Brian Edwards Media

Short People Are Just The Same As You And I

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I’m beginning to feel just a little bit sorry for the President of France. Poor Mr Sarkozy, France’s answer to Ronnie Corbett, is only 5’6″. There, you see, while pretending sympathy, I’m already making an unflattering comparison. But my sympathy is actually genuine. I do feel sorry for him. Being a short man is difficult enough, but being the short leader of a great country is an intolerable imposition.

You can see it clearly enough in the photograph of the French President with his wife Carla Bruni (5’9″), Michelle Obama (5’11”) and Barack Obama (6’2″). It’s not just that you can draw a perfectly straight downhill line from the top of the American President’s head, via the tops of Michelle and Carla’s heads, to the top of Nicolas’s head.   It’s not just that Nicolas is so obviously on tippy toes.  It’s the desperation in his face and the raised hand which seems to be saying, “Hello. Can you see me? I’m down here. Look at me please. Please look at me.” I find this a very sad picture. 

And then there are the rumours and accusations: that he wears built up shoes; that he stands on a box behind the podium when he gives a speech; that his aides select short people to stand beside him during photo ops. Tragic.

But I’m really pleased I’m not short. When I was at school, I was the tallest boy in my form. There’s a photo of me on a class trip to Paris. We’re standing in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Picture courtesy of celebrated photographer Ivan Strahan

Picture courtesy of celebrated photographer Ivan Strahan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s me second from left adopting a rather camp pose. If people asked me how tall I was, I always gave the same answer: six feet. I was lying. I was 5 foot 11¾. What’s the difference between 5 foot 11¾ and six feet? Respect.

Well, it was in those days. You couldn’t get into the cops if you weren’t six feet.  Which must have meant that, at 5 foot 11¾,  you were less of a man. So I always said I was six feet tall.

I observed too that girls preferred taller guys. Six foot rats got more girls than really nice guys struggling to make 5’9″.

The news has got worse for short guys with the proliferation over the last decade of generally pointless “research studies” on everything from whether people are more likely to hand in a purse or wallet they find in the street if it has a photograph of the owner’s wife, children or pet, to whether tall men are more successful in romance, business and politics. Generally, the studies tell us, they are. It’s difficult to be an alpha male at five foot eight.

Being tall probably is an advantage for aspiring male politicians. We’ve had several short Prime Ministers in New Zealand, including Keith Holyoake, Bill Rowling and Rob Muldoon. Holyoake was both helped and hindered by the advent of television in the early 60s. Television tends to make people look larger, especially in studio interviews, which benefited the rotund Holyoake who was really surprisingly short when you met him in person. But he had no idea how to handle the new medium.

Muldoon and Rowling were both extremely short men. But Rowling had the additional disadvantage of a light, reedy, tenor voice which, combined with his height, gave a (quite misleading) impression of weakness. Muldoon who, in a physical as well as a metaphorical sense, came across larger than life on television, beat him hands down in three elections.  

Muldoon was in turn beaten by the much taller (and wider) David Lange. Short, unpleasant man versus tall, friendly, funny, fat man – no contest.

“Catch 22″ for successful short men is that their success is often regarded or even dismissed as a negative by-product of their height, as a personality complex brought on by feelings of inadequacy and expressed as excessive ambition, power tripping and a false sense of their own superiority or sexual attractiveness: small man, big car; short man syndrome; Napoleon complex. (Think Captain Mainwaring.) The substantial lexicon of terms to describe this phenomenon is itself evidence of deep-seated social prejudice against short men.

So too are the lyrics of Randy Newman’s wonderful song Short People:

Short people got no reason
Short people got no reason
Short people got no reason
To live

They got little hands
Little eyes
They walk around
Tellin’ great big lies
They got little noses
And tiny little teeth
They wear platform shoes
On their nasty little feet

Well, I don’t want no short people
Don’t want no short people
Don’t want no short people
‘Round here

Newman was over 6 feet himself and was pilloried for what some saw as a cruel parody on the physical attributes and personalities of short people. But it seems to me to express perfectly the irrational prejudice that is heightism. 

A very close friend of mine, a highly successful businessman who is both short and bald has told me of the discrimination and occasional abuse he suffered in his early career on the part of prospective employers. It was, he says, both painful and scarring. He’s the boss himself now. And a nicer or less “Napoleonic” guy you couldn’t hope to meet.

So, in spite of his being President of France and married to a gorgeous model, I’m beginning to feel just a little bit sorry for Nicolas Sarkozy. If I were his advisor, I’d tell him to stop trying to look taller. It just makes him seem smaller. After all:

Short people are just the same
As you and I
(A fool such as I)
All men are brothers
Until the day they die
(It’s a wonderful world)

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18 Comments:

  1. Hey, Mr Sarkozy may be a small man, but he’s “big” where it matters most to Carla, if you know what I mean.

    • Hey, Mr Sarkozy may be a small man, but he’s “big” where it matters most to Carla, if you know what I mean.

      I know what you mean. What intrigues me is how you know it.

  2. As a short woman (155cm, or 5′ 3/4″ in old money) I am intrigued by the short man issue. Because, believe me, being a short woman is difficult enough, but at least if I can’t reach something high on a supermarket shelf people find it endearing if I ask a passerby would they mind getting it for me. I can’t imagine the same reaction if a short man asked for help. And yes, it is true, even with my lack of height, my first reaction to very short men in terms of attraction is not flattering. But I’m talking very short (as in, approaching my height) – 5′ 6″ would seem perfectly adequate!

    • As a short woman (155cm, or 5′ 3/4″ in old money) I am intrigued by the short man issue.

      Yes, that’s interesting, Ashley. Judy, who is a bit taller than you, has similar probems with things on high shelves. But she says it’s a wonderful way to meet gallant tall men. In general, I don’t think men are prejudiced against short women. But there may well be a prejudice against tall women. An ego thing, no doubt, and part of poor Monsieur Sarkozy’s problem. A short man with a tall woman on his arm attracts negative attention. Not so a tall man with a gorgeous 5’3″ on his arm.

  3. Tut tut Brian, “You and Me” in that title please.

    • Tut tut Brian, “You and Me” in that title please.

      Tut tut, Phil. Wouldn’t it be presumption bordering on arrogance for me to change the lyrics of Randy Newman’s song. And, tut tut again, Phil. ‘as you and me’ is common usage certainly, but ‘as you and I’ is also grammatically correct. Check out Fowler’s Modern English Usage, the grammarian’s bible under ‘as’. The ‘I’ is really anticipating the verb ‘are’. ‘…as you and I are’ or ‘…as you are and I am’.

  4. “I observed too that girls preferred taller guys. Six foot rats got more girls than really nice guys struggling to make 5′9″.”

    Way to takes me back to Uni in two sentences Mr Edwards. Things are much better now.

    “Muldoon who, in a physical as well as a metaphorical sense, came across larger than life on television, beat him hands down in three elections.”

    Only under First Past the Post. Labour under Rowling picked up more votes than National under Muldoon in both 1978 and 1981.

    • “I observed too that girls preferred taller guys. Six foot rats got more girls than really nice guys struggling to make 5′9″.”

      You’re quite right about the three elections being conducted under FPP. However, Rowling’s stature and voice were undoubtedly an impediment to Labour. Had Kirk not died, the result of the ’75 election would certainly have been different. The ’72 election was effectively fought out between Kirk and Muldoon. Kirk won by a landslide (under FPP)

  5. BE: “What intrigues me is how you know it”.
    Be less intrigued and more impressed.

    • BE: “What intrigues me is how you know it”. Be less intrigued and more impressed.

      I might be impressed if I knew how you can refer with such authority to the size of Sarkozy’s manhood.

  6. Adolf Hitler was only 5’8″, and Mussolini, churchill and stalin were only 5’6″ which presumably means that it helps to get ahead in the world if you are a short a**se, which all goes to explain why you are running this blog rather than running the country:)

    • Adolf Hitler was only 5′8″, and Mussolini, churchill and stalin were only 5′6″ which presumably means that it helps to get ahead in the world if you are a short a**se, which all goes to explain why you are running this blog rather than running the country:)

      Too tall, eh? Could be. Though I should perhaps add that I have known some powerful people in television administration who did seem to be compensating for their lack of height.

  7. I think it was Kingsley Amis who said “Outside every thin girl there’s a short fat man trying to get in.”

    I was personally successful in this regard only once, but from my years of lurking in the shadows I observed that the RD Muldoon you mention had a greater strike rate, so to speak…

    Perhaps there’s a sociologist somewhere keen to establish the mathematical correlation between a lack of height, an excess of girth, the presence of power, and an unlimited supply of charm.

    For my part, it is enough to console myself with the thought that a score of three out of four isn’t bad.

    • I think it was Kingsley Amis who said “Outside every thin girl there’s a short fat man trying to get in.”

      Thank you William. I also recalling seeing RD Muldoon at some of Bob Jones’ excellent parties, sitting on a couch, surrounded by young and very beautiful women. I had difficulty putting this down to his looks or charisma. A more probable explanation was to be found in the adage that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”.

  8. BE: “I might be impressed if I knew how you can refer with such authority to the size of Sarkozy’s manhood”

    “Manhood”? What?! All I’m saying is, that he is blessed with a warm and generous nature. And what he lacks in height, he more than makes up with his “big” heart. And that’s what matters most to Carla.

    • “Manhood”? What?! All I’m saying is, that he is blessed with a warm and generous nature. And what he lacks in height, he more than makes up with his “big” heart. And that’s what matters most to Carla.

      Well, that’s good then.

  9. I’m sure I read somewhere that the average height of a English male when they came to NZ was 5’4″, (and the average height of a Maori male was 6’2″).

    These ‘short’ Englishmen ‘conquered the world’, so attitude must be everything? Mind you, the women back then were generally well under 5’in height.

    Personally, I believe that a person your own size is best … all the important bits are at an equal height … and you can share clothes … and it’s easier to share/carry loads.

    Short men don’t continually bang their heads, they have better circulation, generally have stronger backs and are more supple, they don’t complain about ‘leg room’ all the time or how low the sink is, and they gobble up less of the world’s protein.

    There is simply nothing worse than a big man bearing an assumed superiority and a bad attitude. To hell with media driven fashion preferences, a good guy is a good guy – no matter what he looks like.
    Come on folks, let’s hear three cheers for good natured short bald smokers! ;-)

  10. Little Toot: Come on folks, let’s hear three cheers for good natured short bald smokers! ;-

    Yeah, why not? Why go for a Brad Pitt, when there’s a Danny DeVito waiting in the wings.