A version of this initially ran in The Virginian-Pilot on Dec 23, 2010.
Have you ever wondered why it's good to be tall but bad to be short?
Have you wondered why parents beg pediatricians to dose their children with human growth hormone to save them from the curse of small stature but don't ask for growth-stunting elixirs for tots who show signs of excessive lankiness?
Have you wondered why the taller candidate for president almost always beats the shorter one?
Have you wondered why strong short guys are said to have a Napoleonic complex while big bullies are regarded as powerful?
Have you ever fumed because synonyms for "short" include adjectives such as "runty," "sawed-off," "squat," and "undersized," while the exact same thesaurus will list "lanky," "statuesque," "soaring" and "great" to mean "tall"?
Of course you haven't. You're probably tall to begin with. Or medium-sized.
But I can assure you these questions are exactly the sort of things that diminutive types ponder. I didn't realize how universal these complaints were until I spent part of Tuesday afternoon in the company of proud petite people.
An observer might have wondered what, exactly, was going on at Bubba's on Shore Drive that day. There, at a long table, were a bunch of boisterous shorties. Academics, mostly, from Virginia Wesleyan College.
Several sported beards. One wore knickers. All were rather, well, small of stature.
Fashioned after the 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope's Club of Little Men, the nascent Tidewater chapter convened this week and included two little women.
Brainchild of Terry Lindvall, former president of Regent University and now the C.S. Lewis Professor of Communications and Christian Thought at Wesleyan, the invitation read, in part: "The brief celebration will be held at Bubba's Restaurant on the Shortest Day of the Year, winter solstice, at the wee hour of 2 pm for a very short session of shrimp, half-pints, shortening bread, and scintillating literary wits (or half wits).
"The group, albeit Tory in origin, stands over/against (well, not quite over) all high authority and really large arrogant people.
"Short friends are welcome."
The first meeting was appropriately compact, with just eight shorties in attendance. Wait. Make that nine. At 5 feet 2 inches, I met the minimalist membership requirements and was inducted into the club.
After glasses were raised in a toast to the tiny English poet (Alexander Pope is believed to have stood just 4-foot-6 as a result of a childhood illness that stunted his growth), beer flowed and witticisms were exchanged as the runty revelers joked about their common condition.
In machine-gun fashion, they named famous short people and advantages to being small. Someone pointed out that airlines should be grateful for the occasional traveler who can comfortably fit in a cramped commercial seat. "They should give us a free blanket!" declared Gavin Pate, who at 5 feet 9 inches was allowed to join the club only because "he acts small."
Lindvall's wife was not invited to the meeting - she's 5-foot-10 - yet Lindvall said she recoiled when she spied her husband leaving the house in a pair of corduroy knickers.
"I have to go straight home after this and change," he quipped.
Each member shared a short poem or reading. Assistant Professor of English Stephen Hock wrote a limerick for the occasion.
There once was a fellow named Lindvall.
Of ideas, he had quite a windfall:
His club meets in December;
You could be a member,
But only if you've never been tall.
Alas, Lindvall's tenure as president was short, lasting only about an hour. His successor is Joe Jackson, an author and former Virginian-Pilot reporter who promised to convene the Club of Little Men at the same time and place on the shortest day of 2011.
Feeling small? Mark your calendar.