Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I am short. Bigger men will often say that I'm a "cute little guy". I'm flattered that they find me attractive, but I wish they come up with a different label for my stature. I'm a full grown, if 3/4 scale, man.

I'm not little.
I'm short.

Perhaps even "runty" which somehow I prefer. I am certainly the shortest man in my family. The men of my Father's generation and previous ones all began adulthood topping out at over six feet, and looking like extras in the tennis club scene of a Merchant Ivory Production; fair, blue eyed, gracefully long limbed, v tapered and naturally athletic. The photos show that all were destined eventually to thicken and stoop into slightly more linear versions of those garishly painted, cheaply carved softwood ye olde sea cap'n figurines you can buy in gas station/gifts shops on your drive out to Provincetown (along with tiny imitation glass fishing floats in coarse rope netting, $3.00 flip flops, and Coppertone) Their faces were destined to shrivel like shrunken apple head dolls. Their noses, consistent throughout the clan and prominent to begin with, would thicken and fissure into ruddy figs under the relentless assault of sun and wind and salt. But they'd still be tall.

I blame my Mother for being height challenged. Mom is 5' 0" which I gather is a reasonable height for a woman born into rural poverty on a plantation outside of Lares Puerto Rico, before World War II. Maria Pelegrina Caban Ortiz Velez brought some fresh and distinctly different genetic material into my fathers old Yankee family when, eighteen months after marrying him, she bore the first of his two natural sons, my older brother (the future starting linebacker), who emerged the size of the turkey in that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving painting. Ten months after that, she had me.

Once I asked my Mother why she hadn't taken a longer breeding break. Very typically she answered with both less and considerably more information than I wanted; "We made you in the kitchen." she stated, and then after a moment of dreamy reflection clarified; "No... No, it just started in the kitchen...". I surmised that I was "unplanned". I turned out to be sandy haired and pale like my father and his brothers, and generations of antecedents, but the similarities ended there. Perhaps her plumbing had been fatigued by the gestation efforts expended on my strapping brother's behalf, but for whatever reason, I was tiny. I stayed that way, looking two or three or four grades smaller than my class mates all through childhood. I wasn't able to enjoy the "you must be this tall" amusement park rides at Rocky Point 'till years after I didn't care anymore. My jacket for the Sophomore dance was purchased in the Boys' Department. Once, at seventeen while driving a girl and a guy I'd been (separately) screwing around with to the beach in my Dad's faded 1965 Dodge Coronet, a cop pulled me over. Dwarfed by the huge car and enormous Elvis Costello inspired horn rims through which I could barely see over the trash can lid sized steering wheel, the officer determined that I must have taken my older brother's license as there was no way I could be older than thirteen. It was humiliating.

When I entered adulthood it was not as a miniature of my paternal uncles and cousins. I was proportioned as I suspected my Mother's male relatives ( I've never met any members of her family) must have been formed, and at 5' 5" of similar stature, maybe even on the tallish side. From the front my torso formed a trapezoid not that much wider at the shoulders than the narrow hips, though considerably thicker around a proportionally large chest. Below my small waist stumpy legs swelled over sturdy thighs and then again through pronounced calves tapering to narrow ankles, on their short journey down to disproportionately large feet ( 9 1/2 D, the size which always sells out first). My arms effectively kept my hands attatched to my body without drawing any undue attention to themselves. With periodic muscle mass and belly size fluctuations, this is how I've remained. I imagine the whole apparatus to be ideal for tracking through miles of jungle in pursuit of wild boar or shimmying up coconut palms. Neither quarry was available in my home town, or anywhere I've lived since.

There are some benefits to Mom's genes. Her tiny nose seems to have countered the blessedly not inherited scale of the schnozes I'd seen staring down at me from the portraits hanging on the front parlor walls of my late Grandfather's house. I seem to have suffered less the ravages of time than have my younger cousins. Though only the most observant physical anthropologist or forensic technician would recognize the Caribbean aboriginal skull and physiognomy camouflaged by my British Isles pallor, several men who "only like Latino guys" have found themselves attracted to green eyed whitey-white seeming me. Maybe it's pheromones.

One of those guys was a not tall, broad shouldered man with substantial fur suggested at his neck and the thick fore arms revealed by the pushed up sleeves of his tight thermal shirt. Rather than telling me I was "cute" he flattered me by saying that I had a well modulated voice, and should be in broadcasting. I'm sure I blushed. Later as I faced away from him searching for cast off socks and jeans in tangled bed clothes, he watched me from the next room through the open pocket doors. In a thick accent similar to but far more refined than my Mother's, he observed; "Frrrum dey bahk, jew look like a leetle boy." I turned and faced him. "Oh! But den jew turn arrround" he purred, And jew are a MAHNNN..." I smiled, because as he'd delightedly discovered only shortly before,
I'm not little.

I'm short.
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