DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a tiny woman. Not short enough to be a member of any protected class, but let’s just say I am not uncomfortable in the coach seats on an airplane.
Occasionally, my height fascinates people to a degree that makes me uncomfortable. I once had a large man chase me out of a store and across the parking lot demanding I tell him how tall I am. I felt I had your blessing to berate him for scaring me, so I did, and it felt good.
But mainly, Miss Manners, it is such a dreadfully boring subject. Why should anyone, least of all me, want to discuss my height? Having studied your teachings all my life, I thought it was considered declasse to critique people’s bodies and unalterable physical characteristics, but people who have never met me and will never see me again feel quite comfortable demanding my vital statistics.
Of course I have a supply of “humorous” responses for the people who mean no harm: “Why do you ask? Is there a rollercoaster around here somewhere?” But Miss Manners, I am so weary and bored, and I am starting to question these people’s intelligence.
A typical conversation with a stranger approaching me, as I mind my own business in a public space, is: “Wow, you’re so tiny.” “Yes, I am.” “I mean, you are really tiny!” “Yep.” And that loop repeats until I can excuse myself and walk away.
To make matters worse, I rarely wear heels and my boyfriend is tall. This seems to be a real sticking point that people want to talk about, and it’s just so rude and stupid. People have even suggested that because of my height, this wonderful man I love should not be with me.
I can’t control what other people say and think, and I don’t need to “put anyone in their place.” I would never intentionally meet rudeness with rudeness. Am I just living in the wrong town, amongst the wrong people? Do I need to move to a country with a shorter populace? Must I grin and bear this forever? Is this just how people are?
GENTLE READER: Pointing out the obvious is unfortunately a universal human trait -- and your moving locations is not likely to change that.
The next time someone comments on your height, Miss Manners recommends that you produce a mysterious smile and say, “Actually, I am not nearly as tiny as you think.” This will at least plunge the silly questioner into confusion until you can make a getaway.