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COUPLING

Short on Love

I'm a 5-foot-6 guy. And that makes me as sexy and appealing as Will Smith.

(Illustration by Kim Rosen)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Kerry Keene
May 25, 2008

The female radio DJ confirmed what had already been made abundantly clear over the years. Her between-song banter included the results of a survey that indicated height is the number one physical trait women seek in potential mates.

So there it is. Your status as an eligible bachelor is greatly enhanced if the object of your desire must tilt her head upward to look into your eyes. Work hard to develop a high degree of personal integrity; display a warm, kind, and likable personality; heck, join the Peace Corps or do extensive charity work to demonstrate your compassion for humankind - but none of these may attract a woman's attention more than having the great good sense to grow to 6-foot-2.

Now, there are certainly many men who are fixated on particular female physical qualities - but that is a topic for another column.

But I do wonder how many quality men have been disqualified from consideration, dismissed out of hand, for failing to meet the minimum vertical requirement. Despite being on the wrong side of 6 feet tall, I was extremely fortunate to find and ultimately marry a wonderful young lady of barely 5 feet who either did not place a high priority on height in a mate or, perhaps, viewed me as tall enough. Still, it is difficult not to look back and wonder if there were others, previous to meeting my wife, in whom I had serious interest who simply wrote me off due to this shortcoming. How differently might my life have turned out had I happened to grow several inches taller?

A woman I know named Shani, a 40-something hairdresser, is happily married to a man who's 5-foot-3, 2 inches shorter than she. A couple of Shani's female friends are avowed "heightists" with regard to men. "One of them is married to a guy who is 6-feet-2," Shani tells me, "and she's often poked fun at short guys in my presence, which is a little insensitive considering my situation. . . . She'll sort of laugh and say, `Did you see that girl's boyfriend? What's he, like, 5-6?' " Shani adds: "The other friend of mine - she's all about the look. In a way, for her, and I'm sure many others, it's like the guy on their arm is sort of a status symbol." As Shani indicates, for some it's a case of tacitly boasting to other women, "Hey, ladies - look what I caught!"

Many women develop a desire for a fairy-tale relationship - being swept off their feet by the handsome young man with Hollywood looks - at a young age. The Prince Charming figure in these fantasies is never 5-foot-7. Recently, a fifth-grade girl in Shani's daughter's school saw Shani and her husband together and commented to her later, "Your husband is shorter than you. It looks really weird." The 10-year-old continued, "When I get a husband, I'm going to make sure he's tall." Shani says she simply laughed it off, but thought to herself, "Sure, so what if he turns out to be a terrible match for you - at least he's tall!"

It would appear that this "shortism" is one of the unsavory remaining forms of commonly practiced and widely accepted discrimination. To be fair, men can be equally responsible for giving preference on the basis of height. Studies have shown that greater height can lead to more success and higher pay in the workplace. And, after all, it was Randy Newman who wrote and recorded the disparaging though comical ditty "Short People."

But with regard to romantic relationships, encouraging its demise seems a noble cause. It is only a matter of time before a major women's magazine proclaims "Short . . . it's the new tall!" Perhaps we can persuade more ladies to abandon their rather primitive desire for height in their men and give the short guys a closer look. We're not living in medieval times or the Old West. Women don't need a tall guy to protect them from the bad guys, and if they need to reach things on the top shelf, they should get a step stool.

Then maybe next we can deal with that fixation on men with a great head of hair.

Kerry Keene is a freelance writer in Raynham. Send comments to coupling@globe.com.

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