Spinning on the iStereo here in the RV is "Pablo Picasso" by Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers. Its most memorable lyric: "Well he was only 5'3" / But girls could not resist his stare." In response to which, I suspect, few men harbor the illusion that there was really anything All That Special about his stare. The thing was that it was the stare of Pablo Picasso, and that becoming someone of Pablo Picasso's stature is basically your main hope if you are only 5'3" and aspire to heterosexual romanticosexual irresistibility.
When I was in the throes of my pubertal growth spurt, I remember that each new inch would come as a source of great relief. "There," I would think when I reached 5'4", "at least I don't have to worry about being 5'3" my whole life."
Sources tell me that eHarmony, the online soulmate finding service, allows much flexibility to its matching parameters. By default, it will only search for your soulmate within a given age range, but you can opt to expand the permissible range all the way out to statutory and gerontological limits, if you want. eHarmony, however, has one rule of matching that you cannot, by any means, modify: the service will not match a man with a woman who is even one inch taller than he is.
As things turned out, I happen to be about exactly the average height for an white American male (I'm between 5'9" and 5'10'"). This makes me basically a spectator to the major dramas of height and its consequentiality for men's lives. Even from the bleachers, though, its importance is hard to miss. Being short, I've thought, has to mess with a man's head. Meanwhile, being tall, I've always envisioned, must be like being born with a silver yardstick in your mouth.
Sometimes people say that being short for men is like being fat for women, but, obviously, any analogy HEIGHT:MEN::WEIGHT:WOMEN only goes so far. One difference, of course, is that being overweight is something that is culturally defined as both (1) your fault and (2) something you can change, whereas if you are short past your teens, you are burdened with neither blame nor hope. Another difference, at least in Heterosexual World, is that boys and girls are handed different roadmaps marking out the alternative routes to romantic success. Roughly, at least, the prevailing picture still seems to be that, if you are a woman, you can either (1) Be Attractive or (2) Be Amenable, where (2) can take on a variety of different meanings depending on the socio-cultural-lifecoursical situation. Meanwhile, for men, you can either (1) Be Attractive or (2) Be Accomplished. Moreover, women's (2) is defined clearly as a cultural-consolation-prize to (1), while, for men, (2) can put one on roughly equal footing with (1).
In any case, whatever the specific role of affection-aspiration in why, maleness is so completely bound up with the imperative that being a person of worth means being somebody. My thinking has been that, all else being equal, the shorter a man is, the more urgently the flashing Must Be Somebody sign must blink in his brain. Perhaps I am wrong.
It is interesting that, although I'm roughly in the 50th percentile for height among white American males, it feels like I'm in about the 70th percentile for height among white American male academics at research universities. As I've moved up in the world, from high school to college to graduate school to faculty-hood, I've gotten relatively taller compared to my male peers. I've sometimes wondered whether, if I was six inches shorter, I would be the hardest working man in sociology. And whether, if I was six inches taller, I would work at all.