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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The long and short of it is that contrasts make life interesting

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By Keiko Ohnuma

You can't tell from looking at the mug shot, but I am not exactly tall.

Not exactly five feet tall, that is.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, is certainly what you would call tall.

Six feet 3 1/2 inches tall.

Standing together, this gives us the appearance of — for want of a better word — freaks.

I didn't plan it this way. I don't even like tall guys. The first time I met him in a nonreclining position (off the surfboard is what I mean, thank you), my spirits sank.

"Oh, shoot. He's tall."

Of course, in my book, everyone is tall. But it's heart-rending to be eye level with someone's belly button. It sort of makes you want to give up on life.

The strange thing is, he is not my first tall boyfriend. More than half of them have been tall. My first sweetheart, in ninth grade, was a 6-foot-2, 180-pound linebacker.

I stood, then as always, 4-feet-11.

"Wear your heels!" my mother would admonish before we went out — like two inches was going to make any difference.

The worst case of this magnetism — or whatever it is — was the year I lived in Paris and had an Alsatian boyfriend, thin and blonde, who stood 6-feet-5. We would walk down the Boulevard Montparnasse hand in hand, exciting the kind of attention only Parisians and New Yorkers can give.

"Yo — what's it an ad for?"

"How do you, um, kiss?" one of my girlfriends giggled when she met my current beau.

That's easy: I stand on a chair.

Or he gets on his knees. Seriously!

On the surfboard, of course, it's less of an issue.

A radical difference in height, like any other, calls forth accommodations. You never forget that your view of the same situation comes from a different perspective. You learn to appreciate others' limitations and tolerate their advantages. Usually.

"The only thing about her," he confided to his friends — a group of freakishly tall military pilots — "she's short."

"Is that bad?" I said incredulously when he told me this story.

"Of course, Mouse."

Well, Moose may be proud that he can lock the passenger-side door while driving, and get a kick out of knocking on mine and motioning, "Roll down the window."

But he can't do a thing with his toes.

After a lifetime of being able to reach across the room with his Erector Set arms, his toe muscles are completely atrophied.

"You're like a monkey! How do you do that?" he says as I slide a foot across the floor to seize a stray napkin.

I guess the reason the tall and short so often end up together is that fascination we have for the experience we will never know, much as men and women have for each other. It's knowing, beneath our show of pride at our singularity, that we need balancing out.

Added together, he and I make two perfectly normal people. But happily, normal is a limitation neither of us will ever know.

Reach Keiko Ohnuma at kohnuma@honoluluadvertiser.com.