will be great publicity for Nepal. For his sake, I hope he got 'serviced' when he met her. Probably not, but it's worth hoping for..
Those poor guys. If I were either man, I'd be doing just what they're doing, milking it for all it's worth- but still... I feel more empathy for the little guy of course, being more on the Lilliputian side myself. Epsilon Man. But I wouldn't want to walk in either man's shoes---what would those sizes be: 1AAAA and 26EEE? 
The simple fact is, if you're very tall or very short, that you stand out. You're different. And since differences are perceived quicker than similarities, that's the first thing people see. And, unfortunately, comment on. Boy are you tall- or boy are you short!

 It's easier, of course, being on the taller, Brobdignagian side of the spectrum. Society tends to ascribe more value to you if there's more of you. The Alpha Male or Female.  And there are a goodly number of big guys who've bought into this nonsense, and really think they have more intrinsic value by virtue of their size. They usually refer to themselves as Big Dan or Big Bob(I actually saw this on a business card for guitar repairs!)and exult in their biological superiority. 
But there are also a goodly number of guys who are tired of being labeled, tired of always having to be Big Dan or Big Bob. They're just as sensitive about their size as the guys under the norm. Funny thing here. Both groups-  the 6'5" and over, and the 5'5" and under- would probably like, ideally,  to be around 5'9"-5'10". Just tall enough not to be short, and just short enough not to be tall.
I remember on two occasions asking a very tall guy his height. Both of them told me 5'4". Strangely enough, that's my height(and shrinking). This led me to one of two possible conclusions: either there's a different system of measurement for tall people; or they were just as tired as I was of inquiries about their height.

Practically no one likes being kidded about their stature. It's as true of women as it is of men; and just as true of big people as it is to little folks. Again, it sets you apart- and even though it's rarely malicious on the part of the commenter, it's still basically an attempt on their part to feel better at your expense. "Well, I may suck at many things, but at least I'm not super-short like whatsisname"--or, yes, super-tall..

Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. Or something along that line..I suppose we all need to bolster our egos sometimes. But the shorter you are, the more folks you have trying to bolster those egos at your expense. So you begin to dislike, even despise your shortness, since it's the source of much aggravation. Thus begins a variety of compensatory measures: shoes with heels, weight-lifting, martial arts to name a few, until one finally throws up one's hands and realizes there's no sense taking it personally. What the hell, I'm short. Just the card I was dealt.

There are worse cards to be dealt than being shorter than average, but it is something you have to make your peace with. For me, that's been tough. Being a little short guy, with all its disadvantages, is something I have no sense of humor about. It's been a handicap. Whatever success I've had in life has been in spite of it.

Fortunately I do have a sense of humor about damn near everything else in life--including the fact that I have no sense of humor about being a little short guy! Yes, I can see the humor in my own rigidity and humorlessness(these qualities are, ironically enough, what makes characters like Inspector Clouseau so funny!). Even if I'm not laughing on the outside, I am at least chuckling on a deeper level. 

Actually I refer to my height and stature as my Load of Karma. I figure somewhere back in the cycle of birth and rebirth, I was a tall person who was very rude to a short one. So now I'm getting paid back for all the flak I must've given to somebody or somebodies, reaping what I've sown. Hm, maybe I do have a sense of humor about my height after all.

One advantage, perhaps the only one I can think of, in being a little short guy, is that less is expected of you. If you're a guy like Mr Eight Foot Three from Turkey, to use the most extreme example, you're automatically Big Man on Campus as far as your status in society. People automatically  admire and respect you . But you're expected to be able to back it up. If you're that damn big, you're figured to be able to whip any man in the house. This guy can't even walk without his cane. He could take the little 19 inch guy with just the cane, and certainly someone like me (unless I tripped him or something, and then there's the risk of being fallen on), but most fellow Brobdignagians could easily clobber him into a vast mass of protoplasm. 

And of course women are going to be attracted to someone that toweringly big. It's just built into our creaturehood that they're going to gravitate toward the potential Alpha Male. But of course that Alpha Male is expected again to be able to back it up. When you're that big all over, I'm sure there's an expectation on the part of these women as to what you're packing. Anything less than a great one is going to look small on you. I don't know how that works if you're all of eight feet tall, but I do remember my ex-wife telling me about big strapping guys she'd been with who had hardly anything going in that department. 

Well I suppose that's one instance of justice in the Universe. I remember one supervisor I had in my working days, who, for all his other, nicer qualities, used to continually make short-guy remarks either to me or about me in my presence. One day I was coming back from lunch, and he was standing around talking with someone at the door. As I walked by, he said, "yeah, little guy like this probably has a tremendous one!" "No", I replied. "I have an average one. But it looks bigger on me."  



Anonymous Kevin Toelle said...

Well written essay wth a killer ending, Sam. I've known you since 9th grade and I honestly have never given one thought to your physical height. Your eyes are what I've always noticed; so expressive, sometimes exhibiting serious wisdom, often flashing with great humor or brilliant (and funny!) sarcasm. And always the immensity of your musical talent and keen intelligence has always made you a giant in my eyes.And always will.

8:36 AM  

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