The Tall and Short of It All

I was reminded quite recently (and quite painfully, I hasten to add) about how tall I actually am.  You see, I never walk outside without shoes on.  That wouldn’t be good for my feet, seeing it’s the end of November and it is cold and wet out there.  My shoes are quite sensible, really, in muted shades of a nondescript leopard-print which only added an extra two-inches to my normal height, as most sensible women’s shoes will.  It could have been much worse.  I could have gone out with four-inch red stiletto heels.

But I digress (as I am always wont to do).  I am trying to tell you how I was reminded of my tall stature.  I happened to be grocery shopping today for some supplies to make soup, and as I was walking out of the market—WHACK!  I was blindsided in the eyes by the swish of the curbside umbrella.  It was immediately to the side of the market entrance way and was being used as a shade for passersby who stopped there to make small purchases of the fruits and vegetables that were on display outside the store.

I rubbed my eyes in irritation, bending my body back to avoid being hit a second time when I realized that the opened umbrella was standing at eye-level.  I leaned back, thinking I would have to lodge a complaint about the height of the umbrella to the grocery store clerk sitting near the fruit stand when I saw people passing around me, going under the umbrella without needing to bend or slouch at all.  That was when it hit me.  It wasn’t the umbrella that was too low.  I was too tall!

For a 5’3″ woman with a 2″ heel which = 5’5″, that’s saying something!

All of a sudden, I got flash backs of a time when I was a teenager growing up in a small fishing village in Louisiana, filled with Vietnamese people.  I was always walking with my head down, always slouched, always painfully gauche and ALWAYS ashamed of the fact that I was taller than most of the people around me.  At 5’3″, I stood three inches above most of the girls, and even a good number of the boys.  The ones not shorter than me, I most often could look at them straight in the eyes.  This meant I never wore high heels when I went out with one of the guys and it guaranteed that I was always going to be the biggest girl in the group.  While my sisters got to act like small little cherished dolls, I had to act like the clunky, lanky, clumsy tomboy that I was.  But life is merciful.  I grew up.

Growing up meant I left that small village and moved to California, where all of a sudden, I was the short little girl.  I didn’t know how to act!  Most girls were my height or taller, and even better,  I could wear high heels and still had to look up at the guys around me.  That was quite a feat, since adding an extra four inches to my height made me (gasp!) 5’7″!!!  Of course, that’s not very tall when most of the college-age guys around me were 5’10” and above, but remember, I grew up being considered a bean pole.  It’s hard to rewire the brain to think of oneself as being short when all one’s life, one is considered as being too tall.  Going back to a place where I was the tall one again was so very Déjà vu to me.

I looked down at the bag holding my Trứng vịt Bách Thảo (Botanically Preserved Duck Eggs) and I began to chuckle at how far I’d gone from my little hometown in Louisiana.  The Asian Supermarket behind me was an Asian people magnet.  It attracted all kinds of Asians from all walks of life, and for the most part, I don’t notice the difference between me and my fellow shoppers.  It’s great that the fish monger and the butcher inside the grocery market can speak my language, and it’s great that I can get the kinds of foods that would be impossible to find in the local American food store.

I can’t complain, really.  It is only when I look around do I see how short so many of the Asian people around me really are that I am reminded of my interesting and colorful growing years.  It only took a hard, painful whack to my eyes to make me see this in the here and now.

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