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Ask Amy: My co-workers keep commenting on how ‘petite’ I am

Dear Readers: Every year I step away from my column for two weeks to work on other creative projects. (Anyone interested in my personal essays and photographs can subscribe to my free newsletter: amydickinson.substack.com).

I hope you enjoy these “Best of” columns from 10 years ago. Today’s topic: “Height Challenges.”

Dear Amy: I am petite. While it would be great to be a foot taller, I have accepted that it isn’t going to happen.

I am a middle-school teacher. Students often comment on my stature because many of them are taller than I am. I know how to respond to a student, but I’m at a loss on how to respond to my co-workers, many of whom I do not know very well.

Several times a year, someone will tap me on the shoulder to tell me that he thought I was a student. I realize it's natural for people to think things like this, but I think it's rude to share that thought with me.

I can take a good-natured joke from someone I am good friends with, but when an acquaintance or total stranger says this to me, it is bothersome.

Some of them even ask for my height, which I think is as rude as asking someone their weight. I don’t know how to reply.

— Petite

Petite: I agree that your colleagues should not behave like schoolchildren. It is not appropriate to comment on people’s bodies. However, your views (and mine, as a fellow petite person) are immaterial when it comes to tolerating a reaction brought on by a condition you cannot change.

Silently nodding might convey a fairly neutral reaction that also says, “Yep. Here we are. Again.”

When someone outright asks your height, the quickest way out is to simply tell them, without starting a conversation. You will make more progress in retraining yourself — rather than educating other people to behave differently. (February 2012)

Dear Amy: I had a petite teacher who was also very attractive. She would usually answer questions about her height by using a line from a routine by Groucho Marx: “I am well over 4 feet!”

— Jim

Jim: I will be using this line frequently myself, now. Thank you. (March 2012)

Dear Amy: I am petite and was also a middle-school teacher. I watched my students start off shorter than I was and grow way taller.

When they came back to school after the summer, they always commented on how “short I had become.” It was a reason to joke, and I enjoyed it.

— Also Petite

Petite: Your willingness to be a good-humored human yardstick for your students tells me you were in the right profession.

Dear Amy: A few months ago, I started talking to a woman I met through a mutual friend of ours. I’m 24 and she’s 22.

We really hit it off. What was a casual friendship seems to be heading in another direction.

The only thing is that she’s 6 feet tall and I’m 5-foot-8. This isn’t an issue for me, but it concerns her. She talks about how she wants to get past it, but it’s stuck in her head. Any advice on how I could help her?

— Too Short Guy

Guy: Do nothing. It is her issue to get over, and she either will — or she won’t. You cannot and should not do anything differently. I will tell you this: True love knows no height. The day may come when she realizes she stopped noticing how tall she is. It would be nice if you were standing next to her then. (August 2012)

Dear Amy: I’m a 5-foot-9-inch woman, and it amazes me to hear how many people have a thing about height: The guy always “has” to be taller.

I've had my fill over the years of men who didn't want me to wear heels, wanted me to hunch a bit while walking, etc., and for every insecure short man, there seems to be three women who are just as stubborn.

My husband is 5 feet 5 inches tall, and I couldn’t love him more. It takes a confident, secure man to proudly hold a taller woman on his arm. He might be short, but he has a huge heart.

— BJW

BJW: Legendary chef Julia Child was 6 feet 2 inches tall. Her devoted husband, Paul, was a more average height: 5 feet 9 inches. I have heard from many such “mismatched” couples who report that they are perfectly happy. (September 2012)

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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