What’s Your Definition of Short?

Have you ever had a lifelong idea about yourself shattered with just one statement?

That’s exactly what happened while I was shopping yesterday.

I went into a store at the mall in search of a pair of shoes. They had to be cute. Functional. Comfortable. Sort of stylish. And not over-priced.

Not asking much, huh?

But if you don’t set some parameters, you could end up with the opposite of what you’re hunting for. And I had a pair of casual twill slacks that were screaming for new shoes.

I explained my predicament to the clerk, who suggested ballet flats.

‘Already have some,’ I said. And the slacks I’m looking to wear with this as-yet-purchased pair of shoes hang about three inches longer than flats will accommodate.

‘Oh, then you need heels,’ she said.

Shrugging, I nodded.

‘Of course, you’re short and probably could stand having your pants hemmed,’ she pointed out.

‘Short? Me? No way.’

I’m pushing 5’6″, not short by anyone’s measure (unless I’m standing beside my TALL son!)

‘Five-six? Oh, but that is short,’ she assured me. ‘Why, today’s average woman is between 5’8″ and 5’10”. That’s why manufacturers are lengthening pant legs and jacket sleeves.’


Another customer overheard our discussion and inserted her two bits’ worth.

‘I always buy petites or short sizes,’ she said. ‘And I’m almost your height.’

No, she wasn’t. I could see I had a good inch or two on her. But who argues with another customer in a shoe store?

“Petites,” from everything I’ve read, are for women under 5’4″, specifically in the 4’11” to 5’3″ range.

That is NOT me.

Still bristling, I hurried (without a purchase) back home to my laptop to search for the average size of American women today. Guess what?

According to scienceray.com, the average height of American women was 5’3″ in 1960 but increased to 5’4″ in 2002. The article goes on to say the average size increases every two to three decades.

That’s 20 to 30 years, people!

By my calculations, it might take 45 years for the average woman’s height to reach my height. And in 45 years, I probably won’t give one fiddle-dee-dee whether my pant legs drag all over the street or not!

Store clerks who want to make sales should never insult customers, argue with them, or make all-encompassing assertions that are wrong (especially when customers are able to check the facts themselves).

I am NOT short, I’m average.

And I don’t consider that an insult. I’ve thought it all along!

18 thoughts on “What’s Your Definition of Short?

  1. Debbie,

    You are so right. You are not short. Then of course, I’m sort of an average tall person. 🙂 I was 5’8″ from 13 and onward — until recently when one of the staff at the medical facility had a difficult time pushing the little stick-like contraption up high enough to measure the real (all 5’8″) me. (For some stupid reason he thinks I’m 5’6″) That guy was probably related to your silly salesperson and they must have a familial dislike for people who know how tall they are and what that means to their sense of this-is-who-I-am.

    • Hi Yvonne and welcome! My silly salesperson was TALL, probably 5’10” or so, and to her, maybe I did look short. Put me beside my mom (who might be 5’0″), and I’m a regular giant! Thanks for visiting and reinforcing my thoughts!

  2. Debbie , you are not short! I am around 5’6″ too. In fact , I’ve been that and probably even a little taller (as we do shrink with age) since I was 12 and I was considered to be tall! That was a heck of a thing for the salesperson to say..the key word here is average. Hope you find the right shoes!

    • Kathy, I’m beginning to think it’s a losing battle, trying to find shoes that meet my requirements! But I agree, the saleswoman was a bit too brusque for my taste. Usually, salespeople are more than flattering, especially if they’re hoping to make a sale — I was taught to look at things from the customer’s standpoint and fill a need. She didn’t do either one. Thanks for your comments!

  3. Debbie, short is when you are 4′ 11″ and that is what I am. As for petite sizes to fit the shorter people….ha ha ha… I have yet to buy a pair of slacks from the petite section and they fit!! Always have to have them shortened at least 2-3″ and sometimes as much as 5. So, I can tell you, I wish I were 5’6″. And…. as for the sleeves, my gosh I think they are making the jackets and tops to fit gorilla’s. My hand disappears and I know there is at least 4 inches hanging down. I HATE to shop for clothes anymore. It seems like the sizes are way out of line too. Don’t know who they are making these clothes for anymore. I use to be able to by a size 7-9 and now that size is a “2”. Go figure.

    • Hi Carol and Welcome! My mom is just about 5’0″, and she has many of your same complaints. On top of that, she doesn’t want to wear “old lady” clothes! “Petite” doesn’t necessarily mean “juvenile.” You’re right on about the tops and jackets, too — even those of us with “average”-long arms have trouble accepting that gorilla look! All the sizes seem to have changed, and the material has become skimpier and cheaper. They load everything up with a bunch of Spandex and expect us all to run around looking like sausages. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Debbie, standing at five feet two in bare feet, I’m short. But I like to consider myself “fun size”! hee hee! And if according to the sales associate you’re short at five six, I”m afraid I would be classified as “pigmy” size. I miss the days when the client was right and when sales associates were required to exercise a respectful manner. I hope you’re able to find some sassy shoes soon! 🙂

    • Bella, you’re still taller than my mom!! And yes, one can pack a lot of fun in a petite size! You’re so right — arguing with a customer rarely wins sales. I’m still hunting for shoes; maybe I’ll find just the right pair on Black Friday, ha!

  5. She’s nuts. That may be the size of the average model, but I found this:

    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average U.S. woman is 5′ 3.7 tall and weighs 152 pounds.

    You’re TALL, Deb. Good on ya. You can eat more.

    • Well, for sure it made pregnancy easier! Nobody even suspected until I was about 5 months along! But eating more? Sad to say, I can only dream — my frame just won’t hold a lot of weight (and 152 is WAY more than I carried, even when I was 9 months along!)

  6. I am almost 5′ 10″ and I can attest to the fact that it is STILL very difficult to find pants that are long enough for my legs. Most jeans now come in long or tall lengths. But when I look for dress pants, it’s hard to find them in the longer lengths. And yes, there are “Tall” stores, but I have found that the manufacturers of those clothes seem to think that tall = big, and the sizes don’t start in the smaller ranges. No. The average height of today’s woman is definitely NOT between 5’8″ and 5’10”!

    • You’re right, Terri. Being thin (or even “average”) is tough in this day and age! Why do manufacturers think everybody who’s “petite” is skinny? And why do they think “tall” equates to “heavy”? It’s just nuts. I guess they’d like us all to have a personal tailor — hey, maybe that’s the answer! Finding my size on the racks is getting harder and harder, and I’ve learned never to wait for good sales (because only the size 18s and up get the benefit of huge discounts!)

  7. As a 6’1″ woman (5’1″ at age 13) I can attest at all you say above.

    But remember this: You are only as “tall” or “short” as your spirit. That is the measure of character.

    That said, yes, getting trousers to fit for anyone who is not average is an issue (and for some of us, purchasing jackets/shirts/dresses etc is also an issue!)

    • Hi and Welcome to my blog! Thanks for expressing your viewpoint and letting me know you were here. Funny, I, too, was 5’1″ in high school — guess some grow taller than others and some grow later than others! I’ve know lots of short women (my mom’s one) who are feisty and spirited; rarely do really tall women feel such a need. Perhaps they just know their stature is sufficient to be respected?!

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