I’m short. There are places in the world where I’m the average height for a woman and a few where I’m even tall, but in the U.S. and most of the places I’ve traveled to, I am short. I know this from an objective point of view, but I don’t feel short. Most of the time I only notice that I’m short when: I have to use a step ladder to reach something that taller friends reach without aid; I see a photos of myself with a group of people; or the moment when I walk into the embrace of a particularly tall dance partner. The rest of the time, I feel tall.
Walking home from the gym, wearing jeans and pair of boots with a stout heel, I always feel TALL. If I catch a glance of my reflection in a store window my height (or lack of it) only becomes real in comparison to other people passing by. Am I one head shorter? Two? Three?
It’s all about perspective.
A small child views the world from below, looking up at parents and other caregivers. In literature, this perspective can be written as a diminished POV—a literal expression of being smaller and closer to the ground. But children, caught in their earliest developmental stages, are the center of their own worlds. The big people caring for them—holding, feeding, bathing, and loving them—are their adjuncts in that personal universe.
It’s only when we grow up and go out into the world, in baby steps and with training wheels, that we see ourselves in comparison to others. The BIG kids are the kings of the neighborhood. The adults rule at home and at school. Height is associated with age, power, strength, and experience. Of course that ends when we stop growing.
Or does it? In fiction, the BIG man is still the king towering over his people. Leaders, including presidents of democratic nations, are often tall. We still associate height with experience, dominance, and power.
Um… maybe I should start a political movement based on the irrelevance of height? But in the meantime, I’ll explore creating characters in fiction that defy the stereotypes of height.