Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Short Life

When I was 8, my mom was concerned that I was, shall we say, diminutive. I was like Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, except without the Christmas crap. So, she dragged me to our pediatrician, Dr. Bong (seriously, that was his name). He gave me a Bone Age Test, which would determine how tall I would be when I got older.

After the test, Dr. Bong solemnly pulled my mom into his office, while I sat in the waiting room with my undersized legs dangling from the chair. When she came out, my mom had tears in her eyes as she hugged my petite frame. At home, she explained that Dr. Bong confirmed what we had all feared - I would never be taller than 4'10". She then turned on Diff'rent Strokes and said, "It's not that bad. At least you're not black too!" My mother's racist logic provided little solace.

Reality soon set in. I was gonna be really small, like a Keebler Elf or a Lilliputian. I was gonna be a midget without those cool stubby body parts. I was gonna be a primordial dwarf, but less rare. Yes, I would be miniscule. BUT, I would not be discouraged. I had to forge ahead and prepare for the vertically challenged life that awaited me.

I learned everything I could about historic little people -- Billy Barty and Willie Shoemaker and Pablo Picasso and Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler. I read The Hobbit and Of Mice and Men. I watched every movie staring Mickey Rooney and Dudley Moore.

Then, I started smoking. Hey, it's not like I had to worry about my growth being stunted. I came up with a cute catchphrase similar to "Wha'choo talkin' 'bout!" Mine was, "Fuck off, bitch!" I also came up with tough sounding nicknames for myself - Mean Michael, Gruff Gellman, and the one that stuck, Iron Mike. And, since I wouldn't be able to play sports that required height, I got really good at sitting on the sidelines making fun of people. Did I have a Napoleon Complex? You betcha!

Miraculously, I started growing. At 11, I passed 4'10". At 13, I hit 5'3". By 17, I landed at a sub-par, but healthy 5'7". Thankfully, Dr. Bong was wrong. Who knew what he was smoking? I spent my formative years thinking I would be shorter than Emanuel Lewis, but I ended up being taller than Lou Reed, Al Pacino, and Harry Houdini. Moe, Larry, and Curly from The Three Stooges were all shorter than me. So were Sinatra, Cobain, and Brando. I've met Robert Redford and Henry Winkler and I towered over those pip-squeaks!

Yes, I'm still shorter than Hillary Clinton, Regis Philbin, Oprah Winfrey, Ross Perot, Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise (yes, Tom Cruise!!). But, that's not the point. The point is that I could have spent my life as a freak, with my only job options being at the circus or in Mike Meyers movies. I could have been mocked and tossed and dressed up for the holidays. I could have had to shop for clothes at Baby Gap!

I do have to stand on my tiptoes to hug most friends. I do have to sit on the shoulders of women in order to see at concerts. I do get height ID'd at amusement park rides that have those signs that say, "You Must Be This Tall to Ride". I can't date tall girls without them being accused of being trannys. I can't reach high shelves without a five finger boost. I can't intimidate people unless I'm packing heat. So what!

Hey, it's a short life, but it could have been much shorter.


Eryc Eyl said...

and just think - I look up to you!

Anonymous said...

that doctor was a dumb ass to freak your mom out like that!
Where is the fricken bed side manner?!

Anonymous said...

5'7 my ass..... Maybe standing on a stack of telephone books