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Learning to Embrace Being Short

More from our inbox:

  • How to Comfort Someone in Pain
  • Efforts to Derail Ballot Measures
  • Temple of Social Good? Aspirations vs. Reality.

Credit…Illustration by Sam Whitney/The New York Times; images by Man_Half-tube, via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be Short,” by Mara Altman (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, Jan. 1):

I applaud Ms. Altman’s appreciation of shortness. As a 71-year-old who has lived her entire life at less than 5 feet (4-foot-10½ and shrinking), I know that the frustrations are endless.

Finding age-appropriate clothes is a nightmare, as is having to smile politely when I hear (again!) the laughter invoked by the “joke” of asking me to “please stand up” to speak, when, of course, I already am. Do they really believe I’ve never heard it before?

Lately, I’ve learned to more fully embrace my shortness, buying a T-shirt that reads, “Short girls stopped growing when they reached perfection.” Thanks to Ms. Altman, I might actually wear it now. And, for those yearning to be taller, my husband (5-foot-6) recently informed me that if you lie on the floor to measure yourself, you actually gain half an inch.

Marjorie Rothenberg
Brooklyn

To the Editor:

I found Mara Altman’s essay far too optimistic for my taste. It erases the lived experiences of short men: the barely restrained contempt we face, the dismissal of any of our concerns as a “Napoleon complex,” the tweets advocating for us to be exterminated.

A 2005 study found that men who said they were 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 on dating services got about 60 percent more messages than men who were 5-foot-7 or 5-foot-8. Multiple studies have shown that short men are paid significantly less than tall men doing the same job.

Given The Times’s focus on social justice, this seems like an awfully large blind spot in your coverage. Hey! I’m down here!

Jeffrey Czerniak
Detroit

To the Editor:

As a high school student many years ago, I was frequently made fun of because of my shortness compared with my peers. One day a teacher, hearing the teasing directed my way, took me aside and assured me that “it is better to be short and shine than to be tall and cast a shadow.” I have recalled those words many times over the years with a smile and a spring in my step.

Kathryn Nicholson
Burlington, Ontario

To the Editor:

My husband and I are both short, as are our three very successful sons. I am always amazed how people talk so glowingly about tall people as if they had something to do with their height.

I remember being with my sons when a little boy said to us, “I am the tallest in my class.” I looked at him and said, “There’s nothing wrong with that.” He looked at me as if I were crazy.

Small people use fewer resources, take up less room and live longer. But the best part of being short is you are always looking up!

Judith Scara
Boca Raton, Fla.

To the Editor:

As a senior citizen, I have shrunk two inches. I am doing my part to help mankind. What are young people doing?

Stan Pearlman
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

How to Comfort Someone in Pain

Credit…Ohni Lisle

To the Editor:

“The Best Ways to Soothe Someone Who’s Upset” (Science Times, Jan. 3) says the most effective verbal support to soothe someone who is upset is to validate the person’s experience. Words such as “I understand why you would feel that way” can comfort, while other words may not be helpful.

But to offer words of understanding, we first have to identify the ways we tend to react to someone in pain with words that do not convey understanding, however good our intentions.

These are examples of wrong ways: giving advice like “You shouldn’t feel that way”; saying “me too” while relating a similar experience of our own; words of encouragement like “You’ll feel better soon”; or religious words of comfort such as “It’s God’s will” or “God won’t give you more than you can bear.”

Most of us don’t know what to say when we hear people hurting, so we resort to such responses, which can actually have the effect of dismissing the severity of the person’s pain rather than validating the speaker’s emotions.

The effective, caring response is one that demonstrates that we are truly listening and genuinely understanding. First we have to check our knee-jerk efforts to console and then focus attentively on the hurting individual’s feelings.

Really joining the other in his or her grief or pain is not easy. It takes focus and effort, not clichés.

Paul J. Donoghue
Mary E. Siegel
Stamford, Conn.
The writers are the authors of “Are You Really Listening? Keys to Successful Communication.”

Efforts to Derail Ballot Measures

Credit…Illustration by Rebecca Chew/The New York Times; photograph by adamkaz, via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “We Must Place Access to Abortion on the Ballot” (editorial, Jan. 8):

The editorial board is right. Ballot measures are a critical tool for voters to defend reproductive rights. But the editorial misses one big point: The window of opportunity to use them is already closing.

Reactionary state legislatures are working to shut down the use of citizen-led initiatives in response to progressive victories at the ballot box, and last year’s wins for abortion rights have fueled their ire.

Recent efforts to derail the ballot measure process range from absurd, like arbitrary font size requirements, to prohibitive, like requiring initiatives to pass by a supermajority of voters. Republicans in Ohio and Missouri have already stated their intention to weaken direct democracy this year, following Arizona leaders’ successful attack on ballot measures last year.

Only 23 states currently have a mechanism for voters to pass ballot measures, and even fewer allow citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. We cannot afford for that map to get any smaller. We need more partners in our legal, legislative and electoral movement to ensure that voters can pass their own laws when politicians fail to protect reproductive freedom.

Kelly Hall
Oakland, Calif.
The writer is the executive director of the Fairness Project, a nonprofit that supports progressive ballot measure campaigns.

Temple of Social Good? Aspirations vs. Reality.

View of David Geffen Hall, left, and Henry R. Kravis Hall, right, at Columbia Business School in Manhattanville. “The architecture embeds the building in the dynamic reality of New York,” Costis Maglaras, its dean, said. “You see the highway, the subway, Harlem. This is what we want.”Credit…Zack DeZon for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “A Temple of Capitalism Opens Itself Up” (Arts, Jan. 7), about new buildings at Columbia Business School’s Manhattanville campus and a desire for its graduates “to do good as they make money”:

As a first-year student at Columbia Business School, I could not help but raise my eyebrows at this article, which read more as aspirational advertising than a reflection of reality. In the halls and classrooms, there is little conversation about social issues, not least because of the hefty price tag of tuition, which leaves students more focused on recouping their investment.

Students compete to secure high salaries in investment banking and consulting at the expense of social-focused careers to justify the $80,000-a-year tuition.

The architecture is certainly noteworthy and provides a bevy of impressive services and amenities, but its lofty ambitions fall flat. The viaduct views are scoffed at, study space is at a premium, and interactions between students and the broader neighborhood nearly nonexistent.

Business schools in general have a long way to go before they can be deemed temples of social good, and Columbia Business School is no different.

Ben Davidoff
New York

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