Thursday, February 09, 2006

Does size matter?

No, this is not a study about sexual satisfaction, but rather some thoughts about human nature and physical size.

It is obvious that being much taller than average makes one stand out in a crowd, literally. Most men are not bothered by it, certainly not if they play basketball, but many women find themselves feeling akward. No high heels there! In musicians, tall people often gravitate towards certain instruments, such as the cello and double bass, where their size actually makes it easier to play the instrument in question. I remember a cellist who could pick up his instrument and play it like the violin! Pianists probably benefit from large hands, long limbs and easier reach in general. For the violin, however, tallness often makes a person seem like he is playing a toy instrument and as a general rule, short people have fared better. For young soloist-wannabees, it is easier to pass as a
wunderkind, who is a lot younger than in reality, for years longer if one's height supports this assumption.

People either prefer to get attention or not to. Being of short stature is difficult for many as they feel they won't be noticed well enough. We often talk about the Napoleon complex. I am, of course, not talking about true midgets, who will get extra attention whether they like it or not, but men and women who are considerably shorter than the average. While I have dearly loved some people belonging to this category, even some of them have developed a personality that could be described as abrasive or at least attention demanding. Some of the 'little people' have been the closest people to me. Then there are those who are outright nasty and odious people. A skunk is not a large animal, yet other creatures, no matter how big and ferocious, stay away from one. Of course, human skunks exist in all sizes and shapes, but a a disproportionate number of them are in the short-people group.

Other than Napoleon or Alexander the Great, a lot of 'little' people have done well because they have deserved it. The first time I met Barbara Streisand in a school PTA event in Malibu, I was amazed at how petite she was. Yet on screen she becomes larger than life; same is true when you hear her recordings. It is the people who are little and have little to give the society that are the problematic ones. Screaming and acting out get attention: every baby knows it instinctively. I know people who are truly scared to have a tiny woman throwing a tantrum in front of them. Something in their brain tells them it wouldn't be proper and fair to answer her back in the same manner, although they would have no problem with someone their own size. Short men can be even worse as society expects women to be smaller to start with. Women also can wear enormously high heels and platforms which some find helpful, even if they have to visit a podiatrist regularly later in life as a result, but men really don't have this option to the same extent. By instinct, I prefer to stay away from a small person with a big ego if I can avoid it. There is no real logic to this, of course, but reality has taught me otherwise. Some of the most poisonous substances come in small packages, human capsules of cyanide.

If only people could learn to accept themselves as they were created. My first serious girlfriend was barely 5 feet tall and I still am very fond of her and stay in touch, more than four decades later. But even she had a serious complex about her height, manifestations of which probably drove us apart in our early youth. Is there a lesson in all of this? If a person, no matter what size, seems kind and friendly and continues to do so, she/he probably is. Otherwise, watch out.