I am a “little person” – an adult of very short stature due to a form of dwarfism. Although I am short, I do not allow this feature to hold me back in life. I date women of average height, attend college, drive a sports car, play tennis, and pretty much enjoy life the way an average height person would. I know you are probably wondering why I am writing to you if my life sounds so perfect, huh? Well, there is one fly in my ointment, and that is how other little people treat me. I am disrespected among my own people for “acting tall”.
Many little people have self-esteem issues due to their height; or health problems, due to the genetics that caused their dwarfism, that leave them unable to live a life as full as mine. I have dealt with my share of problems in life – when you are in the fifth grade and are the shortest kid in your elementary school, believe me you are going to get picked on by the other kids – but my parents raised me to overcome such taunts, telling me if I let their teasing get to me than I was giving the teasers exactly what they wanted.
I realize that I can come off as an insensitive [censored], and at times I probably have been insensitive to other little people who do not have my sense of worth and drive to push past the negative, but I can’t change who I am to please other people. Things really came to a head for me last month, at a Little People of America regional convention. I won’t give you all the gory details, but suffice to say that I was at the bar and got dumped on for turning down a female attendee’s advances because I have a girlfriend (who is not an L.P., something that came out during her request to know why I was turning her down, which caused others to voice opinions on my personal life). After this, a part of me wants to walk away from this organization altogether – I mean, who needs this, right? – but then another part of me admits that I do need the LPA organization, as it is an advocacy group in addition to its social factors. I guess I would just like some advice on how to reconcile the fact that I am not like so many other little people without turning my back on the entire community.
Walking Tall At 4-Foot-4
Dear Walking Tall…:
Paws up! I admire your attitude – to an extent. As a four-legged animal I am often the lowest one to the ground, looking up at the world around me. I, too, do not allow my smallness to determine my place in the world; and spend a great deal of time sitting atop my Tower of Power (my profile pic actually shows me sitting in it) surveying my realm. Unlike you, I am a cat and can get away with this sort of behavior. Cats are expected to be smug; humans are not, which is probably the reason why you were attacked en masse at the bar.
Your lack of “gory details” leaves a lot out of the tale you tell, but I can see why your fellow little people would be upset that you turned down the advances of a little person because you are dating a woman who is of average height. My Mommie is quite close to a few LP’s, so I had her run your letter by one of them for an opinion. He replied, “What he did to the woman at the regional was the approximate equivalent of what women have undoubtedly done to him when he goes to bars with his AP [average height person] friends and the women would talk to his friend and treat him like furniture.”
Nobody likes to be turned down for a date, but when a physical characteristic causes you great self-consciousness and low self-esteem; and the person turning you down is dating (or will only date) someone who does not possess that particular physical trait, it is easy to lash out and accuse the object of your desire of prejudice. This does not mean that prejudice exists; and this is the point you need to make when such personal attacks on your character are made. However, you also need to be aware of how you respond and to treat others equally, regardless of who they are, lest accusations of prejudice hold merit.
You do not say how old you are, but you mention that you go to college, drive a sports car, and play tennis so I am guessing you are under the age of 30; possibly even under the age of 25. Your twenties are a time when people are still finding themselves – who they are, who they want to be, and how they are going to get there. Add a physical challenge or multiple physical challenges to the mix, and achieving these goals can be made all the more difficult. The good news is that there is a light at the end of this tunnel; it just takes some people longer than others to get there.
I realize that Little People of America is a social organization as well as an advocacy organization, which means it has members of all ages and accomplishments. Rather than write off the entire Little People community, perhaps you could speak with a member who is older than you are, with more life experience than you possess. Is there anyone you can look to as a mentor or trusted advisor? Someone who can help guide you through the rocky waters to a calm shore? If so, I suggest you turn to them and discuss your concerns; if you do not, you may want to speak with your membership coordinator or other officer in your regional chapter. Regardless of stature, one does not get to the top of a large organization or earn the admiration and respect of others without possessing a strong sense of self and the ability to “walk tall” among the masses. You need to find out what they are doing to charm the masses, and take a lesson from what they tell you.
I will end my response with some sound advice from my Mommie’s contact. He writes: “Not all of this guy's life will go as swimmingly as it is now...there is a whole world of difference between asking an AP woman to date an LP and asking an AP woman to marry an LP - because then you get into genetic issues, long-term health concerns, etc. LPA can be a valuable asset in those times.” So there you have it!
In order to respect his privacy, the name of my Mommie's contact has not been revealed, but I wish to offer my gracious thanks for his assistance in responding to today's letter! His help has been invaluable! --TK