I’m five-foot-five, and I’m never as aware of this fact as when I’m at Tea Dance.
Before I say more, I want to clear up a misunderstanding: I like being short. I feel like my lack of stature has endowed me with a certain approachability. I may also have a bit of a Napoleon complex — but I’d like to think I have a healthy strain that makes me not arrogant, just assertive. Usually, I just think I’m the cutest.
And yet, the other day at Tea Dance, I felt bad about being short. Tea Dance, if you haven’t been, is the 4 to 7 p.m. cocktail hour at the Boatslip Beach Club in Provincetown. With rare exceptions, the crowd is made up entirely of gay men. There’s a dance floor inside, but I prefer to be outside on the dock where I do a few “fruit loops” — walking in a circle for the sake of seeing and being seen.
I stop often to make conversation. The other day, though, I was not able to do that because every conversation was taking place, literally, over my head. Only two people did talk with me, and they both crouched down for the conversation, which struck me as a little gratuitous. “Is that really necessary?” I finally said to one of them.
This has happened before — moments like this were frequent at Tea Dance last summer. I would find myself, at first, part of a conversation and then, all of a sudden, no longer part of it — I suppose because people got tired of craning their necks, even if ever so slightly. It often felt like I was in a game of Piggy in the Middle, with everyone’s words a ball flying high above me that, try as I might, I couldn’t intercept. I don’t remember minding this so much last summer. I’m competitive, and I like a game.
But for some reason, my smallness has started weighing on me. Last summer, I was young. Now, I’m a world-weary 22-year-old. Maybe that’s why it no longer strikes me as worth it to stand on my tiptoes to hear what people have to say. Because, really, how good can it be? What few words I’m able to catch from down here often seem trivial. I’m wondering if, when you’re tall, the air at that altitude messes up your brain.
Maybe that does sound a little too Napoleonic. What I mean to say is that I come to Tea Dance regularly because I long to have conversations. I’m hoping for good ones, but even dull ones can be nice. I long to have conversations, specifically, with other gay people, which is why I showed up in this town in the first place. I’m getting tired, I suppose, of having to inch my way into those conversations.
What is to be done about this? There are always stilettos. But I have pathetically weak ankles so that’s a no-can-do. I could go full-blown Napoleon and demand that people include me in their conversations, but even saying that here makes me sound a little shrill.
I could ask for more piggyback rides from my six-foot-four friend, but the one time we did that at Tea Dance I accidentally dumped my drink on the head of a muscle-y stranger as I was being hoisted up. The man was livid. My friend put me down and tried to apologize to him, but to no avail: for many minutes, the man yelled at my friend. But not at me. I was back down on the ground, well below the man’s eye level. He yelled not at me, only above me.
Really good friend that I am, I quietly snuck away from the altercation. Slipping through the crowd at Tea Dance is one thing I am able to do easily because I am so short. I went to get myself a fresh drink, content with the view from five-foot-five.