I’m about five foot, two inches tall. I come from a family of “teeny, tiny women.” Which is what my mom used to say when she worked at the bank and clients were getting mad at her about something she had no control over. “Why are you yelling at me? I’m a teeny, tiny woman. Do you want me to cry? Cause I can’t do anything about the stock market, but I can cry if that’s what you want.” And usually they would calm the fuck down, because they didn’t want to see her cry, they were just being inappropriately angry in her direction.
It’s recently come to my attention that my perception of myself is somewhat askew. I know that I’m short. But I don’t know it. I don’t think I’m overweight or anything like that, but I seem to think of myself as being more physically formidable than I actually am. I was in a play a while ago, and I recently got some stills from it where I was standing with some of the other actors and I think that’s when it struck me that I was not the warrior that I am in my own head. Not physically, at least.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m the human equivalent of one of those toy poodles that thinks it can boss around the Labs. Because usually I can.
A friend of mine has a theory that people feel more comfortable invading the space of a short person because they don’t find them intimidating. I think it might also be harder to gauge appropriate distance, cause it’s easier to look down at someone than up, so when you get too close to someone who is shorter than you, it isn’t necessary to awkwardly crane your neck to look at them. But maybe it’s a bit of both.
Anyway, it occurred to me that there are things that people do around me that they wouldn’t do if I were as outwardly imposing as I am inwardly. As an example (and most of the reason I’m writing this to begin with), here’s something that happened to me yesterday:
I’d gotten a lone seat on the train, one that looked out the window at the front of the car. This made me pretty happy, since I hurt my foot a few days ago and I’m still not up to a lot of standing. I put in my earbuds and got out my book and started reading.
About a quarter of the way into my trip, someone nudged me. I took out one of my earbuds and looked around. There was a girl, about my age, who’d been pushed back by the rush hour crowd and was now sort of pressed halfway between my seat and the wall.
She saw me looking at her and apologized for bumping me. I said, “No, no worries,” because apparently I’m some kind of hippy these days. And then she said, “Thanks” and sat down on the edge of my seat with me.
And I thought, Okay. I wonder what she thought I said.
Because I’m sometimes an almost crippling degree of Canadian, and because she looked kind of sad, I just sort of budged over a little and kept reading. It didn’t really occur to me that it was odd to share a small seat on the train with a stranger, or for a stranger to feel comfortable doing that, until about halfway through my trip.
I texted a couple of my friends about it, to make sure that it actually was weird, and was told that it was.
And I thought that the absence of real discomfort on my part might be because, despite the fact that in my head I’m Boadicea, I’ve spent my whole life with people treating me like a toy poodle. Without really knowing that’s what they were doing. It’s like when you’re a little kid and you sort of assume that everyone has had the exact same experiences as you, but as you grow you realize how different our individual experiences are. How abnormal your normal is to other people, and vice versa.
And I also thought that what the girl on the train did was the kind of thing I would do. So maybe she was a toy poodle, too. Maybe there’s some signal I’m giving off without realizing it.
I’m not entirely sure if there was ever a conclusion that I wanted to reach with this story, except to tell you one of the weird things that happens to me every now and then.
I overdid it with my hurt foot the other day, so I’m home. (The reason my foot is hurt, by the way, is that I was climbing over some tables, because they were arranged in a semi-circle and I didn’t want to go all the way around. I tripped on something, fell off, and landed hard right on my heel. In support of the “I’m a poodle” theory, when I tell people this story, they seem not at all surprised. The reaction has generally been, “You’ve got to stop climbing stuff. You’re not a cat/child/Spider-man.” Which seems like defeatist thinking, inappropriate for either Boadicea or a toy poodle. So I’m going to continue climbing things.) I may post something that actually has a point later.
If nothing else, you know me better now.