Feisty. Strong. Assertive. These three words describe the petite women that I know. Many of my closest friends have been petite throughout my life. We are drawn to each other. Opposites attract – it has been said.
Petite is the opposite of how I walk in the world. Everything about me is big:
Big hips, big butt, big hair, full lips, big eyes, large feet, big hands, full breasts, big mind, large ideas, voracious appetites, and gigantic heart.
I’ve always been curious about how it would feel to be petite. So, in one of my stories, I created a character whose petite size was central to her part of the story. The story, What Does This Remind You Of, has three episodes of male-to-female violation. In creating Patricia’s character, I remembered one of these friends talking about having difficulty walking in a strong wind. That image didn’t make it into the story but it seeded another thought – how wonderful it would be to be swept up into someone’s arms. I turned that lovely image around so it would fit into the theme of my story. What if it wasn’t so lovely to be swept up? Here’s a snippet:
Sonya opened her mouth again and pursed her lips trying to soften the edginess she felt and knew would continue to be evident in her voice. How to say it? How to communicate through Patricia’s smugness?
“Do you have any gaps in your memories?” she asked. “Any blank days that you cannot recall? Do you ever get anxious around certain people/voices/scents/situations? Have you ever been scared, felt over-powered? Have you ever felt little, so small as to be inconsequential? If you can’t answer an emphatic no to these questions then don’t be so damn sure that nothing happened to the girl you were!”
Later, as she fixed dinner, having finally kicked off the three-inch heels she always wore, Patricia surveyed the beauty of her kitchen and said a quick prayer of thanks for it and her life once again. She had the life she’d always dreamed of, surrounded by beauty and peace in her custom-built house deep in the country. No cramped rooms and noisy voices. No sirens and dirty streets. She was living a beautiful life.
Still, the words Sonya had said kept coming back to her. “Have you ever felt little? Have you ever felt lit-tle…so small as to be inconsequential?” She had. She was little; a small girl who’d grown into a petite woman who did everything she could to give herself heft: bouffant hair teased as high and wide as it could be and sprayed until it was lacquered into place; three-inch high heels; seriously tailored suits with strong shoulder pads. She tried to present herself as a woman who was “large and in charge” but in fact looked even more diminutive because of such efforts.
“Put me down, Glenn, put me down,” Patricia shrieked as her husband, who’d slipped into the kitchen while she was lost in her thoughts, spun her around and up into his arms for his welcome- home kisses; a nightly ritual.
“Where’s my sugar, woman?” Glenn demanded.
“You know I hate when you do that.”
“Oh, you hate my kisses do you?”
“Not those, big boy” she paused, flirting despite her annoyance, “I love those. I don’t like to be picked up like that.”
“We go through this every evening, Patricia. Why do you resist? You know I love having my pretty China doll in my arms.”
She gave a slight sigh and smiled at him. She didn’t feel like explaining once again how she didn’t like being lifted unexpectedly. She felt like she’d explained her feelings in as many different ways as she could but still had not been heard.
When she was a child, her brothers, the twin terrors, Bobby and Terry, would just pick her up and move her whenever they felt like it, as if she were a feather. They’d swing her around until she was dizzy or they’d walk with her tucked under their arms. “Now stay put, China doll.” She’d kick and scream, scratch and bite to no consequence. She couldn’t land a blow on their bodies or in their consciousness. She spent hours plotting elaborate strategies – how she could somehow show them how it felt to be moved against your will, to be taken away, to be carried so high above the ground that you felt the wind would continue what they’d started and you’d lift into the atmosphere like a balloon that had been let go, eventually to disappear.
As a girl she’d taken to putting rocks in her pockets, a futile attempt to anchor herself. She’d tried to gain weight as a teen but vanity and a naturally speedy metabolism thwarted that wee rebellion. Bobby and Terry would stop when she ceased screaming, when her voice had left her, when the shuddering began and her eyes narrowed into slits, when they’d crossed the line and she was “too-through.” Then, and only then, would they put her down as they choked with laughter.
So, as an adult, Patricia dressed for height and bulk, developed a stare that strangers wouldn’t challenge, avoided her brothers’ barbecues and other large family gatherings because they’d drink themselves back into the raucous bullyboys of her childhood. And her husband, her wonderful husband, she endured. Like millions of women she grinned and bore because compared to other husbands his was only a minor annoyance after all. It barely counted. (And at least she had a man.)
(I give a shout-out to all my feisty, strong, and assertive petite friends: Phyllis, Faina, Mimi, Pam, Eileen, Dolores, and Nayo. You all are fierce! I don’t think anyone would dare life you against your will.)
I thought I’d share my process – a certain angle or noticing something about the people around me or hearing a phrase can make its way into my writing often removed but still tied to the original thought.
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