Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm totally fed up with bigotry against tall people. Manufacturers don't make clothes our size. Airlines don't offer seats we fit. Whenever we go to concerts, everybody in the building wants to shove in front of us. And it's cool! Nobody complains! Try doing any of that stuff with folks in wheelchairs or gypsies and a Human Rights Commission is getting involved.

Then there's the clichés. "I like 'em big and stupid," chicks say. "Big hands, big feet, . . . ," nosy horny folks say. And don't forget the rude names. I was "Toothpick" for the first thirteen years of my life, then with puberty I suddenly morphed into "Slim." Now that I've hit adulthood, today's journalists would lead me to believe, I've become a "gentle giant."

See, the Guinness Book of World Records just announced that Sultan Kosen of Turkey is the world's tallest man. The news reports all gasp in shock at the guy's measurements -- 8' 1" tall, 10.8 inch hand span, 14.3 inch feet -- and then every single one of them wheels out the "gentle giant" phrase. Which, you know, has got to be the stupidest, most offensive cliché ever uttered by a writer, because here are a few rough translations of what it really means:

-- "While I was present, the guy didn't attack anybody."

-- "He's really, really tall, but according to the local police he hasn't killed anybody in years."

-- "The man welcomed me into his home for several minutes, and not once did tear apart a sheep and devour its bloody, quivering flesh."

Here's the assumption: we're tall, so we must be monsters. And like monsters, we must be doing monstrous things. We must be running roughshod over all the regular-sized people, terrorizing our neighborhoods.

LIQUOR STORE CLERK: Is there something I can do for you, sir?"

ME: (After twisting his head off with my pancake-sized hands.) Yeah. Stop bleeding on my shoes.

When a journalist sees one of us, then, holding a book in his oversized mitts, or watching Jeopardy! on TV, he can't believe his eyes. The natural order has been upended. It's like seeing Frankenstein sitting by the fire sipping Courvoisier. It's like seeing a chupacabra cooking coq au vin on PBS. The journalist has to note in print that this bizarre creature isn't acting anywhere near like he thought.

But I'd like to seize this opportunity to say, you can't do that. You can't assume a person is always doing horrible things and write whole articles from that perspective. You can't write a piece about Catholics and describe them as non-crazy. You can't talk about women on TV and describe them as rational. You can't close an interview with Donald Trump saying, "And you know, he didn't fart once!"

If you make a derogatory assumption about somebody based on their physical appearance but then tack on a contradictory adjective, that still isn't cool. The priest at Willie Shoemaker's funeral didn't stand in front of the crowd and solemnly intone, "Now, Willie: he was one feisty midget."

As a direct result of giantophobia, we tall guys get dubbed with a half-wit moniker: "Gentle." The opposite of monstrous is apparently "gentle." Whenever these newspaper readers think of us, they'll picture daft, oversized dimwits sitting in a pasture and playing our pan flutes to soothe the crows.

Naturally, there's no way to fight it. What, next time I squash a cockroach, I should carry its corpse to the mall to show what I'm capable of? Hold the bloody black shape over my head and scream, "I am not a gentle giant! I am a human being!"

Because I know how that would turn out:

OLD WOMAN #1: Oh, look -- that pleasant tall guy is acting out scenes from Elephant Man!"

OLD WOMAN #2: Isn't that sweet? And look at those mitts. I'll bet he's got enormous meat.

No comments: