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Mara Altman Declares in Op-Ed for NYT: “There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be Short”

Courtesy of The New York Times
January 1, 2023

There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be Short

From where I stand — at five feet even — being tall is a widely held fantasy of superiority that long ago should have been retired.

It made sense to fawn over height when it facilitated survival. Ages ago, when the necessity of defending oneself cropped up daily, if not hourly, tall people could more easily protect their families and bring home some woolly rhino flank. Today, those who have the stamina to sit in an office chair all day bring home the plastic-wrapped meats.

There is an ongoing debate about the stature of a population and what it means for the prosperity and fairness of a nation, but I’m interested in shortness on an individual level. Our success as individuals does not depend on beating up other people or animals. Even if it did, in an era of guns and drones, being tall now just makes you a bigger target.

In “Size Matters,” the journalist Stephen S. Hall wrote that in the 18th century Frederick William of Prussia paid exorbitant sums to recruit “giant” soldiers from around the globe, institutionalizing “the desirability of height for the first time in a large, postmedieval society” and attaching tangible value to inches that would reverberate into modern times.

The echoes of these early human desires and biases have stuck in our minds like a particularly catchy marketing jingle, so much so that we vote for tall candidates assuming that they are better leaders and often choose tall people as partners with no definitive data that they make better spouses. John Kenneth Galbraith, the 6-foot-8-inch economist and diplomat, suggested that favoring the tall was “one of the most blatant and forgiven prejudices in our society.” Others go to extremes in pursuit of a few extra inches — more and more people are spending as much as $150,000 to get excruciating limb-lengthening surgeries, and parents give their healthy children growth hormone treatments with unknown side effects.

I know this because I was one of those children. As a preteen, I injected Humatrope into my thighs for three and a half years, at the behest of my parents, who feared I’d be alienated for being short. I understand why they felt that way, given how short people are treated in our society — a song with the lyric “Short people got no reason to live” was No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 just a few years before I was born.

Now I have twins who are among the smallest in their kindergarten class, but instead of preparing to medicate them because of an antiquated societal bias, I’m going to let them be as they are: tiny. Because short is better, and it is the future.

Read the full story here.