How Prince Taught Me To Be OK With My Height
There's one key quality me and Prince shared. I'd love to say musical talent, raw sexual charisma, or a directorial catalogue that includes a black and white musical film about gigolos, but honestly? We are exactly the same height. How small was Prince, you ask? We're both a petite 5 feet and 3 inches. My diminutive stature was basically no big deal for me up until three years ago, when I moved from London to Berlin. I don't have any statistics to back it up (in fact, the statistics I found here seem to suggest that German women in my age bracket are, on average, smaller than British women) and maybe it's just based on the people I hang out with, but it feels like people are much taller here. And I wasn't OK with that until Prince.
I'm pretty much always the shortest person in the room — and by a lot. People also seem to notice it more, though I'd imagine this could be one of the unpleasant side effects of speaking a language that isn't native to you and thus coming across as much less nuanced, sophisticated and adult than when you speak your native tongue. In short (pun intended), people often seemed to treat me like a peppy child rather than a woman in her 20s and referred to me as "die kleine Sophie" (little Sophie) far more often than I was comfortable with. So seriously: thank goodness Prince existed.
I started looking to Prince to be my inspiration for how to demand as much — no, more — respect than anyone else in the room despite his height. This was vital. At the time, I was working in a digital advertising agency and regularly had to endure not-so-professional behavior, like male colleagues patting me on the head. I'd already asked my boss for a solution, and he'd suggested I tried dressing differently ("less cute, more power b*tch") and smiling less. But I knew this wasn't OK. Why did I have to change my behavior and the men didn't, when they were the source of the problem?
I knew that Prince had never changed the slightest thing about himself to accommodate other people's discomfort about his height. He regularly played with female musicians who were far taller than him and didn't shy away from hugging anyone or getting in a photo with someone who was far taller than him. He was comfortable with himself, even and especially when that comfort made other people feel uncomfortable. And I wanted to be exactly like him. I wanted to be that confident.
The happy ending in this story isn't as dramatic as you might be hoping for, but, then, aren't real-life happy endings normally pretty uneventful? In the end, I didn't change anything about myself, except verbalizing as calmly but assertively as possible that it really wasn't OK when people played the small card. This remains something I have to do time and again with new people, but the more I do it, the better I get at it, and I'm hoping that eventually I'll convert the whole of the Hauptstadt to giving small folks with a peppy delivery of German as much respect as anyone else.
So thank you, Prince Rogers Nelson. You're gone, but, as long as I'm around to look people in the eyes even if it means having to tilt my head back, you certainly won't be forgotten.