I was 4 feet, 11 1/2 inches tall when I was 10 years old, and I didn’t grow taller. As I entered my teens, my girlfriends grew taller than me. This made me feel different. I wanted to be the same height as they were.

They didn’t think I was different. My family didn’t think I was different. My mother would say to me when I felt depressed, “So you’re short, so what’s the big deal? There are more important things to worry about.” I thought being tall was more important than anything.

I got through high school by wearing my oldest sister’s 3-inch high heel shoes that I sneaked from her closet. The shoes not only stopped other students from calling me names-like “little bit,” “shorty,” “half-pint,” “petite,” “midget,” “tiny,” and other names used for short people-but also made my legs shapely and pretty. It didn’t matter that my legs were tired and my feet were killing me by the afternoon. It didn’t matter that after the bus let me off at my stop, I carried the shoes and walked two blocks barefooted. It was worth the suffering and embarrassment because I was three inches taller walking the halls and corridors of the high school.

My height made me feel extremely sensitive. I was in my last year of high school when my feelings were really hurt. My cousin, Frances, told me because she didn’t have a sister I was next in line to be her maid of honor in her wedding. But she selected someone else instead of me. She told me she selected Pearl, her girlfriend, because I was too short to lift her wedding veil over her face.

I was not expecting to be my cousin’s maid of honor, nor did I know the wedding protocol for maids of honors. But what she said increased my awareness of being short and my desire to be taller. I was hurt to the bone. I cried because she used my shortness as a way to disqualify me.

Most of the time when someone was angry with me, they reminded me of my height. They pointed it out in the things they would say to me. I guess it was to let me know that no matter what I did or where I went, I was still short.

Yes, I always had been and always would be, but my being short didn’t stop me from doing the things in life that any other woman did.

Time passed, and I grew less sensitive about my height. After years of feeling different, I discovered that I had made my height too significant. I was blinded by my inferior feelings. With my new maturity came the realization that I had judged my cousin and other people unfairly.

Mother was right when she said, “So you’re short, so what’s the big deal? There are more important things to worry about.” I learned from living that there really were more important things to worry about, and I lived many of them.