November 21, 2002
Get With Shorty
How many times must I sit around the brunch table and listen to my girlfriends lament the lack of decent men in this town?
There is not one kind, smart, and employed who is not nursing a dangerous addiction, they say.
There is not one emotionally present, who is great in bed and has no "mommy" issues, they lament.
There are no men out there!
Well, my advice is this: You might be right. He's not out there. He's down there. Date a short man and more often than not, you will find someone who possesses razor-sharp wit, intellectual brilliance and massive confidence. In short, short men are the biggest untapped resource in North America.
Yes, I date them, and yes, I mean short. There was the incredibly successful 5-foot 6-inch television producer who can hustle his way into any deal imaginable. Another little ex (5 feet 4 inches!) was one of the best lovers I've ever had.
So, I had already developed adoration for short guys by the time I met "The Kid." We met on a flight from New Orleans, and the whole encounter seemed pretty romantic -- or maybe that was the Hurricanes talking. While I flipped through tabloids, he read a book about Kon-Tiki. Basically, he was Jewish, cocky and slightly anal retentive in a really hot way -- in other words, totally my type. When we landed in Los Angeles, he politely offered to grab my bag and had to stand on his tiptoes to reach the overhead compartment. Still, there was something appealing about him, and as he handed me his card, I had the sudden urge to club him over the head and drag him back to my place.
The Kid picked me up for my first date, and he was even shorter than I recalled -- maybe 5 feet 6 inches with shoes on. But he politely opened car doors, told hysterical stories and confidently glided around like he had no idea he was the small guy. To tell you the truth, the whole effect was pretty sexy.
I quickly fell for The Kid, probably because he turned out to be such a puzzle. In all your life you never met anyone so meticulous, yet unpredictable, at the same time. On one hand, he was a silly guy who painted one of his toes for fun; on the other, he was the obsessive guy that squeegeed his shower door daily. He was carefree at times, but also incredibly driven and focused on work, putting in 14-hour days and constantly closing deals on a cell phone. I chalked it all up to him being "good provider material" for later in life and floated through what was becoming a very lonely relationship.
"What do you find attractive about The Kid?" my girlfriend with a hobby for practicing unlicensed psychoanalysis asked me:
"Little guys try harder," I explained. "They need to be more confident, driven, successful."
That's when she threw in the evil term "Napoleon Complex." Why is it that there's a derogatory term for successful short men, yet no equivalent one for successful tall men, like "Mussolini Complex"? (OK, I don't know if Mussolini was that tall, but you get the picture.)
"Dating short guys is safe for you," she suggested, adding that my attraction to them was based on some sort of fear. Perhaps I believed a short man would be more grateful to have a woman in his life and, therefore, would never leave me.
But he did leave me, in his own way, mumbling about "thinking with his other head" and not knowing what the definition of a girlfriend is. I took my revenge by wearing higher and higher heels in some subconscious attempt to belittle him.
After much soul-searching and Sapphire Tonics, I realized that The Kid's shortcomings had nothing to do with his height. Men can have "Napoleon Complexes" if they are 6 feet 3 inches. (Come to think of it, I may have dated some men like that.) Conversely, the biggest mensch out there can be short in stature.
Certainly physical beauty, sex and power are all tangled together in the modern dating world -- just look at the aging tycoons and their trophy wives, or the goofy rock stars with their supermodel girlfriends. But how do everyday women factor height into the mating game? Maybe I like the shorties because they make me feel powerful; but this perceived power is mythical: just look at my track record. And perhaps other women hesitate to date the short guys for fear of feeling less feminine -- they are afraid to physically tower over their boyfriends. They should be afraid to tower over men in terms of maturity, affection and understanding. There are big men and there are emotional dwarves -- physical height is merely an illusion.
So ladies, on your quest for Mr. Right, don't just look around, but look down. Look below eye level. Further down. There! See that? That short guy may be the man you're looking for.
And maybe this time, I'll try to look up.
Lilla Zuckerman is the author of "Tangle in Tijuana" (Fireside, May 2003), the first book in the "Miss Adventures" series. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .