Of Lawyers and Dwarves
Two years ago, I had the unpleasant experience of seeing the law firm I worked for go under. Because it was a matter of some interest in the broader legal market, we were able to learn about the firm’s demise through various blogs. But more than the blogs themselves, the comment sections on those blogs were the epicenter for rumor, real-time news, and comic relief. Not surprisingly, the firm leadership drew lots of attention from anonymous commenters, both in the form of pot shots and statements of loyalty.
When I ran across a comment from someone expressing sympathy for people who had come of age at the firm (in the partnership track sense) just in time to see it implode, I was surprised to see the commenter single me out by name, “Shawn Kennedy.” It was very strange to see my name brought into the discussion in such a public forum.
Stranger still was the reply to that comment, where another anonymous commenter took issue with the implicit compliment that had been paid to me. “Shawn Kennedy?” (There it was again.) “That dwarf would have never made partner . . . .”
That was one of a very few times in my adult life that someone engaged in name-calling based on my height, at least where I could hear it/read it. Don’t get me wrong – some of my braver close friends lovingly call me “Hobbit” or the like, but it’s not usually socially acceptable for adults to do that out of spite.
Here’s the thing, though: that brave anonymous commenter was right. I am a dwarf.
To be precise, I have Russell-Silver Syndrome (RSS), which is one of five types of primordial dwarfism. Primordial dwarfism? Haven’t I seen a show about really, really little people with that? Yes, but not all types of primordial dwarfism are the same. The smallest people in the world are primordial dwarfs, including He Pingping, a Chinese man who grew to a height of two feet, five inches (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_Pingping). People with RSS, on the other hand, usually grow a fair amount taller – somewhere between four and five feet for an adult height seems pretty common.
In Other Words, I’m Really Tall
So, you shouldn’t really think of me as a short guy. Think of me as a really big dwarf. I’m not exactly the Yao Ming of dwarves, but I’m definitely that guy you notice when he walks in the room and think, “Wow, he’s tall.” If they had Dwarf Olympics, I would dominate. No, really. I’d be Carl Lewis, Bruce Jenner, and Michael Phelps rolled into one. Probably even end up on the dwarf Wheaties box (which is about ¾ the size of a regular Wheaties box).
Really though, it’s strange for me even to call myself a dwarf. Aside from being short, my RSS-related “conditions” are quite mild. The entire left side of my body is bigger than the right side (hands, feet, legs – even, apparently, my skull), but only a little. Unlike a lot of people with RSS, the disparity isn’t bad enough to cause scoliosis or other health problems. The slight inward curve to my pinky fingers doesn’t do much more than make it harder to play the guitar. I don’t suffer from any RSS-related internal health issues either.
So I live in sort of a dwarf twilight. Too tall and condition too mild to really count as a dwarf, but short enough to be outside of “normal.” I’m reminded of the reality of this latter point when I see my gut-level reaction upon running into another guy that’s either my height or shorter. I’ll take the twilight, though. It makes life easier, including the little things you probably take for granted, like being able to find clothes and shoes in your size (I’m at the very bottom of the spectrum for this), reach that item on the top shelf at the market, or even drive a car without a special setup.
You weren’t really expecting me to write about teenage girls and vampires, were you?