Vertically challenged

Shalini B

scale I am 4 feet 10 inches tall. Or should I say short? 4 feet 10 inches isn’t exactly tall is it? My problems with my height started when I turned 13 years old. It was an uncle who brought me face to face with the fact that I was short. Until then I was blissfully unaware and unconcerned about my physical built. I still remember when he said, “My god! You are stunted”, I felt like he had dropped a heavy stone on my head. But how could I be stunted? I was going to high school after school reopened. I would belong to the senior section of kids in school. He must have made a mistake I decided. But when I joined my friends on that first day of high school, the truth hit me hard. I gaped at them. They were all taller than I was. What did they do during vacation? Eat some magic pudding? Why didn’t my mother know enough to give me some? My height was a constant problem I grappled with for a long time after that.

Whenever I went shopping for clothes, I would pick and choose clothes with vertical stripes because somebody told me vertical stripes would make me look taller. I always wore sandals that had heals at least an inch high. Didn’t matter if I wasn’t very comfortable. Being comfortable wasn’t a priority at all. I read advertisements from health clinics that offered to make me tall with great interest. Some offered to insert steel rods in my legs, others said they had booster injections that would help me shoot up another two or three inches. If I had some money with me I might have tried one of these clinics, but my horrible parents wouldn’t hear of it. A couple of years later, even my brother, two years younger than I am, had to look down at me. He was lanky and strange in his physical appearance. But did that matter? He was tall now. By then the only people I was comfortable standing next to were my two grandmothers. At least somebody was shorter than I was.

Being short was a problem. Not even looking my age was like bad icing on a bad cake. Not only was my body that of a 13 year old but now my face was also betraying me. It seemed to be stuck at 13 years old as well! Talk about 13 being an unlucky number. Whenever people saw my brother and me together they assumed he was the older and more responsible of the two because his appearance told them that. I realized I was beginning to feel embarrassed every time somebody asked me how old I was. The look of amazement was actually frustrating.

A friend once asked me why on earth did I wish look older when everybody else wanted to look younger? Well, I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. I felt like I was in no man’s land. Never old enough to join the adult club, but not young enough to be happy in the children’s club either.

At 29, I have finally come to terms with the fact that I will not grow anymore or look any different. I am comfortable now and happy. I have given up wearing vertical stripes, I only wear flat heels, and don’t care about any booster injections or magic potions any more. But I am still concerned about one thing. I have a four year old son. He has already reached up to my waist. How soon will it be before he overshoots me? That will be an experience I will write about in another Last Word.

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