At home I’m a midget. Well, not a midget exactly, but a small person. At 5’2″ and a less than triple digit weight, I struggle to find adult clothing small enough for my frame. If you were to pull up behind my kid-hauling Yukon XL, you might think a child or a phantom was driving, because my head doesn’t clear the top of the seat. I’m all good with my height these days, but as a child, things were tough. One of the most popular songs in my elementary school was “Short People.” You remember the one…”Short people got no reason to live…Don’t want no short people round here.” Trying to build me up, my sweet mother told me to respond to the constant barrage of “You’re short” comments with “I’m not short. I’m petite.” It wasn’t until I took French in fourth grade that I realized what that meant.
After I reached an adult height, I married a big man. Not a giant, but a tall, strong guy. For many years, Tom lived the charmed life of the all-star athlete and was praised for his significant stature. From an early age, he could reach the top shelf of the fridge, ride the rollercoasters at amusement parks, and dunk a basketball. While he’s too big for a few sportscars in the States, everything there seems well-suited for people his size. The bigger the better is the American rule of thumb.
Ever since we hit China, the tables have turned. People in Asia are little. Motorbikes are little. Doorways are little. Portions are little. Living spaces are little. Tom argues that after twenty years of a steady food supply, the Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians will get taller, as did the Japanese after World War II. For the time being, however, I fit right in. Tom can’t find clothes big enough here, while I wear a Medium instead of my usual Extra-Small. In a land of cramped buses, songtaos, and tuktuks, my ability to curl into a small ball is a highly valuable survival skill. No matter how hard Tom tries to , he remains a large square. I clear my head when I climb in and out of a vehicle, while he invariably scrapes his skull. I slide through rows of motorbikes while he is forced to walk around. I slip by touts unnoticed while he commands their attention by his sheer presence. I enjoy my meals from the stability and comfort of my plastic stool or chair, while he collapses his. Poor Tom. It’s tough to be big in Asia.