by Bryan Chua (14A01A)
Photo credit: http://blogs.greekpod101.com/blog/2011/06/11/greek-word-of-the-day-short-adjective/
I hate taking the class photo. There, I said it. The annual ritual of gathering together as a class, with photographers and everything set up at a central location with the big screens and flash umbrellas to take a series of photos to be put in the yearbook (and on your bedroom wall, if you love your class that much).
The thing is, I don’t hate the awkward smiling, or being uncomfortable with who I’m standing next to in the photo, or having to look somewhat presentable for the camera or anything like that. No, what I’m really bothered about is this incredibly annoying ritual that revives an unnecessary obsession with height. No other time will you not only stand in a line in ascending order of height, but also stand back-to-back asking the question “Who’s taller?” On no other occasion do we find a reason to arrogantly stand with our backs as straight as possible, lift our heads up as high as we can just to say, “Ha! I’m taller than you.”
In fact, nobody ever tries to compete to be the shortest in the row. What does happen, instead, is that the second shortest guy turns to you and says, “I was actually really depressed (about being shorter), but then I realised you’re there,” followed by an apology even Karen from Mean Girls would know was completely insincere (in case you didn’t know, Karen’s the ‘dumb blonde’ in the film). Did you really mean to apologise for asserting your height over me? We all know this is a competition, and being taller than just one person is often enough to feel slightly better about ourselves.
We forget though, that there has to be someone who stands at the front of that line, and is shoved out to the unimportant edges of the photo by virtue of simply being shorter than everyone else. The one person who stands at the front of every row, can never sit in the back row just so he/she can see the board and is the target of every single short joke known to man. Oh, the humiliation.
Thing is, despite the constant barrage of reminders that I’m just simply shorter than everyone else, I don’t really care anymore. Why is it such a big deal, being shorter or taller? Does it really say anything about you? I’m reasonably certain this is just a thing to make ourselves feel better when we know that at least we’re better than someone else at something, even if it is just a matter of genetics and biology that grants us that.
But we cherish height, don’t we? It’s constantly about trying to grow taller, trying to gain that extra few centimetres of height and move into that bracket of “tall” to “taller”. Sure, there are benefits of being tall, like being able to reach that book you accidentally left on the top shelf while packing your room, or being able to see your teacher eye-to-eye to help reduce the trembling fear that strikes when you’re looking up at your Civics Tutor who’s telling you off for falling asleep in his class.
Being short is cool though. Someone on Thought Catalog wrote a piece on 20 reasons why “being short is the best”. Probably a massive overstatement, but there are at least some benefits to being short. For starters, it’s so much easier to slot in and out of crowded MRT stations, or fit on the train at peak hour since you take up (in general) so much less space – plus, it’s more comfortable, since you don’t have to crane your neck and contort your body just to fit in that little gap in the train. Also, it’s far easier to get a cheaper lunch when you smile widely and lie through your teeth when trying to convince a waiter you’re young enough for the child discount, when you’re really not. Fine, maybe that’s a little unethical – but that’s besides the point.
Sure, we’d all like to be taller because it not only gives us a sense of superiority over the next person, but perhaps also a representation of what we all are – just trying to be better than the next guy. We’ll jump at any chance we get to assert ourselves over the next person just to boost our own sense of self-worth, forgetting that really, sometimes it really doesn’t matter.
All that aside, that’s why I really hate this annual, laboured ritual of photo-taking, and having to line up in a row in order of height just to make the photo look symmetrical. I hate it, but I’ll still proudly take my place at the front of the line, while everyone battles with one another trying to measure that additional 0.1cm to warrant moving further down the line. It’s so much easier.