Over the last year, I started hearing the term “Short Guy Syndrome” slung around like a bag full of cats, and I have to say that all the screeching and howling is giving me an ear ache. So as a 5’1″ (give or take an inch) guy, I figure I’m probably the right guy to weigh in on the subject. So first, let’s get a few things straight… This syndrome doesn’t refer to “Little People” who are a category unto themselves, and have their own very distinct ideologies and branches of thinking. What we’re talking about are men who are on the lower end of an arbitrary measure for what we deem as an equally subjective “average” height. Those “short men” are then qualified as having a certain disposition; a mindset which has the name of a French Emperor named Napoleon Bonaparte associated with it. Originally we called the Short Guy Syndrome, the Napoleon(ic) Complex. Some of the fundamental personality traits associated with this is overcompensation, belligerent or angry behavior, social aggression, and the overall need to dominate with presence – in the negative way. So before I start going through the truths and lies of being short, let’s take care of some of the misconceptions that seem to be associated with our boy Napoleon.
First of all…the guy was approximately 5’6″, which in those days, was fairly average. And yes folks, that was without his boots. If he put them on and had some kind of early French lifts in them, at the very most he would have been 5’8″ maybe 5’9″. So the idea that he was short…well, maybe by modern perception, but is it enough to say that he was overcompensating for his height? Probably not. That’s mostly our modern perception of his behavior. And while we’re on the subject…the man was an Emperor. There seems to be this belief that Napoleon went to war to spread his ideologies out of his need to compensate for his height, letting many people get killed for the sake of his own ego. That he dominated and exerted his will over other countries to prove his military might and prowess. Alright, where the hell were my historians at when some idiot decided to name this the Napoleonic Complex? Every culture in world history has had a leader, who at some point believed that their civilization was in the right, and others were in the wrong. Spreading ideologies, exploring and conquering new lands is pretty much how the modern world came to be, so let’s not get this idea that Bonaparte was looking in the mirror one day and said to himself “You know what? I’m feeling particularly short today…let’s go sack a city and make them adapt my beliefs.” Yeah, he dominated other countries and people got PISSED. That’s what happens when you win a battle or a war and say “Hey, here are some new rules and I’m the guy enforcing them.” But guess what, kids? EVERY conqueror, every dictator, every general, every winner of any battle is going to have the same damn thing thought of them.
Also, I’d like to point out that if spreading ideologies and conquering lands were indicative of height compensation, then France is a land of fucking giants. Compared to the Macedonians, the Holy Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the Tang dynasty, the Russian Empire…the French aren’t even a fucking drop in the god damn bucket! You know where Napoleon basically spread his reign? France, Spain, Italy, and maybe a part of Germany and Poland. Alexander the Great conquered from the Balkans to India and I’m pretty sure per capita, Genghis Khan conquered more land than anyone. By short guy logic, this means that these men must have been 1 foot tall. Yet these men do not have this complex named after them. And come on…in the Modern Age, the US and the British have fought more wars in a single generation than Napoleon could have in 50 lifetimes, and possess more global real estate than any other CONTINENT in the world. By this logic, then what the hell are we compensating for?
Much like Custer, Napoleon tends to be remembered historically for his biggest loss, which was in Waterloo, which ended up negating much of his previous accolades (from a historic perspective). It didn’t matter that he was one of the greatest military strategists the world had ever seen (even to this day). It didn’t matter that he had a photographic memory and that he was one of the most intelligent human beings of his time (debunking a small person / small intellect myth…but I’ll get to that later…). Nevermind that he was a charismatic leader who understood people, chose to surround himself with greater or equal minds, and had the ability to lead great (and yes, taller) men. History tends to overlook these things because as the old adage goes “History is written by the victors.” A lot of us don’t know that he was an advocate of the sciences, or that he spread both his own Code (the Napoleonic Civil Code) which became the base of many laws used in several western countries including the States. Most of us don’t know that he helped spread the Metric System, and that he was a believer in religious freedom and equality at a time when Jews, Protestants, and Catholics all being treated the same was akin to witchcraft. The French treat the man as a hero, and I’m not sure if it’s rightfully deserved or not…but what I can say is that based on what I know of his history, I’m not sure what wannabe pop psychologist decided to coin the term using his name. All I know is…it stuck. But my point here is…no general, no emperor, no king, no queen, no prince, no leader of man…has ever held a perfect win record.
So there’s your history lesson, readers. So now let’s go onward to what we came here to talk about: being a short guy. Now there’s tons of perceptions and stereotypes out there, and I’ll try to address them as subjectively as I can from my own perspective. (And for those trolls out there, yes, the SHORT perspective.) A lot of these ideas and tropes that exist are very “Chicken or the Egg.” That is to say that it’s very hard to say which came first…the perception, the action, or the reaction based on the perception. But let’s just take this one by one:
All Short Guys Are Overcompensating: Okay, so here’s the first in the Chicken / Egg series. I admit that a vast majority of us have the tendency to project ourselves very drastically to our personalities. Some positively and some negatively. The negative overcompensation tends to be associated with emotions like anger or fear, and often times leads to aggressive and sometimes belligerent behavior. The positive ones come off as confident…but OVERLY so tends to read as funny (as in, laugh AT not laugh WITH), annoying, or trying too hard. But I’m not sure if these traits are in reaction to being perceived as lesser human beings in the social context, or they simply came to be as a result of natural evolution. Although, you treat any group as a social outcast for too long and personalities will find their own ways to adapt to the situation in a fit of social survival. So is this statement true? Yes, but with some caveats.
Short Guys Are Angry: I mean…wouldn’t you be if you were treated as less than a man everywhere you go? Have you read an online dating profile and read “short men need not apply?” Read article after article about how short men are less likely to find love and that it’s an evolutionary thing? Honestly, it’s not as if we don’t have our reasons. And obviously, my blog tends to wander the gambit of all of my emotions including anger…but honestly who doesn’t? Saying “All short guys are angry” is like saying that “All humans breathe air.” All of us get angry from time to time but it isn’t our defining characteristic. They are called “emotions” and it is our response to interpretations of different stimuli. If people claim that we’re angry all the time, then you have to kind of ask yourself exactly what it is in the situation that is creating the context for that anger. You know when I hear this particular phrase the most? After somebody says (writes, Tweets, posts, etc) something derogatory about a short guy and then the short guy defends themselves in an angry fashion. You call a tall woman an Amazon, a portly man as tubby, a blonde an idiot, or spit out a racist name…guess what? Those people are going to get pissed. We don’t have the exclusive rights to this emotion, folks. It’s just funnier to the immature if you picture a red faced child swinging his hands in the air and screaming obscenities than to realize the shallow emotions that made you verbally upchuck your superficial leanings. So is the statement true? No more so than for every other marginalized group that exists out there…in other words, the entire human race. And for those who would say that this segment sounds angry, I’d like to point out there’s a thin line between passionate and anger. Which brings me to:
Short Guys Are Immature: Ah yes…the term that seems to be growing in popularity to disparage us short guys…”manchild.” I do love a good new derogatory term. I can actually say that this term is patently untrue. When you’re short, man or woman, we have the tendency to behave more maturely because, as I mentioned earlier, short people are viewed as “children” or “child-like.” Ask any short woman who has been picked up when being hugged by someone, or a guy who has had their head patted like they were a “good little boy.” I’m not sure if this was a perception reaction or if it was just false since the get go, but either way, maturity has a lot to do with how we handle the things that life throws at us. Short men have the tendency to have been given more opportunity to overcome a more varied set of unexpected curveballs than some of their taller counterparts. But like all generalizing statements, a lot of the time, it’s exactly that…a blanket statement that has nothing to do with the majority. Many of us are mature, many of us are not. Ask me at 20 and ask me at 30, you’ll get different answers, but that’s true for any height and any gender. So, like the Angry statement…the point is pretty much moot. We all have the capacity to be one way or another. Why compartmentalize it into a characteristic of a certain type of person?
Being Short Is a Disadvantage: Let me tread carefully here. Being short is not a physical disadvantage unless you are relating it to something that necessitates being taller. It is not a physical handicap, it is not a genetic abnormality. At the most it may be a recessive gene. It is not a social disadvantage either unless you treat it as such. That is when your own personal perception of yourself comes into play. If you play into the part that the world sometimes thrusts at you, then yes, you may find yourself the wounded gazelle near the pack of hyenas. But most of the time, if you yourself don’t see it that way, it has no effect in the long run. Is it a romantic disadvantage? Yes.
It Is Harder For Short Men To Find Love: I said it before and I said again but being short is a romantic bullet hole in the leg. It can be overcome with confidence, but attaining that confidence is like trying to tame a wild lion with soft words and a sirloin steak necklace while bleeding from aforementioned bullet hole. This is mainly due to the fact that the romantic disadvantage comes not only from your own perception of self, but combining that with the preconceived notions that we are trying to debunk here. Unfortunately, it is an ingrained perception that short is not a desirable trait to have for the male. It’s difficult to change the way much of the world sees us. The most common argument is that women are conditioned to want tall men based on evolution.
Tall Men Preference Based On Evolution: Let me argue the point and then you can go ahead and say what you will. We are a social species and therefore we evolve socially, and have long surpassed the point in which we need to evolve physically. Why? We have the ability to alter our surroundings to make it so we can survive. However, if being small were an undesireable and unsuitable human characteristic, then by Darwinism and Evolutionary standards, the small and short would have already been weeded out leaving us with nothing but giants in our midst. But we don’t, so it could be that being small is not necessarily an undesirable human characteristic in the grand evolutionary scale. (Neither is being big, just fyi.) Okay, so let’s tackle it from a human to human standpoint. The argument that I hear most often is that the woman likes the man to be taller because the human hind brain sees them as a better protector, provider, hunter, and warrior. Mkay. Well first of all, that’s such a big pile of manure that if I had a garden I could mulch it for a decade. Look…the hind brain is a SUBCONSCIOUS desire for these things. Most women and most men who take issue with height are keenly and most definitely CONSCIOUSLY aware of their preference and why. They may not voice it out of fear of looking like asshole, or because saying it out loud is taboo, but they all know why. How do I know this? Because we aren’t lizards and we aren’t primates, kids. We are human beings which means that while somewhere deep in our DNA may be coded this fantasy gene sequence…that isn’t what rules us. It is our brains. And while there are similarities between a monkey’s brain and a human one, a human’s brain is able to reason. The hind brain theory came from rationalizing this behavior, but really it’s all a bunch of bunk. To put it simply? You’re following your privates, Private. Consciously, at that. You want to know the real reason? It’s simple. Gender roles. There. I said it.
It’s such a can of worms, but no matter how far we come in equality, the long established gender roles are what has been tying us back to who has to be the taller in the couple. Traditional heterosexual couples have traditional heterosexual tendencies in terms of preference, which is influenced by social convention. As I mentioned before, we are a social species living in a social world. Therefore, as the environment of the social world changes, our social values change. Wanting taller men isn’t evolutionary at all, but it’s what we see every day. We rationalize this behavior, but just as the fashion industry and the film and tv industry has influenced our idea of beauty, our judgment of height is equally influenced by these same things. Advertisements advocate tall and thin beautiful women which links weight AND height into our measurement of beauty. The majority of men when compared to those women are taller and more muscular than those women which influence what they are supposed to want. Even on television, the classic television tropes for families have stayed pretty much the same with the man being taller and bigger, the woman being smaller and shorter. That has been the norm and establishes what we perceive to be our measure of desire and beauty. Of course, it may have a small bit to do with evolution, but nowhere near as much as people are claiming it to have. My point is…if you want to follow your sex organs, then follow it…but let’s not blame our monkey brains for something that we know we control. Preference means you have control…you just choose not to. Alright…moving on.
Correlation Between Height and Intelligence: I’ve heard this go both ways. Short people need to be smarter because they are not as big and strong, OR short people have less intellectual capacity based on their smaller size. Both horse shit, and anyone who believes that should be shot out of a cannon and into an active volcano. I’ve met tall doctors, and short idiots. I’ve met tiny scientists and giant oafs. There are people with skulls thick enough to crack coconuts who have photographic memories, and people whose heads are as big as a watermelon who couldn’t find a doorknob if they had their hand on it. I don’t care how big or small you are. Stephen Hawking is 5’7″ and being in a wheelchair, paralyzed, with a head the size of a peanut is still one of the smartest people on the planet. There is no such thing as a unified rule that governs the exact state of intelligence in any human being, and if there is, it certainly has nothing to do with height. At my height, that would make me either a blazing idiot or a certifiable genius and I am neither of those things.
Look folks…I’m not trying to defend myself here or make women want to date me. I’m pretty comfortable being me, and I know many women in my life who love me for who I am. I have friends who accept me, and my height hasn’t ever really kept me from doing anything that I ever wanted to do. All I’m trying to do is de-mystify this whole bullshit stigma that seems to follow around being short. Tall or short in the grand scheme has the importance of your toenail clippings in your garbage can. It means nothing except what it simply is. A method by which something may be measured, but it is our own human nature to assign social value to it. And that’s what it means to live in a social world. We decide our self worth by assigning values to these arbitrary characteristics and somehow we rank ourselves in relation to others. That is our new evolutionary scale…and quite honestly we need new fucking values because in my humble opinion, it is built of cards on a bed of sand. Hopefully I managed to shine some light on some of the truths and lies that you’ve known about the short guy.
But then again…this is all coming out of my mind so at the end of the day, you’ll have to figure it out for yourselves. Love to you, my readers. Happy Valentine’s Day. And hey…if you get a chance, give the short guy a shot. Might surprise you. – AB