We’re all of different heights. Some of us are short. Some of us are tall. In general, many Asians are shorter than people from other cultures.
I’ve been short all my life. At school and university in Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, I was the shortest kid in my classes. Today, as a grown Asian adult at 148cm tall (4’10 ft), I see many people taller than me wherever I go.
Reasons Asians Are Short
There isn’t yet a conclusive study done that scientifically explains why many Asians are short compared to other races. So we can only guess why. Maybe some of us Asians are short because it runs in the family, because of genetics. Most of my Chinese-Malaysian relatives are not much taller than 175cm (5’8 ft) and only a handful of them tower vertically above this height.
Maybe some of us Asians are short because of what we tend to eat, or what we don’t always eat. A good number of us are lactose intolerant and find it hard to stomach dairy products – milk and cheese packed in calcium and vitamin D for bone growth. A number of us can’t stand eating dairy. My mum won’t touch cheese with a ten-foot pole and only drinks milk with coffee. Growing up, I detested milk and drank as little of it as possible.
Or perhaps our hectic lifestyles have something to do with our height. Many Asians are fond of sitting indoors and revising non-stop up until exams are over in school; maybe stress and lack of exercise stunted our vertical growth. I was one of these hardworking Asian kids in school. Or maybe we’re short because of a combination of these factors.
It’s common for Asian parents to gush over kids who are tall and have sizeable physiques. Maybe it’s a “face thing”, that raising children tall and physically strong is a sign of good parenting. For five years, my parents brought tins of Appeton Weight Gain home and mixed this powder into my milk every morning. At night, they mixed it with water in a cup and asked me to drink it. No matter how much of this “growing powder” short and skinny me consumed, I never had a noticeable growth spurt in my teens, vertically or horizontally.
Upsides and Downsides of Being Short
Being short can be a nuisance. Time and time again there’ll be someone at least half a head taller in front of me, blocking my view – the screen at the cinema, the path in front of me in the city. Some tall people can’t hear us very well. There have been times when I said something to someone much taller than me and they bent their heads down, asking me to repeat myself. And as I look young for my age, sometimes short me gets mistaken for a twelve year old and doesn’t get taken too seriously.
Being it isn’t all that bad. When we’re vertically challenged, chances are we’re small in stature. Short me has managed to squeeze to the front of standing-room-only concerts. Short me usually comes across as approachable, non-aggressive: random people have come up to me on the streets asking for directions.
Are We Really Short?
If we hang out with people who are around the same height as us, then we might not feel short or tall. It’s only when we compare ourselves to others that we feel short or tall.
For us short folk, whether or not we feel inferior looking up at someone taller than us depends on our confidence. There is more to us than how tall we are, and how we look. Our body language says a thousand more words about ourselves than our height. In fact, the way we carry ourselves can make us stand tall.
When we meet a new person, rarely do we think much about their height. If we do, we don’t dwell on it too long: when we meet a new person, we search for a face and eyes immediately. A few months ago, I was waiting to buy a CD from one of the busking bands in the city. The band had just finished playing a set and there was a gaggle of chatty teenage girls sandwiched between me and them, all the girls taller than me. Stuck at the back with no space to squeeze forwards. Gah.
I craned my neck forwards, bopping my head about. In between a couple of tall heads, I spied the tallest band member looking at me. I widened my eyes. He smiled. Without a word, he slowly bent down, slowly picked up a CD from the ground. Slowly walked around the group of girls, stood beside me. Handing me the CD, Mr Smiley Face smiled even wider. I must have looked like a short, eager fangirl. Mission accomplished.
There is no shame in being a “short” person. We are only as short as we choose to feel.
Do you consider yourself a short – or tall – person? Do you like your height?