Not long ago, one of my clients asked me, “Jesse, what do you think about tall women with short men?”
“Is this theoretical… or is there someone you know that might possibly be romantically interested in the vertically challenged?”
Presumably, there might have theoretically been a human entity of opposite gender from my client that may or may not have been interested in—or perhaps the subject of interest for—some kind of non-platonic binary-gender pseudo-non-traditional, yet funny looking, relationship.
(Yes, I am covering all my politically-correct bases there, while simultaneously violating all of them… Please forgive me and read on.)
To give you an idea of how scandalous a tall woman with a short man is, I don’t even feel comfortable telling you the client’s name. Who knows what people would think of this person for considering such a pairing!
Let’s break this one down for good measure.
Perhaps the subject may more accurately be about a woman who is taller than her man, or maybe a man who is shorter than his woman. These are subtle differences, or perhaps it’s all nonsense.
“Nonsense!” That’s what my dad would have yelled while heaving his battle-ax and falling a tree with one fell swoop (along with several nefarious foes).
“The world is black and white, despite you trying to make it a gray blur, Jesse!”
I’ll get back to Steve “Thor Oakenshield” Stoddard in a moment. But first…
My ninny self was recently enjoying an episode of Little House On The Prairie, with my two children, Phinneas of eleven years, and Keira of ten years, and my tall wife, Mae.
In season 6, the 24th episode is called He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: Part 2 (May 12, 1980). The relationships between Almanzo and Laura, and Percival and Nellie continue to be explored in the second half of the sixth-season finale.
It is unlikely that you remember any details of this show, much less this particular episode. If you do retain some vague memories, you will likely relate to my buddy Scott McKinstry. He told me despite not watching much of the show, he still has an indoctrinated aversion to the names Nellie and Willie Oleson, who conjure up images of spoiled-rotten brats that do nasty things to innocent children.
But here’s the thing; I just heard my client’s question and then at dinner the same day we watched the season six finale. It is about how Nellie falls for a consultant hired by her parents to teach her the hospitality business… and he is Jewish (no big deal to Nellie). More shocking, and nearly impossible to process in her conflicted mind, he’s shorter than Nellie.
Nellie Olesen expresses concern to Mrs. Ingalls, asking for advice and wondering if it could ever work out between her and a shorter man. Nellie’s mother, Harriet Oleson, resolutely and resoundingly cries out against her union with a vertically challenged man.
In the end, her smart father, Nels, tells Nelly to go let Percival know that she loves him. What does she have to lose? Besides, Nels is more than ready to marry off his difficult daughter.
Nellie runs to Percival, expresses her love, which is mutual, and they end the episode married by the town doctor.
Points scored for true love and short men everywhere.
What did Percival have that helped Nellie see the height of his attributes? He was smart and successful and at least modestly well-to-do. More importantly, he stood up to Nellie and Harriet’s shenanigans with brutal honesty (which very few ever dared), and then what more, he used the same raw sincerity to compliment Nellie’s beauty.
He was the total, albeit shorter, package.
Today’s men and women agonize over these types of considerations, even more than they did in 1877 and 1977. Everyone is very concerned with “compatibility.” The culture teaches to try-before-you-buy, take test drives, and talk to your girlfriends about whether you think he will help you make a good showing at the next work party.
Does he wear the right clothes? Is he well-groomed? Does he speak with eloquence? Is he a Capricorn?
“Oh, I’m not concerned with a man’s ethnicity, as long as he is very tall, very dark, and very handsome.”
In other words, you want one from the race of supermodels.
Deep down, I don’t think this is really what anyone, save the most superficial, really wants.
Back to Thor Oakenshield’s interpretation.
My father never talked about the issue of being shorter than my mom because it wasn’t an issue. Some people might have mentioned it or attempted to turn it into gossip in the early years of their marriage, but he was too busy being outrageously manly to even hear their words.
You see, a Viking warrior (dwarven or not), does not contemplate such mamby-pamby ideas. Asking my dad if it “intimidated him,” or if he “felt threatened” by being with a taller woman, would be like asking a bear if it was afraid of getting wet in the stream.
Utter and total nonsense.
This stupid kind of sissy thinking is why the great and mysterious Amazon women were so feared. The only men they knew were worried about finding the tightest fitting skinny jeans and braiding their beards, and could not do a proper job of providing nor protecting. The fierce and brilliant Amazon women simply killed the weak men and became the shining example of matronly power for all the ancient civilizations.
If a Viking knew of such a woman, he would immediately set sail around the world to find her, and he would fight with her until they decided the only proper resolution was to get married.
And so my dad did.
My mom wasn’t just tall. She was a strong-willed, extremely outgoing extrovert and leader. She was also a natural beauty and attracted many suitors in her courting years. Talk about intimidating for most men. A lesser man would either be jealous of every man walking by, scared of losing her, scared of not measuring up, and scared that she would outshine him in every way, both personally and professionally.
My dad simply knew he wanted her, his old-fashioned notion of going after something he wanted overpowering all else. By old fashioned, I mean really ancient. As in pre-recorded history old. My mom appreciated this and shared the notion. After all, she was like what I imagined one of those warrior women to be.
I always imagined their meeting like a scene out of one of the Conan movies. Maybe it was like the scene out of the second movie where the princess Jehnna was questioning the female warrior Zula, played by the amazing Grace Jones.
Jehnna: How do you attract a man? What I mean is, suppose you set your heart on somebody. What would you do to get him?
Zula: Grab him! And take him!
Not long after I was born, my mom had an opportunity to be one of the first women in the area to be promoted to a postmaster position. In those days, there weren’t very many women in supervisory or management positions, period, much less a postmaster. She was sent to Washington DC on multiple occasions for training and was in a stressful and competitive, not to mention political and backstabbing environment for many years.
Instead of being jealous or insecure, my dad applauded her efforts and even sacrificed his career to help contribute to the cause by quitting work for several years to take care of the little one.
Ellen M. Stoddard did make it through this process and eventually became the postmaster of the Arlington and Smokey Point Post Offices. She led, guided, and managed over a hundred employees, most of whom loved her.
I got to witness this love at her memorial service, where many of them came out of the woodwork, gathering in surprising numbers, and sharing their stories of appreciation of her leadership.
My dad was never jealous. He may have been proud, but mostly, he was in love. It never for one second emasculated him. Instead, he became even more of a man, complementing her in opposite talents and gifting, each of them developing their unique abilities in a beautiful synergy.
While my mom mastered the art of negotiation, diplomacy, and navigated bureaucracy (feats not for the faint of heart), my dad built things with his hands (conquering the wilderness and the oceans), invested in property, and was an awesome father. Together, they made a home, a family, and their dreams come true.
Most people would have gotten this wrong by focusing on the wrong things. There would be arguments over who was better. My mom and dad did not believe that men and women were the same. They had no problem with them being extremely different, and they celebrated both the similarities and the differences in general, as well as in the particulars. The differences were what made the venture of union worthwhile.
In a much less manly way, I attempted a version of what my father did. Mae was a stunning 5’8” model when I met her, and I was a 5’9” ambitious dreamer. Still, when she wears heels, she seems to tower over me both physically and intellectually.
To me, I get to show her off to the world. In Ballroom Dance, the whole point of the man on the floor is to show off the woman in the best possible light. Although we rarely dance with all the business of life, I imagine myself in this role every time we go to the grocery store. Mae’s stature makes this job very easy. Why would a man complain about that? To me, only a fool would worry about his masculinity or his pride and ego when he has such a beautiful soul by his side.
My dad was right; anything to the contrary is nonsense. All that matters is love and respect between a man and a woman, and an excellent wife is more precious than jewels (if you’ll forgive me paraphrasing from Ephesians 5:33 and Proverbs 31:10).
So when my client asked me what I thought about tall women and short men, I said, “Well, I dunno, but my dad was shorter than my mom, and here I am. I guess it worked out for them.”