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Short, Dark and Handsome

I fear no woman will want me because I’m short.

I’m 168cm and I’m competing against the average Australian male who’s 178 cm. Height is part of my adopted country’s idea of beauty, and until now I’ve never felt insecure. I was with my tall friend in the city. As we walked to a bus stop I noticed a girl looking up at him, awestruck. I was jealous. Where were my admirers? Some quick research on RSVP revealed a majority of women want tall men. My own experiences there haven’t been great. I sent a woman a “kiss” and we started talking over instant messenger but I was too short for her she said. In her profile she gave her height as 175cm while I’m 168cm. No message of mine could make her see past that and I felt cornered. Ending up alone inched closer. I was certain confidence would trump height any day but I’m not sure now. Everyone has the right to choose whom he or she is with, but how much does height really matter?

It’s always been tall, dark and handsome but I was a runt growing up. The popularity I sought in high school eluded me and I never figured out why. Now I know that a man’s height is a factor in his attractiveness. I could physically dominate the other boys in my early years of high school but they got their growth spurts while I stayed the same. Any sexiness I had shrunk as my classmates grew. Eventually they would brag about their weekend hook-ups while I could only be proud of my latest rejection. It’s easy to feel ugly when it seems like no wants you. I still hate high school.

If Mother Nature favours with her tall sons, I started to wonder how my life would be if I was one of the chosen few. Would I be finally popular and live happily ever? Not so, I don’t think I’ll grow past my 168cm but there are ways I can overcome it. Elevator shoes are one option but they’re ridiculous. There’s also leg lengthening as well. Here, bones are broken and stretched slowly. You certainly gain some height but recovery takes a long time and I don’t want something that drastic. I think a person needs counselling if they want their limbs lengthened for cosmetic reasons. In fact, it seems more like medieval torture than a surgical procedure, so the magical 183cm mark is beyond me. I lift weights recreationally so the strength I have is the closest I’ll be to that height. I know women love tall men since they feel safe around them and I’d feel awful if I couldn’t protect my hypothetical girlfriend from danger. Until that day comes, I’ll compete with tall men on personality alone.

Compared to the other height combinations, the tall-man/short-woman couple is the most common. In fact, this combination is ingrained in society’s collective mind. Male leads in Hollywood films are always taller than their female opposite. I doubt Bella Swan would’ve taken a short Edward Cullen seriously; Robert Pattinson is 185cm while Kristen Stewart is 168cm. Titanic’s bow scene may have been a challenge for Jack if Rose was taller than him. Back in Sydney, I started to scope out the couples I saw and almost every time the male was taller. I’m taller than the girls I’ve dated, so I’ve conformed to this norm as well.

Once I started paying attention to height, I managed to spot one couple bucking the trend. It was in Darling Harbour; I stopped and gawked. Her arm was on his shoulder and his arm around her waist; they were in love and oblivious to everyone but their friends. Dating a short man is such an issue that Google returns at least 10 pages of results to calm women’s fears. Journalists even think the tall-woman/short-man combo is newsworthy. One famous couple I think of is Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni. Apart from losing the French presidency in May 2012, Sarkozy’s sensitivity about his height often made the news. In one case, he banned tall bodyguards, even though they could spot potential attackers better. The Internet is also filled with pictures showing the ways poor Nick has tried to look taller. He’s used small stools and stood on his toes and he’s been caught. This guy ran a country and his wife Carla is a former fashion model. It’s beyond me how a former president could feel so insecure. I’ll only ever run a country in my dreams, and I need a chance encounter to meet a model. Nick Sarkozy ran one of the world’s most powerful nations and I’m just a writer from Sydney.

Am I the only short guy who feels inadequate about their height? David, at 162cm, is even shorter than me. When I asked if his height influenced his ability to find a partner he told me, “The only way it will get in the way is if you let it.” For David “Height isn’t an ‘extra’ thing that would get in the way of my confidence.” He didn’t care, basically. If your prospective partner’s deal breaker is height, do you really want to be with them? I wouldn’t, I’d find someone else. Will is 193cm and he towers over David and I. His height is a gift and he’s eternally grateful for it; height “shows a good sign of an alpha male.” This alpha male business is much more than height. It’s your confidence most of all. Being 186cm is meaningless in dating if you can’t approach somebody. My fellow shortarses and I have no choice but to forget our stature and focus on something else. David said he focussed on a woman’s smile and sense of humour. I want to know if a potential girlfriend can hold a good conversation.

Small is associated with petite among women, so to be the opposite is instantly conspicuous. This is true for Lisa, whose 194cm frame makes her even taller than Will. When she was a teenager, Lisa passionately hated her height. “I was immediately different.” At this age, fitting in is paramount and looking different can spell loneliness. “I found a lot of people were totally intimidated by it.” Tall women are striking and graceful and it’s sad Lisa endured this while growing up.

Emma, who’s 159cm, is at the short end of the height spectrum. At her height, it’s hard to find someone shorter. “It’s not really a high priority for me and many other things would come first including eyes, voice and smile.” For Lisa it’s different. “A very deep friendship would have to form first.” So even a small fry has a shot at dating her. These women found other qualities of a man more attractive than his height.

I was a little shocked knowing that tall people had it worse in some cases. Lisa told me that once “neggers”, lame pickup artists, had built up enough liquid courage they would tell her, “You’re a giant.” Others would mention her height right after meeting her. Once I was certain that only boys did these things. I know I’ve acted like a dick before but hearing Lisa’s story saddened me.

Any insecurity of mine could’ve easily grown while I explored my relationship with my height. But now I suspect there’s a disconnect between my brain and body. When I was 18 an extras agent told me that I could’ve modelled if I was taller. Years later at university my first year philosophy tutor remarked that I looked like American model Tyson Beckford. When I graduated high school in 2004 I took a crap HSC mark and something extra as well – a massive ugly duckling syndrome that strangled any nascent ability I had to connect with a woman.

It’s silly to dismiss a potential partner over something arbitrary like their height. Would you ever reject somebody because their eyes are brown instead of blue? We cock block ourselves by holding on to these petty deal breakers.

Ultimately, we all want to be certain of our own desirability. It’s easy to feel inadequate nowadays. If I woke tomorrow at 183cm tall, how worth would it have if I still believed I was ugly? I think the sooner we accept ourselves, the freer we all become.

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