There's no lack of short relationships with men; you just don't see a lot of short men in relationships. Whether it is ultimately natural selection at work or just an inability to spot smaller men in a crowd is anyone's guess. You'll find dozens of couples every day at the Big & Tall. But there aren't a lot of wedding registries in the children's department at Barneys. On the dating rack, people are extra-large in love, with no room left for the little guy.
Fairfield, Conn. 1993. My first formal dance, I’m scuffling along in shoes meant for a Clydesdale. Rental tuxedo sleeves threaten to swallow my hands. My date is 5 foot 10. I'm 5 foot 3. This won't end well.
The picture on the mantel tells the story. She has me by half a foot. Her dress is simple, blue, and seemingly endless. Her arm is on my shoulder in a way-to-go buddy gesture.
Pink and gray balloons reflect in the mirrors over the parquet dance floor. It's Saturday night at the Knights of Columbus. The bass dies. On cue, the DJ breathes heavily into his microphone. My tongue burns from Binaca. It's a slow dance, the first of the night.
It's over before it even starts. My eyes never leave the top of my dance partner's dress. I want to make eye contact, but I can't. Under other circumstances and raised with different morals, I might have enjoyed the position I was in. Instead, my uncooperative shoes lurch toward my date's unprotected toes.
By the end of the song, I'm standing on a chair. My date heads for the bathroom as the last chords of "I'm the One Who Wants to Be With You" mercifully fade away. My hot cheeks are as pink as the dance-floor balloons. We won't dance again that night.
Just 24 hours earlier we had been sitting and kissing at the movies. Great date. But it all unraveled when we stood to dance.
Boston, Mass, 2001. Against my better judgment, I take a girl I like on a walking date. However, I’ve abandoned dating taller women, and with a two-inch height advantage, I like my chances. Inside the Children’s Museum, a painted blue strip runs the length of the wall in the human body exhibit, noting the average height of men and women in society.
“I'm shorter than 90 percent of men,” I cheerfully inform Kate. The top of my head stands just below the blue line.
“Nope, you're shorter than 95 percent of the population,” she responds.
“Ah, can't be,” I stammer.
“It's right there. Ninety percent of men are in the blue stripe, 5 percent above and 5 percent below. You're in the bottom 5 percent,” Kate says, not unkindly.
It is then that I realize I have condemned my future children to a life of holding the chalkboard sign in elementary school photos.
Portland, Maine, 2002. Kate is now my girlfriend. We sit at a picnic table, our feet dangling above the ground, when she reveals her theory on short men in the dating world.
“Have you always been confident with women?” she asks me, her spoon swirling around a cup of frozen yogurt.
I eye her warily before answering. “Definitely,” I bluster.
“Well, then you support my theory. I think that shorter men are actually more confident than taller guys.”
“But doesn’t that just lead to little man’s disease?” I counter. (LMD, or the Napoleonic Complex, is manifested in a shorter man who is hyperaggressive and seemingly angry over his shortcomings. Never do shots with this type of guy.)
“It can in some cases. But I think if you take the average tall guy and the average short guy, the average short guy will be more confident. He has to be in order to get dates because tallness is just a default option for women. The tall guy never has to work as hard,” says Kate.
I consider her theory while taking a bite and ultimately end up nodding my agreement. I know I better marry this woman.
Kansas City, Mo., 2004. At Starlight Theatre in the Kansas City Zoo, twin brick parapets welcome more than 250 guests. White sconces hang over the stage. My wedding vows are short, written on scraps of hotel stationery moments before the walk down the aisle.
“I promise our children will be small, but plucky,” I say. Our guests roar with laughter.
“I promise not to grow an inch,” replies Kate. It's a promise I will hold her to.