At four feet eleven and a half inches, there are certain things I can’t do in public.
For instance, I love to dance but have learned that I can’t. To any drunk chap who crosses my path on the dance floor, I am not a woman but one of those strength machines you find at a funfair.
The last time I tried, at my best friend’s wedding two years ago, I was seized from behind, flipped upside down and shaken like an almost empty ketchup bottle. My reaction was blind panic lest I fall out of my dress and flash at everyone.
For most girls, there comes a point in life when they realise they have grown enough to be considered a woman — so it’s tough if, like me, you never do. Instead, you are forced to confront the fact that you’ll always look as if you should be skipping happily round the toadstool in a Brownie pack.
Emily Hill, 37, (pictured) who is four feet eleven and a half inches, reflects on having a pang of sympathy when Elaine Paige revealed she’s insecure about her height last week
So I did feel a pang of sympathy for singing legend Elaine Paige when she revealed last week that, at under 5ft tall, height was her insecurity, leaving her feeling ‘patronised’ and ‘overlooked’.
My younger brother calls me Tiny Tim, after the miniature frog puppet in The Muppet Christmas Carol. The film came out in 1992 when he was six and I was eight and a half. Back then it was a very funny joke.
But the last laugh was on both of us, as I failed to grow as tall as my mother, who is 5 ft 2 in, and he failed to grow as tall as my father, who is 5 ft 9 in. We blame it on them not feeding us properly.
Whenever anyone asks how tall I am, I lie and say I’m 5 ft. After all, as Victoria Beckham advised in 2007, we must take full advantage of That Extra Half An Inch: Hair, Heels And Everything In Between.
As a child, I saw how slights about my shortness upset my mother, which I couldn’t stand.
When I needed my first pair of shoes, the shop wouldn’t sell my mother any because I was too small for them all. After we’d left the shop, my mother burst into tears. It didn’t seem fair to her that they wouldn’t sell her shoes I would grow into. We lived in rural Norfolk and, as it was the only shoe shop within five miles, I spent the summer barefoot.
Emily recalls her mother being ‘very upset’ to find she had been given a head start in all the running races on sports day because of her little legs. Pictured: Elaine Paige
My mother developed a sense of burning injustice about my height, which she still feels keenly now. At primary school, she was very upset to find I’d been given a head start in all the running races on sports day because of my asthmatic lungs and little legs.
I was so used to coming last that I was quite happy at not having to bother running so far. But my mum had been a sprinter in her time, so I suppose she knew what winning felt like. Even with the head start I came last, so I looked like an even bigger loser.
At secondary school, I remained the tiniest thing in the bottom set for PE. Every year I’d sign up for the 100 metres, high jump and long jump, knowing damn well my mother would write me a sick note on the day.
Another of my mother’s efforts to overcome the prejudice we battled came when I was 17 and she bought me platforms that took me up to 5 ft 4 in. I had to wear them with hiking socks because the smallest-sized ladies’ shoes are a 3 and I’m a 2. Running slowly was now the least of my problems. I could barely walk.
By the time I turned 18 I’d given up growing. I know feminism tells us women should be fascinated by their changing bodies, but my body kept disappointing me as a teenager so I stopped bothering with it altogether.
Emily said Kylie Minogue and Dolly Parton (pictured) who are both 5ft, have been her idols
I do remember having to shout out what I liked about my body in a sex education class. I said: ‘Having a brain.’
As an adult, I feel no shame in asking for help to cope with my shortness. Handsome strangers in supermarkets are never safe from being asked to get me things down from top shelves.
I know I should buy a step-ladder so I can change my own light bulbs, but there’s no room to store one in my tiny one-bedroom flat. So whenever a bulb blows, I make do with candlelight. It reminds me of all the romantic dinners I’m not having.
For everything else in my flat, why store stuff high up when you can stuff it all under your bed within easy reach?
When I told my mum that I wanted to be a writer, she told me to get a more realistic job. But I had my idols and, even now I’m pushing 40, no one can take away my dreams.
Dolly Parton (5ft) has her own theme park. Kylie Minogue (5ft) has had more hot men than I’ve had hot dinners. Lady Gaga made her height the title of the documentary about her life (Five Foot Two). And while Reese Witherspoon is a mere 5 ft 1 in, she has won an Oscar and is kicking asses far larger than hers as a hotshot producer.
Emily who still gets ID’d at the checkout, said she would like to make a toast to Elaine Paige (pictured)
They are among the latest in a long line of people who have turned their ‘Napoleon complex’ — the art of being overly aggressive to compensate for lack of stature — into fame and success.
Picasso was a pipsqueak but he didn’t let that put him off painting. Boney himself was less than 5 ft 6 in and he managed to conquer most of Europe. And many great writers were tiddlers. John Keats was barely a hair taller than me, while at 4 ft 6 in, Alexander Pope makes me look like a giant.
Yet the truth is it’s much, much harder to be short if you are a man. Pope had little success with the ladies and Keats died of twin causes: tuberculosis and heartbreak.
Does no man want to marry me because I’m too short? Only the men who don’t want to marry me can tell you. But as Mr Bennet advised Lizzy in Pride And Prejudice: ‘Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be connected with a little absurdity are not worth a regret.’
If I die a spinster because no man can bear to be associated with a woman who needs a booster seat at the cinema, can’t see a damned thing in a crowd and would be denied entry to any height-restricted fairground ride, then so be it.
Even though I’ll be turning 38 in May, I still get ID’d at the checkout. Every. Single. Time. So I’d like to make a toast to Elaine Paige, an idol we imps worship.
Bad Romance by Emily Hill (£12.99, Cornerstone) is out now.