Chicago, Illinois, United States
“Doctor, it’s good to see you again, but as I have told you many times, it is always good to see you because I feel better the moment I walk into your office. You have helped me in so many ways, but now I have something new to tell you. I have just finished writing a short story, and I want to tell you about it. This is the first time in two-and-a-half years that I’ve been able to get over my writer’s block and finish something. I feel my creative juices flowing again.
Well, I could call it a short story, but then everything about me is “short,” seeing that I am only 5’2. Please excuse the pun, it is one of my character traits, to sneak up on people with a joke or a pun and catch them off guard and, for a moment, just a brief moment, feel as if I have the upper hand. Because no matter what, I always feel humiliated being so short. I know you say it all depends on attitude and how we feel, that externals don’t really matter unless we let them, but they do matter, to me.
You know that having to always look up at the person you are talking to is intimidating and humiliating. Physical appearance is so important in our society, in business relations and social relations; you can’t get away from it. Sometimes I tell my friends, you really want to know what it feels like? Go to Illinois Masonic Hospital on the day that the Chicago Bulls are getting their preseason check up from the orthopedic surgeons there; stand around with a bunch of guys who are 6’8, and then you’ll know what it feels like for me all the time. But you leave the hospital, and you’re among normal people again. I can never get away from the feeling that people are towering over me.
Everyone, well, all the guys, want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but even Arnold lies about his height, someone as supremely confident as he is. When he was in competition, he’d list his height as 6’0 or 6’1, and everyone knew he was only 5’10, maybe not even that.
When I go online for a dating service, I always specify that my requirement is a girl who is 5’1 or less; so even if she wears a one-inch heel, she won’t be looking down on me. Every once and a while I’d get lucky, and some tall woman, you know the volleyball-playing type from Oak Street beach, would pick me up at a bar. I didn’t realize why until later. Many of them had this fixation with dating a minor, and they’d pick me because I’m the size of a ten or twelve-year-old. But I soon found out how screwed up and perverse they were. So I limit myself to short women, but then I project into the future and think, if I marry a short woman, our kids will be shrimps like me and suffer the same humiliations. But I still have hope that at 38 that I can find someone.
You know, I was born too soon. Now there’s this rage for HGH, human growth hormone. It wasn’t available when I was growing up, or maybe one of my pediatricians would have recognized that I needed a hormone shot when I was still so short in high school. My parents kept saying that I would have my growth spurt, but by the time I was sixteen, I knew it was not going to happen, no matter what they said. I was doomed. I’m the same height I was at 13. They tried to make me feel better, but it was no use. I was always made fun of in high school. Everyone idolized the athletes of course. Fortunately, I found the wrestling team. It didn’t help with the rest of school life, but at least during tournaments, I was competing against guys who were the same size as me, and it felt great, one of my best memories of high school.
But this is the place I feel the best, doctor. You don’t know how many years, or how frustrating it was to find an analyst who was a midget. But finally I found you, and when I walk in and I look down on you before I lie down on the couch, my self-esteem rises and stays that way until I have to leave. And I knew you would understand my plight because you had to face the same problems. Of course, at the end of our session, I have to go out into the real world and be among the “big” people. Still, this hour is great; I feel so good. I see it’s time to go, I’ll see you Friday, looking forward to it, thank you so much.”
JONATHAN LEWIS, MD, now retired, was formerly assistant clinical professor of psychiatry for fifteen years at the University of Illinois. In private practice for 35 years, he specialized in the treatment of refugees from around the world who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.