WEE DEFENDER

For Short Men in 2014, The News Is Surprisingly Good

As a short man, a few stories caught my eye this week, even from way down here.

I’m short.

Not Tyrian Lannister short, but perhaps closer to his height than, say, Brienne of Tarth. Five foot five, maybe five-six on a good day. So a few stories caught my eye the past couple weeks, even from way down here.

First, among all the wars around the world, there seems to be one battle that’s getting more than its share of attention: the ongoing skirmish between seats 3A and 4A, economy class. Forget the War of the Roses. It’s the War of the Rows.

And into the fray comes a weapon I never thought would have been legal, let alone humane—something called Knee Defender. It’s a device that vertically-endowed people can clamp onto the seatback tray in front of them to prohibit fliers of any height from putting their seats in the reclined and Constitutionally-guaranteed comfortable position, thereby saving them the pain of the inadvertent bump on their protruding knees. And thus making seat 4A the only place on earth—rather, 30 thousand feet above earth—where the universal order of things has been upended. A place where tall people are aching to feel what it’s like to be short, if only for a few transcontinental hours. From where I sit—in any row, and quite comfortably, thank you very much—that’s a shocker.

Score one for the shorties.

Then comes the happy news that short men tend to have more stable marriages. According to NYU, us short guys are 32 percent less likely to divorced. Think Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan, to have and to hold. Seth Green and Clare Grant, for richer, for poorer. Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, in smallness and in height.

Sure, we also get married later—never mind the reasons, moving on—but apparently we get married better. As soon as we step up to the altar, we stick to it. We never give up. And if you try to leave us, we’ll just grab onto your leg and have you drag us with you. Don’t worry, you’ll barely notice.

Now, you’d think that our growing reputation for dogged loyalty might make us more attractive to the fairer (and in our case, usually taller) sex. And it does! In the mid-‘80s, 92.7 percent of men were taller than their wives. As of five years ago, that ratio had dropped precipitously, all the way down to … 92.2 percent. Ugh.

I, for one, don’t understand what you can’t see in us. But that’s okay. I’m still standing, even if it doesn’t look like it. So I’ll take these news stories, get on my soap box (always handy for guys like me), and say: Hear that, ladies? Short men have more stable marriages. And short men tend to have more pleasant flights. So who better to join you in holy matrimony and on that trip around the world?

But let’s get serious. The future of the country depends on it. According to the latest polls, there’s a halfway decent possibility that come 2016, a short man may—shock! horror!—be elected president. Rand Paul, a man of a mere five feet, eight inches, currently has the tallest chance of becoming the Republican challenger to Hillary Clinton (five-foot-seven, not that it matters). Should he prove victorious, President Paul would be only a few inches taller than our shortest commander-in-chief, the Father of our Constitution, James Madison—a man so miniscule even his taller wife Dolley called him “the Great Little Madison.”

Why is Paul’s frontrunner status not only a victory for us shorties, but also a surprise? Because for most of the 20th and 21st centuries, the White House may as well have had a sign over the Oval Office door: Must Be This Tall To Enter. The executive suite has been the domain of the talls: Barack Obama is six-one. George W. Bush is six feet even before slipping on the cowboy boots. His father is six-two, as is Bill Clinton. And as I’ve often said: even Jimmy Carter, at five-nine-and-a-half, made Martin Van Buren (5’6”) look like Michael Dukakis (2’3”—true story).

As a country, we’ve always wanted someone to look up to. As bad news floods in from around the world, we’ve needed someone to look up to. In the eloquent words of colonial preacher John Winthrop, “When a man is to wade through deep water, there is required tallness.” And in the remonstrative words of contemporary preacher Ann Coulter, “You can’t run a short candidate.”

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On behalf of short people everywhere, I have to disagree: yes we can.