When I was 15-years-old, I was diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome — a chromosomal condition that affects development in females. I have been petite my whole life.
At an adult height of 4 feet, 6 inches, I have heard nearly every myth, slur, joke and question about being a little person. And just this past winter while I was out shopping, I was asked multiple times (and even followed out of the store!) if I was an “official” little person.
It was that day when I realized there are a lot of things that average-sized people don’t know about little people — things that all those reality shows and slapstick comedies can't teach them.
Here are 10 things I’d like everyone to know:
1. We are just as intelligent as average-sized people.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth reminding: our bodies are smaller, but our brainpower is not. I remember a doctor telling me that many girls with Turner’s Syndrome have difficulty in school and never go to college, and that I should consider working in a daycare and caring for children.
But I didn’t let that discourage me. There are many highly intelligent little people in this world who excel in higher education and choose professional or academic careers. Today I hold two Master’s degrees and teach French at the college level.
2. We can drive cars.
If I had a dime for every time I have been asked if I am able to drive, I could buy a tank of gas! I personally favor small cars with large back windows for visibility — I've had several Volkswagen Jettas and currently drive a Mazda 3 Hatchback, for instance. But with the help of tools like pedal extensions and seat cushions, we can actually drive any car we desire.
3. We don't want the kid's menu.
We may be tiny, but our stomachs are just as big as yours. So in an effort to control our weight, we may eat less than we’d like — just like you do. I’ve often heard, “Oh it must be so nice to be able to eat small portions,” or “You're small, so you must not eat much,” and every single time I’ve wanted to throw a roll at them.
4. We can drink alcohol.
For some reason people seem to think that the small stature of a little person means they get intoxicated easily, or cannot drink at all. Again, this is simply not the case! Many little people in fact have a very high tolerance for alcohol. In college I could out-drink most of my average-sized male friends.
5. We don’t always want your help.
Of course just like anyone else, there are times that we would like your help. But we are very capable of asking for it when we need it. However, there are other times when I am just fine climbing the shelves at the grocery store to reach that bottle of soda on the top shelf on my own.
6. We do not only wear children’s clothes.
While sometimes it is great to be able to save a few pennies and wear a children’s size L.L. Bean coat or pair of Danskos, many little people can wear women’s size tops and chose to alter the pants to the appropriate length. I am particularly fond of buying capri style pants of my favorite brands, which fit me just fine as full-length pants.
7. We are deceptively strong.
Our arms and legs may be shorter, but many little people are extremely muscular. I can do a headstand, shovel snow and perform almost any activity that an average-sized person does. I am also a yoga teacher.
8. We are not “cute.”
We may be child-sized, but we are adults and deserve to be treated as such. We do not need to be spoken to in a baby voice, pat on the head, and for goodness sakes don’t tell us how “cute” we are.
This also includes my least favorite — being picked up. We can speak to you and even hug you, without being picked up. And trust me, there is nothing scarier or more infantilizing than being unexpectedly scooped up off the ground without your consent!
9. We do not all have a Napoleon complex.
This myth, which takes its name from the French emperor, has been used to describe aggressive behavior by people of short stature. I have been accused of having a big mouth, but this has nothing to do with my size.
Rather than assuming the behavior is compensating for a short height, call it what it is: A confident and independent little person standing up for themselves.
10. We can have sex with average-sized people.
Although walking alongside or kissing an average-sized person may be challenging sometimes, I have dated men over six feet tall without any difficulty. In fact my husband is over a foot taller than I am! Little people have all the same parts that you do and once you’re horizontal, lining things up is no more difficult than it is for the average-sized person.
Photo courtesy of the author