In My Own Write: Sizing things up

Why small is beautiful, much of the time. In myself, however, such feelings extend beyond the living to the inanimate.

By
July 26, 2011 23:06
Miniature Homes

Miniature Homes_311. (photo credit: MCT)

Miniature: something small of its kind – Webster’s Dictionary

Do small-scale objects – miniatures – ever touch your heart? They touch mine, quite often, and I wonder why. Maybe it’s because at 150 centimeters – four feet 11 inches – I’m something of a miniature myself. Or maybe it’s that we humans are wired to feel tenderness for the little and cute.

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This is understandable when it’s newborns we’re talking about. Their smallness and sweetness (read: helplessness) are their greatest assets, Nature’s way of ensuring that parents will stick by their offspring in spite of all the effort involved in raising them.

We also go quite gooey over kittens and puppies.

In myself, however, such feelings extend beyond the living to the inanimate.

But... tenderness toward a pot of face cream? Ridiculous! Yet so it is.

When my daughter returned from India a few years ago, she had in her backpack a yellow-and-white, cute eggshaped container labeled “Emami Malai- Kesar Cold Cream with Herbs – 5 Power Winter Formula.” Smaller than a pingpong ball, it measured about 3 cm. from top to bottom and side to side, and I wondered how those five powers could all fit inside.

Humorously emblazoned on this already minuscule item were the words “25% Extra Free.” I fell for it immediately. Every so often, I pick the little thing up and commune with it. There’s a relationship there.

Then there’s the “baby” glass sauce-boat, which lives on my kitchen shelf nestled safely inside its “mother,” an identical, larger version of the same item. The sight of that cozy duo delights me too, and when I serve a meal, I try not to keep them apart too long.

I could continue with a list of items – some having no practical use – that I hang onto simply because, being miniatures, they strike a chord in some inner emotional recess, and I simply can’t let them go.

AMONG Israelis, I am not alone in my affection for the small-scale.

In 1986, Israeli entrepreneur Eiran Gazit visited the famous Dutch miniature town of Madurodam, and was inspired to create an Israeli version. It eventually took shape in 2002, near Latrun in the Ayalon Valley, and contains miniature replicas of 350 local buildings and sites important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Called Mini Israel, its slogan is “See it all – small.”

That’s kind of ironic, considering that the entire State of Israel – the disputed territories included – isn’t much bigger than New Jersey, the US’s fifthsmallest state. An alternative name for Mini Israel could well be “miniature within a miniature.”

Regrettably, however, our tiny country, its many marvels notwithstanding, is one miniature that elicits scant tenderness or sympathy from the bigger nations of the world.

WE’RE living, globally, during an era in which, almost daily, more and more things appear that we can scarcely comprehend, never mind control. I think miniature objects have an appeal because they are compact and controllable and make us feel large and potent by comparison.

Taking the example of Mini Israel, when we stand alongside a Knesset building that is only half our height, or less, even though we know the inversion in size is just temporary, the juxtaposition is balm to an ego under constant assault from a too-fast-changing world.

‘CAN short people wear tall shoes?” I once heard a small child ask her mother. I’d have loved to know her reply, but they moved out of earshot.

The mother’s answer might well have been, “Kim Jong-Il does.”

The North Korean dictator is known to wear five-inch platforms. Without them, in his socks, he stands at less than five feet, according to some sources.

The phrase “Napoleon complex” (Bonaparte reportedly measured between five-two and five-seven) illustrates the truism that lack of height doesn’t impact the exercise of power. Indeed, the opposite often holds true.

It’s quite disturbing how many leaders in our own time have been – to echo the philosopher Hobbes – nasty, brutish and short.

While Hitler was five foot eight or nine, Stalin was just five-six, and Mussolini not much more than five feet tall. The New Yorker has put Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s height at five-four. Yasser Arafat was five foot two.

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito,” declared coiner of aphorisms Betty Reese.

‘I AM sick of being a shorty,” writes one blogger on the Internet. “For those of you that were blessed with height, I am insanely jealous... Not only can you reach stuff, but you get to eat more.”

“ I love being short,” counters another.

“You can fit into a lot of stuff like a locker to hide from bullys [sic]. Granted you are also small enough to get stuffed in one, but that’s a chance I am willing to take.”

It’s a point of view.

“I always have an excuse to get someone else to change lightbulbs,” enthuses a third, “and I don’t fall as far when I trip.” Moreover, “my feet will never hang off the end of a bed.”

Yet more: “My height wouldn’t cause difficulties for me when traveling in pretty much any foreign country... and I generally don’t have to look out for low-hanging branches. I will never hit my head on a door-frame unless I am wildly uncoordinated, and I can sit comfortably in most adult-sized chairs and drive comfortably in most cars.” (Not to mention fitting into economy seats on airplanes.) Finally, “I have a lower cancer and heart disease risk than my tall peers, and am less likely to die in a car crash.”

FOR me, my height has always been a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, I’ve enjoyed being able to wear children’s clothes as well as adults’; hardly ever, in my dating days, met a guy who was too short; and learned to accept, if not exactly love, being called “cute” and “sweet.”

On the other hand, I’ve yearned to be slender and willowy; to see easily over people’s heads in a crowd; to look someone in the eye when we’re both standing, and to not feel as if I’m in a pine forest while waiting in line.

The grass often does look greener in the other guy’s garden; but then, you can grow some pretty nice stuff in your own if you cultivate it.

I guess Westerners whose short stature really bugs them could relocate to an Asian country – where they may suddenly find themselves seen as tall.

A FRIEND who read this piece before publication commented that short women are often viewed as bossy and controlling.

“To borrow your motif,” she said, smiling, “the home and family are a sort of miniature of society as a whole, where the woman, powerful though her position is, must ‘rule’ gently and wisely for the unit to function optimally. Bossiness is counterproductive.”

Are you referring to me? I asked her, suspiciously. “Not necessarily,” she replied. “But forewarned is forearmed.”


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