I have parents, thankfully. And they always tried to keep me private. I don't mean they hid me in a closet or anything, but they also didn't let people take pictures of me when we traveled or touch me for money. And when people stared, even kids, my parents stared back, unblinking, but friendly-like. The thing is, you can't blame kids for staring. Not only because I'm miniature, but also because I'm a little bit "disproportionate." That's what they call it when the fit of your parts is in any way off the mainstream chart: "disproportionate." Maybe your arms or legs are too stumpy or your torso is small and your head is huge. Or maybe you're just you, like Saartjie Hottentot, and it's only relative to everyone else that you're disproportionate. Maybe someday they'll think disproportionate dwarf is a rude expression and they'll come up with a nicer way to put it. I think most people know now that Hottentot is considered a rude word. Maybe not, though. Most people are stupid as hell when it comes to things like which words are rude. And a lot of people, even once they find out which words hurt people, still like to use them. They think it's smarmy and "PC" to have to say things kindly, or that it's too much pressure not to be able to punish freaks with words like freak.
Anyway, my parents would never even let me audition for American Idol, even though I can really sing, because they know Simon Cowell laughs at all the deformed people. It's complicated, since my mom and dad would never admit that my "situation" qualifies, but they still have to protect me. Because of this quandary, they finally broke down and agreed to send me to a performing arts high school last fall for my junior year, which is what caused this whole hideous nightmare in the first place.
Maybe my parents should have admitted that dwarfs are better off cloistered or hanging in some forest of Oz, and saved me the humiliation of having tried to pretend I'm fit to attend a flashy school. My parents are five feet six and six feet one, but they're on every board of every dwarf association in the world, and they use the words little people like there was never any other way to put it. They take me to "little people" conferences and manage to blend right in. So maybe from their dreamy bubble, it seemed possible that my "stellar academic performance" and charming personality would earn me popularity and favor among the rest of the kids, that I'd be a beloved Lilliputian among the Brobdingnagians.
That's not how it turned out. I should say right here, though, that what happened is not my parents' fault, and that I don't blame them. They're probably frantic right now, or dead from ulcers or heart attacks. I know they're searching for me, and the thought of it makes me physically sick. I guess because I love them. But I can't come out of here yet, don't know when I'll ever be able to rejoin the world.
Because most of society, including Darcy Arts Academy, is nothing like my parents. You can get a sense of the difference if you take a look online. I'll give you an example. Google "little people" and you get 8 million hits, most of which are for stumpy Fisher-Price figures with no legs. If you look up "small people," you get under a million (but at least one of the first two is the charming lyric "short people got no reason to live," preceding a story about tiny ancient people who hunted rats and lizards near the Java Sea). Call it predictable, but if you search "midget," you get 21 million hits, about 20 million of which are YouTube videos of "midget fights," "midget bowling," or "midget Michael Jacksons." There's also the really nice website TinyEntertainer.com, with its "Rent a Midget" logo scrolling across the screen like breaking news ticker tape. And if you type in "midget girl," you get email@example.com. Maybe up in the big world it's difficult to understand why midgets might hate the word midget, but here, I'll help. The Little People's Association explains it like this:
the term has fallen into disfavor and is considered offensive by most people of short stature. The term dates back to 1865, the height of the "freak show" era, and was generally applied only to short-statured persons who were displayed for public amusement, which is why it is considered so unacceptable today. Such terms as dwarf, little person, LP, and person of short stature are all acceptable, but most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label.
"Fallen into disfavor." I love that. So everyone can call me Judy, even after I get a job as a hot porno midget escort, because there's nowhere else for me to go from here. It's funny how I've reached the bottom of something, but up is still not an option.
Excerpted from Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin. Copyright © 2011 by Rachel DeWoskin. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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