Inspired by the brave story of Bristol 24-7 editor, Chris Brown, today who was, in turn, inspired by the tale of Daily Mail writer Samantha Brick, I too felt compelled to share my own, tragic tale…
On a recent walk through the Harbourside, I was delighted when a jogger came over and gave me a huge bunch of flowers. “‘I couldn’t resist buying these for you,” he panted, whilst wiping the dripping sweat from his thighs.
You’re probably thinking ‘what a lovely surprise’. But while it was lovely, it wasn’t a surprise. At least, not for me.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve regularly had flowers and gifts given to me by men I don’t know. Once, a well-dressed chap bought my train ticket when I was standing in front of him in the queue, purely because he couldn’t see me, and the ticket official assumed he was buying me a child ticket. Another time, a trip to the local circus resulted in me being given some free stilts – I tried to argue, but they refused to let me pay.
And whenever I’ve asked what I’ve done to deserve such treatment, the donors of these gifts have always said the same thing: my petite appearance and pretty smile made their day.
While I’m no Jimmie Krankie, I’m 5 foot 2”, curvy and brunette and, so I’m often told, a little munchkin. I know how lucky I am. But there are downsides to being short — the main one being that other women hate me for no other reason than my pint-sized looks.
If you’re a woman reading this, I’d hazard that you’ve already formed your own opinion about me — and it won’t be very flattering. For while many doors have been opened (literally) by my own hands, just as many have been slammed in my face — and usually by tall people who just didn’t notice me.
I’m not smug and I’m no flirt, yet over the years I’ve been dropped by countless friends who felt threatened if I was merely in the presence of their other halves. I stand accused of staring at their partners nether regions, when I was only trying to get close enough to hear what they were saying to me.
And it is not just jealous wives who have frozen me out of their lives. Insecure female bosses have also barred me from promotions at work, saying I had more growing up to do.
And most poignantly of all, not one girlfriend has ever asked me to be her bridesmaid, possibly because they thought I would upstage their nieces.
You’d think we women would applaud each other for taking pride in our appearances.
I work at mine — I drink and smoke heavily, My idea of a work out is a trip to the airing cupboard, and I very rarely succumb to eating celery. Unfortunately women find nothing more annoying than someone else being the shortest girl in a room.
Take last week, out walking the dogs a neighbour passed by in her car. I waved — she ran over me. Yet this is someone whose sons have stayed at my house, and who has been welcomed into my home on countless occasions.
A week later, wearing my plaster casts, I approached a mutual friend and discreetly enquired if I’d made a faux pas. It seems the only crime I’ve committed is not leaving the house with a high-vis jacket. She doesn’t like me, I discovered, because she views me as a baby. The friend pointed out she is much taller, skinnier and younger than me.
This isn’t the first time such paranoia has gripped the women around me. In my early 20s, when I first started work as a secretary, one female boss in her late 30s would regularly invite me over for dinner after a long day in the office. I always accepted her invitation, as during office hours we got along famously. But one evening her partner was at home.
We were all a couple of glasses of wine into the evening. Then he and I said we both liked salsa dancing. She asked us to demonstrate, which I was more than happy to oblige her with; unfortunately, this resulted in me getting caught, during one particular tricky turn, between his legs and in the zip of his flies.
She laid into her bewildered partner for ‘fancying’ me, then turned on me, calling me unrepeatable names before ridiculing me for not wearing higher heels and a mouth protector. I declined any further invitations.
Therapist Teresa Beer, author of self-help guide Bitty is the New Big, says that women have always measured themselves against each other by their height rather than achievements — and it can make the lives of the good-looking very difficult.
“Many of my clients are short, yet people are always astounded when I explain they don’t have it easy,” she says. If you are attractive other women think you lead a perfect life — which simply isn’t true.
‘They don’t realise you are just as vulnerable as they are. It’s hard when everyone resents you for your stature. Men think “what’s the point, she’s out of my reach” and don’t ask you out. And women don’t want to hang out with someone lower to the ground than they are.
I certainly found that out the hard way, particularly in the office.
One contract I accepted was blighted by a jealous female boss. It was the height of summer and I’d opted to wear knee length, cap-sleeved dresses. They were modest, yet pretty; more Kate Middleton than Katie Price.
But my boss mistook me for a hatstand, and I was forced to remain cloaked within the stuffy confines of her faux fur for several hours. I didn’t dare point out her mistake.
I find that older women are the most hostile to short women — perhaps because their own backs are starting to compact with age.
Last summer I attended a birthday party with my husband. At one point the host, who was celebrating his 50th, decided he wanted a photo with all the women guests. Positioning us, the photographer suggested I stand immediately to the front of the shot, on top of a cardboard box.
Another woman I barely knew pushed me out of the way, shouting it wasn’t fair on all the other women that I was standing on the birthday presents. I was devastated and burst into tears. On my own in the loos one woman privately consoled me — well out of earshot of her girlfriends.
So now I’m 37 and probably one of very few women of my age who is welcoming the further decline of my spine. I can’t wait for the further shrinkage that awaits me that will help me blend into the pavement, and ensure more tall people than ever step on me by accident and elbow me in the head.
Perhaps then the sisterhood will finally stop judging me so harshly on what I look like, and instead accept me for who I am.