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The Mass Media

‘Short people got nobody:’ Being vertically challenged in America

In 1977, the beloved singer-songwriter Randy Newman—who for the record is nearly six feet tall [1]—released a highly disturbing song called “Short People.” It eventually reached number two on the U.S. singles charts [2], to the distress of short-statured people around the world.

“Short people got no reason to live,” Newman sings. “Short people got nobody to love.” He goes on to describe them as having “nasty little feet” and “grubby little fingers,” advocating for picking them up “just to say hello” and roundly declaring that we “don’t want no short people ‘round here.”

Now, the bridge of the song clearly states that the lyrics are ironic, meant to point out the ridiculousness of bigotry. But that’s not important, so let’s just ignore it.

What’s important is that such a vertically gifted songwriter would even dare to sing such horrible, heightist words. “Beady little eyes” is our phrase! Plus, since people barely listen to lyrics beyond catchy refrains, the popularity of the song clearly banks on the fact that people really do believe “short people got no reason to live” and that they “don’t want no short people ‘round here.”

It effectively shows how hard the vertically challenged have it in the U.S. today. As a man who stands at what is nonetheless a very respectable five feet six inches tall, I experience this every day. Everything is made to exclude us—cabinets are too high, our feet swing when we sit in chairs, clothes never fit right, and we are perpetually staring at the back of heads and shoulders at events.

Many of us are forced to live in a perpetual fantasy, stuck in the not-so-distant past where average height was much smaller [3]. We feel at home only in historical buildings or ships. The USS Constitution is probably one of my favorite places, since I get to see so many of those tall jerks bang their heads all over the ceiling while I stroll around without a care.

Shopping for clothes is probably the biggest fraught experience for us, filled with anger, doubt and humiliation. Most stores don’t carry anything less than an extra small or equivalent, and apparently U.S. clothing companies think that “extra small” means “emaciated giant.” My little body can only contain so much anger, and clothes shopping is almost too much for it.

As we browse the shelves, that anger inevitably turns to doubt. I often find myself going from store to store, moaning “they definitely won’t have my size” over and over again, like some depressing funeral dirge. And inevitably, it’s true.

Then comes the humiliation. You see, us shorts eventually have to decide between two options. Either we must browse the children’s section—which is obviously humiliating—or pay what I call the “short tax”—meaning that the price of a tailor is inevitably included with every purchase of clothes.

There are many other examples of this kind of thoughtless exclusion for us littles too. I spoke with Alex Berkowitz, fellow short person, and head of the UMass Boston Association for the Advancement of Vertically Challenged People—or UMBAAVCP for short—who has quite a bone to pick with Blue Bikes.

“Blue Bikes are the bane of my existence,” he told me. “Every single time I use them, I have to push the seat all the way down from the very top, and they always get stuck. Who are these designed for, Yao Ming??”

He also encouraged me to “encourage our vertically challenged brothers and sisters to conjure up the courage to join the courageous cause of UMBAAVCP.” I think this is a great cause, to courageously fight against the heightism of the incorrigible talls, and I do encourage all courageous students of short stature to seek them out.

And no, short people don’t always talk in rhyme. Don’t be heightist.

Obviously, there is much more to say about how the vertically challenged are excluded from “normal” society. Just because I can’t think of many right now doesn’t mean there’s not.

Evidently though, this is only a problem in the U.S. I spoke with Charan Reddy, our newest opinions writer, about this issue the other day and learned something shocking. Apparently, in India, where he’s from, every clothing store has an in-house tailor. You buy what is essentially a blank, then waddle over to the tailor to get a custom size, free of charge. In malls, there will be a tailor close by to all clothing stores.

Why is this not a thing in the U.S? Aren’t we desperate for jobs?

Anyway, it’s true that most people in the world are of shorter stature than Americans or even Europeans. The fact that clothes directly from India or China usually fit me perfectly backs this up. So, if you take that with the fact that most humans were short as hell throughout history, you’ll see that it’s not us who are strange; it’s all the tall freaks of today!

Now I know what some of you might say. “Being short is just a minor inconvenience.” “You’re overreacting.” “Why the hell do short people need an association?” “Heightism isn’t even real.” Well, screw you is what I say.

Some people may point at famous shorts, such as Paul Simon, Angus Young, Tom Cruise or David Miscavidge. But these are exceptions to the rule, I assure you, and we really don’t want to be associated with Tom and David for obvious reasons. Paul Simon and Angus Young are cool with us, though.

Also, Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t unusually short [4]. Stop spreading this lie. We don’t want to be associated with him either.

So, if you happen to identify as a short person, please reach out to UMBAAVCP—pronounced either “um-BAH-vv-CUH-pf” or “yoo-em-bee-double ey-vee-see-pee”—as soon as possible. Us shorties need to unite in force if we want to see change happen in this country. We cannot continue to abide the humiliation and exclusion we face every day. We have to end the rampant heightism in the U.S., and we have to do it on short notice.





About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor