I’m a Grown “Lil’ Man
In the summer of 2018, (Oh, the Pre-COVID era) comedian Jaboukie Young-White coined the term “Short King” to shout out all the men out there who can’t imagine what it’s like to be six foot or taller but still have swagger. #TheStruggleIsReal.
Young-White’s paeans to short kings encourage us to confront society’s overvaluation of men’s height and recognize the guys under 6ft whose positive attitudes render them nothing short of regal. A short king isn’t just any male-presenting person of modest stature – it’s someone who has the strength of character to flourish in the face of conventional male beauty standards.
I stand at five feet seven inches tall; by no means am I towering over anyone. My biological father is shorter than I am, but my mother stood at about five foot nine inches in her youth. So Poppa had that mouthpiece and a killer personality! I came of age in Chicago during the late 80s and early 90s when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated the sports world. I grew up watching pro-wrestling too. Both pro-basketball and pro-wrestling are very different in their presentation, but one thing rang true for those respective industries in that era. The bigger and taller the athlete, the better.
I was always the shorter guy amongst my friends from elementary school well until my college years. My younger brothers and most of my nephews are taller than me, and I have a couple of taller nieces. Funny enough, I never gave much thought about how my height might have hindered me in life. Like many people I’ve dealt with share of mental health issues and anxiety. But it was never due to not be standing as tall as Idris Elba or Dwayne Johnson. It’s something I accepted long ago and knew I would probably always be last picked for a game of three on three b-ball (I’m not mad about it, I suck at basketball, and football is my sport of choice).
Through my time in service, I got into physical fitness and gain more confidence in myself. I did okay in the dating realm, and I can only recall a handful of times that a woman (in my single days) flat out told me I was too short for them. On the other hand, I know that there are quite a few men out there that hover at five foot eight or below who feel that their lack of stature hinders them in the game of love. I remember the dating apps, and the ladies who claimed six foot or more was their only preference. Oh, the horror.
Fun Size Woes
Being short isn’t a mark of shame and it shouldn’t be seen as one. Height depends on many factors and is out of any person’s control. It’s the luck of the dice if you grew up to be a giant like LeBron James or a “Grown ‘Little’ Man” like Kevin Hart. But for us short guys, we are stereotyped to have Napoleon Complex. Joe Pesci movies didn’t help with this stereotype. Hotheaded crazy men with some type of complex can come in a variety of heights. Still, we live in a shallow culture that will judge people based on things beyond their control, like skin color, sex, looks, disability, and of course, height.
Some fellas on the short end feel like their dating options are hindered or almost zero because they might be five foot four. I would contend with those gentlemen that it’s probably all in your head. Yes, we live in a society that tells people of all sexual orientations that the ideal attractive male is tall, dark, and handsome. I consider myself two for three; in that category. That’s not bad; plus, I let my wife know she wanted me off the market after only two weeks of dating. She succeeded where several other women before her had failed. Father like son, I suppose? Yes, it seems like tall dudes are placed a pedestal over us shorter fellas. But that’s on a superficial pedestal.
Short Kings Unite
For those men who are feeling down on themselves because they weren’t blessed with Ben Affleck’s height or Michael B. Jordan’s abs, fear not. Height ain’t nothing but a number. One of the most important things a person should strive for in life, after their basic needs are met, is confidence. Confidence is a simple belief in yourself, period, and also realizing that failure isn’t bad. We fall to pick ourselves back up. For my fellas who are feeling down on themselves because they cannot look over the entire crowd at a concert (remember those?) You have to accept the attributes you are born with. I have talked frankly about how to become a more evolved man, no matter your height.
We need to look to the real world to see short men who have great success in their respective fields. From the legendary civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. (an iconic short king) to the talented and musical genius of Prince to martial arts cultural icon Bruce Lee to rapper extraordinaire Lil’ Wayne to the short king of the foreign film fame, Gael García Bernal; all men of smaller statures, but considered greats in their fields. We don’t have to look to solely famous or notable men who have craved out great lives and improve their respective communities. Even if they had to deal with a few short jokes. You can find these men in your everyday life. They are the evolved men who carry themselves a certain way and uplift others, even if they won’t win an NBA dunk contest or headline the main event of WrestleMania.
It’s time my fellow short kings overturn the tall, dark, and handsome gold standard. (Sorry Tinder!) Standards of beauty and attraction change with the times. Today we are living in an era where what it means to be attractive can be defined by the individual to overturn traditional rigid beauty standards. I personally know men who are strong, confident, and leaders in their communities. Some of these men dwarf me, but many others are vertically challenged. If you’re five foot two, you shouldn’t bet all your success on having a leggy lady like Adriana Lima on your arm. There’s plenty of people out there that will like you for who you are.
Personality, hobbies, intelligence, sense of style, charisma, integrity, how you treat others, and sense of humor are far more important in attracting a mate than surface level things like looks and height. I’m not saying looks aren’t important, but they fade over time unless you’re named Angela Basset or J Lo. Plus, I see that short kings are making short, dark, and handsome just as good as the latter. Your height or lack thereof isn’t what makes you a man. And manhood isn’t defined by something so arbitrary as height.
In the end, manhood and manliness can be a plethora of things. Masculinity can manifest itself in a diverse amount of ways. The beautiful thing is that we can make manhood anything we want to because there are various types men in the world. Remember the many types of men out there: black, white, old, young, tall, short, some men have muscles, some men are round, some are intellectuals, some are Christians, Muslims, atheists, some men are little people, some men are gay, trans, or straight.
Different interpretations of what it means to be a man are the wings on which the short king soars. The short king embodies the dismantling of the height hierarchy and conventional expectations, his masculinity firmly grounded and personally defined. In the words of Young-White, the short king is valid, hot, enough.
So, in closing to all my short kings continue to do the damn thang and may your reign be supreme.