We all fall short on something. For each of us, there are some things in life we just don’t ‘get.’ Literally.
Some people are short on cash.
Some on courage.
Others, are short on patience.
Sadly for some, life is short-lived.
But for me…well… I’m just plain short.
So when my acting coach, Nick, recently told me to bring my own monologue to my first advanced acting class, I wrote about what I knew best. It went something like this:
I first noticed I had a BIG problem – well – actually a little problem – in the 8th grade when the boys called me ‘shortie.’ Today, when a boy says, ‘Hey shortie, what up boo?’ it means you’re crazy, sexy, cool. Back then, it just meant you were short.
I’m a little person in a big world…just reaching for the stars like everybody else.
I scale countertops and grocery store shelves like a superhero. I stand on bathtubs to rinse my hair. I need a kitchen chair to get what’s tangled at the bottom of the washer. And from where I stand, I need help reaching the smalls on the top rack because retailers haven’t figured out small people are little and big people are tall. Am I missing something here?
Getting a round at a bar is a lost cause as is reaching ‘top shelf’ on the top shelf at the liquor store. Short people need a coconut Malibu every now and again too, people. I’m just sayin.
I once had a boyfriend who reached everything for me. Now he’s out of reach too.
I knock down shoes on the lower racks, to reach that ‘pair’ that’s always on the top rack, which honestly, I don’t know why I even bother, because the new heels won’t reach the floor when I sit on the couch anyway. Travel is out of reach too. I’m a foot short of overhead bins and subway straps. Cabbies whizz by me too, which is, quite frankly, as annoying as tall people bending like a paperclip to chat…and just once, could someone puhlease ask me how tall I am – instead of how short I am – without getting hung up on the number 4’, because the number 11” is a REALLY BIG number.
After my monorant, Nick chuckled, probably because my fellow actors slayed rants from major motion pictures. Yeah. I felt 2 feet tall. Yeah, like I needed a downgrade. Perplexed, Nick very respectfully asked why I wrote my own. I explained ‘because he told me to.’ He replied, “I just meant to bring your own, as in, I wasn’t providing it.” (Cue: chuckle from the room)
Great. Short + literal = hot mess.
I think it all began the summer I was 10. I was 10 when I stopped growing despite eating Wonder Bread. I was 10 when I developed literalitis. (You have this condition if you’re reaching for a dictionary.)
The short I can’t do anything about. The literalitis…I think that was caused by too much candy.
It was a hot summer day when Mom gave me a dollar for my sister, Kathy, and me to buy candy at Shequins, a quaint penny candy store down the street on the corner of Coventry Ave. and Manor Place. A hinged bell clunked against the back of the diagonal front door – alerting Mr. Shequin of our arrival. I loved the cigar smell, the faint sound of the transistor radio, and the creaky hardwood floors that supported the graduated shelves filled with colorful old-fashioned candy treats: Mary Janes, papered candy buttons, waxed bottles, striped salt water taffy strips, bazooka gum, and sweetheart necklaces which smudged around your neck in the late afternoon summer sun.
I can’t tell you what treats were on the top shelf because I couldn’t reach them.
I can tell you kids weren’t allowed in the back of the store because that’s where whiskered men sat in folding chairs holding brown bottles, chatting up baseball. You could get lost inside the candyland, which wasn’t a problem, because your Schwinn would be exactly where you left it along the brick ledge. My Schwinn was yellow with the seat on the lowest rung, of course. Go figure.
Trips to the candy store were always a special treat. Five kids, one parent.
Now older and wiser, I realize when mom told us to ‘go get candy,’ she really meant, “go find something else to do and please take a long time because I hardly slept last night and I’m exhausted and you kids all talk a lot and I really need you out of the house and out of my hair so I can get peace and quiet so I can think straight for just five seconds because I need a little down time from raising kids, solving problems, saying no, doing wash, making meals, and re-doing housework which quite frankly is a lot of damn hard work and I’ve got one nerve left and you’re on it.”
We bought candy. Mom bought sanity.
Back to short + literal = hot mess.
As we scooted out, mom told me to split the money between us.
I looked up to my big sister Kathy, a year older and an inch taller. She let me borrow her clothes, watch Soul Train, and she’d beat up any boy who noticed my developing curves. She was a force to be reckoned with and I liked hanging with her…when she’d let me. Annoying little sisters are gifted time in small doses. We trolled around the store looking for what we’d put in our brown paper candy bags until they were full.
When it was time to pay, we walked up to the counter. I proudly took the crumpled dollar bill out of my pocket, ripped it in half, and handed my half to Mr. Shequin, who looked somewhat amused.
My sister Kathy did not.
“Why did you DO that?,” Kathy scolded.
“Do what?” I asked.
“You just ripped the dollar in half. Why’d you do that? Mom’s gonna kill you!”
“Noooo, mom told me to do it,” I defended.
“Mom told you to rip the dollar bill?”
“Yes,” I nodded. “She said to split the money between us.”
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!! Can you be that stupid?”
Yes. Yes, apparently I can. And obviously decades later, apparently still am.
Still short. Still literal. Still reaching for the stars.