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Cheryl Hughes: My Career As a Woman


Everything I needed today was on the top shelf.  It seems as if everything I’ve needed my entire life has been on the top shelf, and I’ve had to climb to reach it.

I drag out step stools, chairs or ladders a dozen times a day to reach something I need.  I’m just five feet tall, so nearly everything is out of my reach.  I watch with envy as my husband and my friends effortlessly grab mugs or coffee filters or light bulbs from top shelves that, for me, would mean a calculated climb from a step ladder.  I can’t even see everything that is on the top of my frig, which is probably a good thing, since I haven’t cleaned up there in a while.

When you’re short, it means a life of adjustments.  There’s a chair cushion in my Impala, so I can see over the hood of the car.  I have to practically hang from the steering wheel of Garey’s big blue tractor in order to reach the brakes.  And I can’t place anything that’s three dimensional on the walls of my house at my eye level for fear of catching one of my family or friends in the throat, or worse, the jugular vein.

When I shop, I have to buy things in the petite section of clothing stores, which means the selection won’t be as extensive.  Occasionally, I’ll break down and buy a regular size and alter it.  On the up side, I’ve become nearly professional at hemming sleeves and pant legs. 

The shortness gene also plagues my oldest daughter.  When Natalie was ten years old, she came into the kitchen where I was washing dishes and said, “Mom, I’m the shortest kid in my class.”  I told her that since I was short and my mom was short, it stood to reason that she, too, would be short.  A look of consternation crossed her face.  “Mom,” she said, “I’m going to ask you something and I want you to tell me the truth.”  As I was assuring her that I would tell her the truth, her younger, then six-year-old, sister, Nikki, wandered into the kitchen.  “Mom,” Natalie continued, “Are we midgets?”  “No,” Nikki answered before I could, “we’re mammals.”  (Nikki was ever the scientist.)

When Teddy Roosevelt would take his children out for walks in the woods, he would purposely bring them into contact with obstacles.  The rules were simple: the children could go over, under or through an obstacle, but they couldn’t go around it.  Life, itself, taught me that lesson.  I don’t even look for a way around anymore.  I instinctively look up because I figure I’m in for a climb.

As aggravated as I get with the struggle my height has presented, I realize it has been one of the main factors in shaping my personality.  Because I’ve had to climb and struggle and figure out unique ways to reach what I want physically, that attitude has transferred over to my spiritual and intellectual life, as well.  Besides, I’ve grown used to seeing things from five feet off the ground.

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