By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Like it or not, human beings have a tendency to define and describe one another in terms of their looks.
She’s the blonde with the big blue eyes, he’s the bald guy with the crooked grin, she’s the cute one with the dimples, he’s the tough-looking one with a scar on his cheek.
We see people in terms of color (of skin, eyes and hair), of size (heavy or thin) and of height (tall or short).
It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of skin color and considered insensitive to criticize someone based on their weight. But height seems to have fallen through the cracks somehow.
Randy Newman, in his 1997 hit song “Short People,” allowed as how he “don’t want no short people ’round here.”
Studies show short people make less money, have more trouble finding a mate and are less likely to be elected to public office.
Some notable figures in history were vertically challenged. Napoleon Bonaparte was short, as were Ludwig van Beethoven, Humphrey Bogart, Andrew Carnegie, Mahatma Ghandi, J.R.R. Tolkien, Pablo Picasso and George “Baby Face” Nelson.
Abe Lincoln was our tallest president at 6-foot-4, while James Madison, at 5-foot-4, was our shortest.
But we can thank James Polk, who stood 5-foot-8, for the tune “Hail to the Chief,” coming into widespread use as the official tribute to the chief executive.
Because of Polk’s size his wife, Sarah, feared he would go unnoticed when he walked into a crowded room. So she asked the Marine Band to play the song to announce her hubby’s arrival.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average man over 20 years old in the United States is just over 5 feet 9 inches tall, while the average American woman is a little over 5-foot-4.
And that is as it should be, at least when it comes to romance, according to a study conducted by researchers at a Dutch university.
Groningen University in the Netherlands studied the parents of nearly 19,000 babies born in the United Kingdom in 2000. They found that in more than nine out of 10 couples, the man was taller than the women by an average of about 5.5 inches. That is too frequent for it simply to be happenstance.
The study found the couples liked things this way, with the man taller and the woman shorter.
My bride and I fit this general pattern. I am several inches taller than she.
It works out well for us, in fact it helps give me a heightened sense of purpose, so to speak. I am the designated retriever of things from high places, the stacker of cans on tall kitchen shelves, the fetcher of shoes from the top of her closet, the dispatcher of spiders clinging from the ceiling, the changer of light bulbs in elevated fixtures.
It makes me feel needed. Not that she couldn’t do all those things herself, mind you. We have stepstools and I even bought her a folding kitchen stool several years ago, but she continues to call on me, and for that I am grateful.
There are no dragons to slay these days, at least not in these parts, no duels to fight in defense of lady’s honor, so this is as close as I will ever get to rescuing a damsel in distress. In fact it makes me feel positively 6 feet tall.
Our height difference has never been much of an issue in our relationship, though it did come up early on.
First kisses are sometimes awkward and often awesome, but always memorable. Ours was more on the awkward side than awesome, but my utterance in the immediate aftermath of our initial lock lip elevated the occasion to the unforgettable category.
“Gee you’re short,” I said. OK, so it wasn’t exactly a love sonnet, but it was all I could come up with at short notice and I have, in fact, found living it down no small feat.
It’s a miracle she stuck with me after that. That in itself was a tall order.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.