It's Not Easy Being Short in America
“It's not easy being short in America,” I told this girl who slept with me once as an experiment. “People saying, ‘You’re cute’ all the time. Reaching out, trying to pinch your cheek.”
She wouldn’t look at me, she couldn’t button up fast enough.
“So, just between us, how’d I do? Good?”
She was absorbed tying her sneaker laces, double knots it looked like.
“You got a name? Come on, give us a hint.”
“How about a favorite movie? You like Forrest Gump?”
“None of your business,” she said, springing to her feet. She held up one of the boots I wear with the five inch heels. “Why didn’t you tell me about these? Isn’t this what they call elevator shoes?”
“Oh, now you’re the one who’s pissed? What’s the matter, you didn’t realize you’d be doing a freak?”
“Don’t be crude, and don’t look so offended. I already told you, I have a serious boyfriend at my school. I just wanted something to compare him to.”
“And? How was it?”
“About the same.”
“Well, if the earth didn’t shimmy I must not have been on my game today. I’m actually more a night person. But next time…”
She rolled her eyes, headed for the door.
“What, no good bye hug? Don’t burn your bridges, sweetie, you’re no Scarlett Johansson.”
She did not look back.
Okay, the bar was dark but of all the losers she did pick me out, so I figured maybe my long drought’s over, maybe by some miracle I’ll even find someone. I should’ve known though when she asked, “Can we please turn the lights out?” and then she said, “No, all of them.”
I did happen to date a terrific girl a few times, very refined, she was an illustrator and, believe it or not, she was so cute my stomach was all in knots, but when it came time for me to put the obligatory moves on she said, “Please. This isn’t easy for me, you’re a lovely person to enjoy dinner with, but I’m not attracted to you.”
“Hmmm. Suppose I go on a diet?”
“No,” she said, “you’re not that overweight. And I do like you. Just not…um…” Then she trailed off.
This, I must admit, set me back a ways.
“It kills me to ask you for advice, of all people,” I told my ex-wife on the phone. “Because I finally got used to not seeing your face, or hearing your voice absolutely everywhere, but what’s wrong with me? The height thing?”
“Trust me, that’s the least of your worries.”
“Well, you said you couldn’t take it anymore and split before our first anniversary so I figure you have a whole list of constructive criticisms I could get cracking on. Any pearls of wisdom?”
“You take things too personally,” she informed me. “You’re too sensitive. Women like men with strength and confidence.”
“Okay, all right, that’s about enough!” I said, because the second she spelled it out I felt doomed. I mean, it’s a toss-up which I’m more devoid of, strength or confidence. When her newborn started crying in the background I began to speak fast.
“What about being short? Here in America.”
“Okay, swear it’s not the height thing. Swear on your mother.”
“You’re the one, you defeat yourself.”
“Sure, say that now, but didn’t you get it on with that moron Paul just because he’s a six footer.”
“You,” she screamed, “are a mess! Nobody in their right mind would put up with you as long as I did.” The way she hung up, my ear still hurts.
It took a while to get over this and I got a lot of No’s until I stopped even trying. Then, just as hitting rock bottom, a benevolent universe (or perhaps a random one) presented me with the incredible Miss Polly. On cue, as they say.
“You are a very kind and considerate person,” she said, after kissing me at the end of our second date. “It’s not everyone who’d be so concerned as to whether I was starving, after working late, that they’d miss a play they’d had their heart set on seeing for months. Thank you.”
“And you,” I said, “are too good to be true. What planet are you from? Or did some genius invent you?”
She touched my nose.
“So,” I asked her flat out, standing right there in the shadows on her door step, “do you care about strength or confidence?"
“What do you mean?”
“I’m a man of numerous qualities, but neither strength nor confidence is among them. I can fake it for a while, but the truth always comes out.”
“Sometimes, if you pretend, you start to believe whatever it is yourself.”
“You do this?” I asked, kissing her palm. “You pretend?”
“I can. I can pretend you’re strong. And confident. If it’ll help.”
“I don’t care about that. But, yes, if you insist.”