Friday, April 27, 2007

Don't sell these people short

I never know which columns might tweak a nerve somewhere "out there." One I did earlier this month on short shoppers and tall store shelves was apparently one of them.

It came about because of a determined woman named Grace Jamerson, who marched into our office one day and said she was passing around a petition to present to local department and grocery stores asking them not to stock merchandise in places where only professional basketball players or supermodels could reach it.

"This may not seem like a big deal to you," she said, eyeing my 6-foot-1 length suspiciously, "but it is to me."

Where the petition went from there, I'm not sure -- but shortly (no pun intended) after the column appeared, I received several e-mails commending Ms. Jamerson (who is 5-foot-1, incidentally) for her activism.

One of those came from Christopher Hamre, vice president of the New York-based National Association of Short Statured Adults. He took issue with my writing that Grace Jamerson "admitted" to being 5-foot-1.

"Being short isn't a criminal act or a fault that someone needs to admit to," he said in the e-mail.

He did thank me for bringing this issue to the attention of the world (or, at least, Central Virginia) and referred me to the NOSSA Website.

"The National Organization of Short Statured Adults or NOSSA," I read there, "is a non-profit organization of men 5 foot 7 inches and below and women 5 foot 2 inches and below in height. NOSSA is a united organization of short men and women from around the globe, promoting the message of self-empowerment for all of its members, providing a supportive environment in which to share experiences, and committed to opposing heightism in society. Heightism is based on the belief that short-statured people are inferior and undesirable."

Napolean Bonaparte would have taken exception to that premise, certainly. And so would John Smith, the heroic figure of Jamestown, who was only a little taller than Grace Jamerson.

My Dad, meanwhile, was right around the upper limits of NOSSA size. When he went off to service in World War II, he was taller than my 18-year-old mother. When he returned, she had put on a growth spurt and passed him. I don't think he ever got over it.

Some studies have shown that we tend to elect candidates and hire job applicants who are taller than their competitors. There's also the issue of bullying in school, a practice often inflicted upon short people. NOSSA wants to address that.

The two-year-old organization has also condemned the use of Human Growth Hormone on otherwise healthy children just to coax a couple of inches out of them.

If they need a national spokesperson, I'd like to recommend one -- Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, who starred in the National Basketball Association despite his 5-foot-3 stature.

In the meantime, my former co-worker Mitzi Bible takes a practical approach to the problem when she goes shopping.

"When I can't reach something," Mitzi said, "I just ask a taller person to get it for me. I've never been turned down."


Lee Ware said...

I'm vertically challenged, too. I'm probably 5'3" on a good day. Being short also gives you short arms and legs, so it's hard to reach for items across the opposite side of a salad bar. I end up having to bend under the protective shield that's above them. When I sit in many chairs, my feet don't touch the floor.
I do understand the problem about the items placed so high on the shelves in the stores. I've been known to stand on the bottom shelf, but now I just try to take my son who at 16 is 6'3", or my husband, whom we can assume has stopped growing, at 6'6".
My husband and I have a different, but related problem in the stores. Maybe we should circle a petiton. He gets upset because he loses me. He says the shelves are so tall that he can't see me because I'm so short. I actually like to lose him in the stores so
I can actually shop...!

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