Thursday, August 1, 2013

I had no idea I was going to be tall until high school. It seemed like one day I was staring at everybody's stomach and the next I was slamming my forehead into doorways. Mystified, I ran to my mother for advice.

"Mummy," I said, since in my mind I always pictured myself as a British lad, "what's happening to me?"

"Roman," she replied after taking a dainty sip of Earl Grey, "you're going through that stage in life when a child turns into an adult. Hispanic girls turn into spitfires, Italian boys turn into gangsters, and boys with overactive pituitaries turn into gentle giants."

"What do gentle giants do?"

She laughed. "Whatever they want, darling!" She blotted her crimson lips with a lace hankie. "Well, except for one or two things, of course. You can't crush kittens in the palm of your oversized hand. You can't tear the golden arches off a McDonalds if a clerk forgets your fries. You can't sit little girls in your lap and pet their hair while repeating, 'Pretty! Pretty!'"

"That's it?"

She shrugged her narrow shoulders. "Well, if you want to cower in fear every time you see fire, that's not going to hurt."

"But aren't those rules that regular people follow? Why is it different for tall people?"

"Darling, regular-sized people want to hurt everybody. They want to smack their dentist if he farts while he's cleaning their teeth. They want to strangle that girl at the post office who flings their fragile package into a big metal bin. Regular-sized people are all, 'Oooh, if I were one foot taller I'd show that bastard a thing or two!' They think tall people must start the day garroting the man who elbowed them on the subway and end it dismembering their neighbor for playing Iron Butterfly at 2 a.m."

"So people will respect me for not doing something?"

"That's exactly right. If you were tiny, they'd call you a coward. But since you're big, they'll think, 'Wow, it's amazing how he's controlling himself!'"

I wasn't crazy about being stereotyped, but it didn't sound like such an awful fate. "Do you want to beat up everybody?"

Mummy laughed. "Me? Heavens, no!" She took another sip from the porcelain cup as her eyebrows rose. "Well, possibly. You know that checkout girl at the supermarket who's never said so much as 'Hello' to me? If I were six inches taller, I might give her a Chinese mustache."

"What if I don't want to be a gentle giant?"

"Darling, the alternative isn't pretty. Remember Jaws, that misshapen, horrific oaf in the James Bond films? Do you want to be like him? He's not a gentle giant. Do you really want to chew up a motor home with your giant metal dentures?"

I shook my head.

"Do you want to be the box of rocks who doesn't understand he's fighting for the wrong side until James Bond explains it to him?"

I said no.

"Do you want to get shot into space inside a cramped satellite with a tiny, pigtailed girl?"

I flinched. Mummy shrieked. Just the thought of that fate rubbed me the wrong way, and the late Mr. Meowster would have agreed.

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