DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to the "Anonymous Girl in North Dakota," a fifth-grader who said she is teased because she's "really short." My 10th-grade daughter was in the same boat, always the tiniest and suffering from comments made not only by other kids, but by adults as well.
Please let "Anonymous Girl's" parents know they should see a pediatric endocrinologist as quickly as possible. Their daughter may be a candidate for treatment with HGH (human growth hormone), which many insurance companies have recently allowed as a pharmaceutical deduction rather than a medical expense, making treatment much more affordable. Time is of the essence! Once the growth plates close, the window of opportunity also closes. For children who do not produce enough growth hormone, the treatment is a medical necessity. -- JERI IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
DEAR JERI: Thank you for an important letter. I did not realize that the solution to the girl's problem might be solved by medical intervention. Her letter generated comments from many readers who wanted to help. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Please let that young girl in on a secret. The kids who tease her are not making fun of her because she's short. They do it because they're worried someone is going to find a reason to make fun of THEM. They're trying to make themselves look good by making her look bad. When I was in fifth grade, I was made fun of for being tall. By focusing attention on someone else, they deflect criticism from themselves. -- MANDY IN COLORADO
DEAR MANDY: You've hit the nail on the head.
DEAR ABBY: The girl who's teased should give a big laugh and say, "I like to think of myself as perfection in miniature!" It worked for me. -- SUZANNE IN SEATTLE
DEAR ABBY: The child in North Dakota should know that the Greek philosopher, Aristocles, was very short, too. His nicknames were "Shorty" or "Flatty." We know him today as Plato. -- FRANCIS A. BURKLE-YOUNG, GETTYSBURG COLLEGE
DEAR ABBY: An interviewer asked a short-statured man how he felt being surrounded by people taller than he. His reply was priceless: "Like a dime among pennies." -- CATHERINE IN TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: Please tell that girl to get involved in competitive cheerleading or gymnastics. In either sport, small size can be an advantage. In cheerleading, the smallest girls get to be the "fliers," the ones who are tossed in the air or at the top of the stunts. This is true of my daughter. It has boosted her confidence. She now views her height as an asset rather than a liability. -- MOTHER IN S.E. TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: The plea from the child in North Dakota touched my heart. I, too, have always been short. My defense was to become an achiever in class and in athletics. (I later became a doctor.) The best response to people who tease should be, "That's the way God made me, and I do the best I can with what I was given." Detractors have a difficult time fielding that response. -- ALBERT IN VERO BEACH, FLA.
DEAR ABBY: My daughter had the same problem. Finally she looked at her tormentor and said, "Yes, I am short. I'm also sweet, cute, bright and a good friend. I am also finished talking to you about things that are out of my control. You're boring me!" And she walked away. The girl never bothered her again. -- PROUD MOM IN HONOLULU
DEAR PROUD MOM: Which proves there is no defense like a strong offense. (Thank you to everyone who wrote. "Shortness" of space is a frustrating reality I can't ignore.)
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)