Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thoughts from On High

I have a confession to make: I am petrified of heights. Actually, I kind of love heights but I often get vertigo when I'm up high and that can be very scary. The only thing that trumps those fears is my fear of ladders. I fell off a very tall one as a kid and since then they make me really nervous. This is compounded by a string of ladder-related accidents in my family involving broken bones and emergency room visits. I don't have many fears that I haven't manage to conquer or at least relieve, but the ladder thing seems insurmountable.

The problem is, at 5' tall, I really need ladders. My boyfriend and I live in a tiny 2-bedroom rental apartment with high ceilings and have a LOT of stuff (mostly mine) so we are constantly trying to create and utilize all kinds of storage. We have tall shelving units and some cubbies up near the ceiling that we use for items that are seasonal or rarely needed. It's the perfect solution except that I always seem to need things from up there when he's not home!

I hate being dependent on him for anything but love and affection. I really do. Even when he is home I'd rather just get things down for myself and feel guilty when I have to ask him for help. On the other hand, I'd rather avoid using a ladder and those should be held by a helper, anyway.

The end result is that every time I need to get something down I go through a minor crisis moment. Such a waste of time and mental energy, but I can't help it.

Someday I'll have my dream kitchen, with those step stools that hide in the kickboards and maybe even those racks that bring upper shelf contents right down to you. Someday I'll have bookshelves with fixed ladders (at least I know they are unlikely to crash, so maybe they'd be less scary) that roll along, like in movies and fancy houses. Every time I find a new way to make high things more accessible I file it in an interior design journal I keep.

For now, though, I just need to find a way to make everyday life a little less full of fear. Find a way to make my palms stay dry while handling fragile items on a ladder, a way to make the dizziness dissipate.

At this moment, I need to dig out the ladder and grab my glass pitcher so I can make some iced tea. This should not be this difficult!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ann Taylor

I must take a moment to sing the praises of Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft. Are their clothes for everyone? No. However, as I hit my 30s I realized that it was time for my look to grow up yet I don't want to age myself, particularly important as I am a businesswoman who looks very young. The trouble with most petites, at least in my experience, is most brands seem to make them for girls under 25 and women over 50. Amazing how so many companies never bothered to think that those customers would spend, um, about 25 YEARS between those styles.

A long time ago my father dragged me into an Ann Taylor store and it was actually a little frustrating because it was the first time I found even a few pieces that actually fit off the rack but I was too young at the time to want to dress in those styles. Most petites seem to be designed for mutants or something, but theirs were in proportion and it was a revelation! They also were flattering, not just shrunken versions of designs that would only flatter a woman of 5'8" and up but designs that at least attempted to disguise flaws and highlight qualities.

A couple of years ago my boyfriend got a new job around the corner from an Ann Taylor Loft store and he really liked a dress in their window, so he decided to surprise me with it. It fit perfectly, like it was custom made, and made me feel red-carpet ready even though it was hardly an expensive piece. It was also perfectly age-appropriate and managed to be sexy enough for fun but conservative enough to wear to practically any event. I figured it was a fluke.

Boy, was I mistaken!

Since then, my wardrobe has been slowly taken over by clothes from both echelons of their stores. The Loft jeans fit perfectly (I think any woman can understand how wonderful of a find that is!) and I'm particularly enamored by the ones that are cut just like suit pants as I can look perfectly professional in comfy denim (my favorites are a gorgeous charcoal color that looks almost like very good wool). Many of the tops are perfect for day-to-evening wear, very handy. The most important thing as far as style, though, is these clothes make me give off just the impressions I would like to right now. I get a lot of compliments without making much of an effort, too!

I'm sure my tailor is disappointed, since not one item from those stores has needed alteration yet, but I'm just thrilled. There are other stores with designs I prefer in many cases but it's hard to argue with fit!

The only complaint I have, though, is that my jeans and pants from two years ago are 0s while ones from this year are 00s, which is a little freaky for me. I don't care for now, but I'm pleading with the fashion gods to just let the sizes be! Will they make a 000 in the future or will I be thoroughly out of luck if they are made even bigger?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On the Other Hand...

I just finished the last post on how hard it is for us short folks to get a job and get paid fairly and thought I should follow it up with some good news, at least for short women. While researching employment statistics I found a lot of numbers on marriage that were pretty cool. Well, at least if you are a short woman who wants to marry! I'm not, but most women do have that as a goal, right?

Statistically, short women actually have a much higher rate of marriage than above-average height women. Of course, it helps if you are considered attractive (surprise, surprise), but overall, we've got it good. It seems that men are not as media-duped as many of us thought into wanting supermodels (in fact, even the men I've known who DO want supermodels admit they prefer a little more weight and less height in an actual partner). Sure, there are lots of men with lots of different tastes, but overall they consider petite women to be good candidates for mating.

Thank biological imperative once again, at least in theory. Women who are short often reach sexual maturity sooner than taller women, making us desirable breeders. Remember, this is not about our culture and when we want to have children, but nature's way of making us want to keep our species going through selective breeding.

I have my own theory, although it is based on absolutely nothing but noticing the heights of the couples I know, see on the streets, or even in the celebrity gossip rags: We are clearly trying to get taller as a species. Average-height people seem to choose average-height mates quite often, whereas tall people have a tendency to choose shorter mates. Every man I personally know over 6' tall is with a petite woman, every man I know who is under that height is with an average-to-slightly-tall woman. Average height people don't need to raise their children's heights yet, so it's okay to stick with average. As I said, I have no special training or authority on this subject, but it seems to make sense considering we KNOW people have gotten taller all over the world. Just visit any colonial village or medieval castle (or even just a Victorian home), it doesn't take a lot of numbers to show the difference over the past few centuries!

So, while short men clearly get screwed in this equation, this is a blog mainly for short women, so I'm just glad to find positive news for us in a sea of depressing stats. At least there is one real advantage to being our size!

Ramblings on Employment

I have been hearing for a very long time about height discrimination in hiring. Trying to research this subject is difficult, as very few employers would ever admit to discrimination in this (or any) area and it's likely that quite a few people who are guilty of it don't even realize that they are actually biased (at least, I'd like to think that's the case). However, there are a few studies done in the U.S. and Britain that show a scary pattern.

The odd thing I found, though, is there is a lot of writing about how much more affected short men are than women, some even go so far as to say there is no height discrimination for women in the workplace, the only physical factor affecting hirability is obesity. However, I've been reading numbers from studies over the past few days and they tell a very different story. Short women who are considered attractive and are not obese do a lot better than short women who are unattractive and/or obese, to be sure, but there are still hiring and pay disparities that seems to be based solely on stature. Add in the still-normal difference between the genders in the job arena and it becomes even scarier.

The question is, how do you solve this? I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of adding legal protection specifically in this area, as it's easy to see that we could become just a society of protected groups, which can create reverse-discrimination that is just as damaging. On the other hand, this is just as unfair as any other form of discrimination based on something that a job candidate simply can't hide. If anything, height is the hardest thing to fake since people do notice the measures one can take, such as the height of one's shoes.

The only way to get rid of physical factors contributing to hiring seems to be to remove all physical contact until the employee is chosen, but that would mean abandoning the practice of interviewing, which would remove the ability to make a decision based on more than resume and references or skill tests (depending on the sort of job). That would also be dangerous, as a new hire's ability to fit into the culture of a company is very hard to judge without a chance to meet and that is one of the greatest factors in whether an employee will stick with that job and be at their best, productivity-wise.

Changing the public perception of height is more difficult than many other areas, as it is linked to our biological urge to get taller as a species. We are not just conditioned to admire the tall but are actually wired that way, particularly when it comes to men. Still, there is no correlation between ability to do most modern jobs (i.e. office or service jobs as opposed to hard physical labor) and stature. What we need are some role models of success who are not considered megalomaniacs and are not ignored by the media. It may be a very long time before we see that.

Fun fact: Did you know that Napoleon, perhaps the most famous short man in history, wasn't short? At 5'7" he was actually taller than average for France at the time. So much for the Napoleon complex!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Forgotten Size

Let me get the obvious out of the way right off the bat: Americans are getting larger. The obesity epidemic is all over the news, the average shoe size for women is growing, and there are a lot of people doing important work in helping girls realize that all sizes can be beautiful and there is no one-size-fits-all in fashion OR in bodies themselves. I firmly agree, anyone can be beautiful and there is a point where you have to accept your body type. Everyone should try to be healthy and that means something completely different for different people.

However, there is a group of people who have been completely forgotten because of these trends. There are still a LOT of naturally small women, petite in every way, who are getting a little bit abused by the American fashion industry.

I'm 5'0" and hover around 95 lbs. My BMI is in the normal range and my doctors have always told me 95-97 is my ideal weight range because my frame is tiny. There was a time when I could walk into stores and fit pretty well into an off-the-rack size 4 (3 or 5 in juniors, depending on the cut), unfortunately, that was 20 years ago when I stopped growing at the age of 12. In vintage clothes I'm usually about a 6. In today's clothing I'm lucky to find a 0 or even 00 that doesn't just hang on me.

Add in the petite aspect and my choices are very limited. Even petite clothes are made for women taller than me, without a good tailor I wouldn't be able to wear anything. Only a few brands seem to grasp that petite women are shorter in every dimension, not just height. NO ONE makes jewelry that fits, especially bracelets. Children's clothes don't work with curves, of which I have plenty, and who wants to dress or accessorize like a child in her 30s?

I've been searching the web since it was unleashed upon the world and have found plenty of the standard fashion advice for petite women, but no one actually discussing it on forums or blogs. There are lots of resources for every other size but very little in the way of camaraderie for the vertically challenged. If I'm wrong, and you know of one, please let me know in the comments, but if I'm right - well, hopefully this one will become a chance for those of us in the forgotten size bracket to help each other out!

I'm not a fashion maven or even the sort to peruse a fashion magazine (outside of a waiting room, at least), I just want to be able to wear clothes that fit and make me feel good. I also don't want to limit discussion to clothing or accessories, because there are so many more challenges involved in being very short in an increasingly large person's world. Just like any other group, we cope and could use some support, but sometimes it feels like everyone else thinks we have no right to be upset when we're discriminated against just because our battles are so opposite of others.

This country, and this world, includes all sorts of shapes and sizes. We all deserve a voice.