What would you do if you found out that there was a way to correct a problem, a physical problem you have with your body that isn't just a cosmetic issue, but pertains to your quality of life? Would you do it, even if it was incredibly painful? And risky? Would you do it? And knowing what you do about yourself right now, would you have trusted your teenage self with making the right decision for you?
These are questions that have been weighing heavily on my mind this past week two weeks.
As those of you who know me in real life know, I am Short. Note the capital S. Really short. Like, not much taller standing up than sitting down short. I'm 4'10" tall, technically qualifying me as a Little Person, though I do not have dwarfism and have never considered myself as LP. I certainly identify with some of the challenges they face every day, and I've been ridiculed and treated poorly because of my height. Most of it is merely annoying rather than destructive, but there was a time in my life when I was first working when people wouldn't take me seriously because my height combined with my youthful appearance gave the impression people were dealing with a twelve year old, rather than someone older, and certainly they never believed me when I was in a position of authority.
My height has, once or twice, been an issue of safety. When I was pregnant with Trout, I couldn't drive from about five months on, because my belly was too big for me to safely get behind the wheel and still reach the pedals, and at the time I had a car without airbags. It was miserable to have to be schlepped around every single place I had to go. I couldn't just run out to the store. I couldn't get to my doctor appointments. I didn't really feel like I could go anywhere at all for fun, because I felt so guilty having to ask people to drive me around for the things I HAD to do.
We wised up when I was pregnant with Little Man, and with the purchase of pedal extenders I was able to continue to drive throughout my pregnancy, though I was still closer to the wheel than would have been safe had I had an airbag in the car (it was a stick-shift jeep, no less). Getting those showed me what a crazy thing it had been that I was driving for so long without them, so we kept them until we got rid of that car. It's not so much an issue now with next-generation airbags and cars with available adjustable pedals built in, and I fit in my Toyota just fine, but those pedal extenders were a life-saver back then.
All this has been on my mind because of this article from the Washington Post, about a 13 year old girl with dwarfism who decided to have surgery to lengthen her legs. This wasn't an option for me, as it wasn't available back when I was young. I often said, still sometimes say, that I would give anything to have at least two inches, just two little precious inches, to get me to five feet, the land where I wouldn't have to have even petite length pants hemmed, where I could reach things from the top shelves in the grocery store without having to ask someone, where I can sit back the recommended ten to twelve inches from the airbag. Where finding clothes that fit would be simple, and wouldn't sometimes require a trip to the children's section. Where my feet will be able to touch the floor when I sit, instead of dangling two inches above the floor, so I self-consciously tuck them under me, destroying my knees in the process. Where I can ditch my stools that I have all over the house so that I can reach the things I need to get to. The article talks about lengthening legs up to sixteen total inches for some people. That would make me a giant!
Now, at this point in my life, I wouldn't have the surgery. I like how I am. I also think that we all face challenges in this life, and this really isn't a bad one to face. I can't say I would have made the same decision when I was 13, however, or 15 or 17 or even 27. Because I wouldn't have made the decision based on what was right for ME, but rather more about being convenient to other people, or what other people thought of me. I have always prided myself on my independence and self-sufficiency, and I never want to be thought of as a burden or as someone who makes other people uncomfortable. My younger self would have been much more concerned with what other people think, driven by "fitting in" rather than being different in any way. Now, as I approach 40, I'm secure in my own skin, in my own height. I don't care what others think; it is not necessary for me to subscribe to what others think I should be in order for me to be valuable. I hope that I am setting an example for my children, who are likely to be shorter than average, and certainly Sunny who is well on her way to being as short as I am, that it is better to change the way people think than it is to change yourself to fit the average. I particularly like the quote from the article from Sylvia Boorstein:
"There are only two responses to every challenge -- balanced acceptance or embittered resistance. Acceptance is freedom. Resistance is suffering. We all know this."
Even if my feet do dangle when I sit.
New post up at DC Metro Moms about my quest to find that elusive thing called sleep.