5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf


Each generation is more and more accepting of different people, and that's great. But one group still lags pretty far behind: mine. I'm a dwarf. And to confuse people even more, my wife is full-sized and so are my kids. I'm the only one who gets the "sitting on phone books" joke, which would be fine if that gag weren't more tired than Sleeping Beauty. There are way too many misconceptions about what life is like when you're small, and since you can't go ask Alice because she sold out and turned 10 feet tall, I'm here to educate instead. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you meet a dwarf outside of an MMORPG.

Our Boners Are Just as Big as Yours (and Look Way Cooler)

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
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On paper, the idea that we dwarfs have got teeny-weeny weenies makes sense. After all, every other part of us is tiny. But no, we're just as stacked as any of you, and in some lucky cases, even more so. See, my form of dwarfism is called achondroplasia (the most common type, actually), and it involves a lot of the cartilage in my body failing to do what the Good Lord intended it to do -- become bone. So my kind and I wind up with short arms, short legs, stubby fingers and toes, and a fun-size version of anything else that contains actual bone. This is also why dwarfs typically have a pot belly, no matter how much our CrossFit trainer screams at us. Our ribs simply can't hold our lungs and whatever else Dr. House says is in there, so everything just spills out.

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
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When we blame it on bone size, it's not just an excuse.

Boners, funnily enough, contain no bone. A penis is simply a bunch of tissue, and a dwarf's body has no problem growing tissue. This results in a dick that, quite frankly, looks just like any other. Our average size is five to six inches, just like taller guys. Only difference is, ours are on small frames and thus look way more impressive.

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
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On top of being just plain better at sex moves, ladies.

Plus, the surprise factor when somebody sees it for the first time without knowing what to expect never gets old. Just ask my wife, past girlfriends, or the poor NSA intern who's no doubt watched me undress by now. God did his best to make amends: "Hey, yeah, sorry about messing up your bones and dealing you a lifetime of repeatedly explaining that no, you do not want a Happy Meal. Here, have an optical illusion that makes your dick look giant. Better?"

Yes, actually. Much.

No Matter What We Look Like, We Look Like Every Other Dwarf

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
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People are dwarf illiterate. That's the only way to explain why so many people, even those in minority demographics who really ought to know better, just assume everybody of dwarf size is the same damn dwarf. Race, body type, fucking gender -- it matters not. If you've seen one dwarf, you've seen ... the only dwarf on Earth, apparently. He gets around.

You name a famous dwarf, chances are I've been mistaken for them. Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer? Yep. Wee Man from Jackass? Absolutely (even though he's Latino and I'm blindingly, devastatingly white). Some random midget wrestler the WWF exploited back in the '80s? You bet. Anybody from Little People, Big World? I'm actually ALL OF THEM. Camera tricks and simple editing just make it seem like an entire family.

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
I'm playing both R2 and Wicket in this scene.

My day job is at a casino. Some guy came up to me and asked me why I wasn't working in my usual department. I was confused, since I do only one job (dealing cards) and that doesn't exactly require a department. I told him that, and he just kept insisting, "No, no, I see you working there all the time." And that's when it hit me: he had mistaken me for the other dwarf on the casino's payroll. Who is female. With long, blonde, wavy hair. I, on the other hand, am decidedly dude-ish, with short dude-ish hair. We look not one bit alike, except for the fact that both of us are short enough to get kicked off a roller coaster. But despite Yoda making it perfectly clear that size matters not, it clearly matters bunches to oblivious jerks.

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"Why did you just refer to yourself in the third-person? What do you mean you're not Yoda?"

On the other hand, I've been getting a lot of "Hey, aren't you Tyrion from Game of Thrones?" recently, and I'm obviously totally cool with that.

You Can Literally Be the Only Dwarf in Your Family

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf

People see Little People, Big World and they just assume that small people beget other small people. And if by some miracle a full-sized kid comes out of the deal, then you've got yourself a wacky sitcom in the making. But then they meet someone like me, an actual dwarf with an actual family. My wife? Full-sized. My children? Same. My parents, my siblings, my aunts and uncles, my 16th cousin nine times removed -- all full-sized. I am the one and only dwarf in my family.

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And I didn't even get a sweet battle-axe to show for it.

And we're not sideshow anomalies -- a lot of families have one or two dwarfs while everybody else towers over them and taunts them with delicious pizza that they cannot reach. Once again, chalk this phenomenon up to simple science. Dwarfism isn't a disease, a side effect of inbreeding, a result of corrupted DNA, or a voodoo curse -- it's just a genetic mutation called skeletal dysplasia. While technically this is a hereditary condition, it's also very recessive (at best, one baby out of every 4,000 draws the short straw) and thus highly unlikely to rear its tiny head very often. In other words, the likelihood of an entire family co-holding the World Limbo Championship is pretty damn slim.

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf

Our Role Models Aren't Who You Think

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf

If you had to guess the most respectable media representation of dwarfism, you'd probably nominate Peter Dinklage. Tyrion is an unquestionable badass who can stand maybe not nose-to-nose but definitely toe-to-toe with any of the other members of House White Guy With a Beard.

But here's the problem with Tyrion: his dwarfism is a huge part of his character. He's been given shit about it his whole life, derided by so many as simply "the dwarf," or "imp," or some other insult about his size. It's the constant reminder of his dwarfism that's bothersome. We don't want to be reminded that we're small all the time. We just want to be people, looked at on the same level as everybody else. And you know who gets that more than any other progressive or serious property? Jackass.

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
"Hi, I'm Johnny Knoxville, welcome to equality."

Yep, Johnny Knoxville's magnum opus is what I point to when people ask about models for dwarf tolerance. Sure, maybe they're running around in diapers or belly-flopping onto alligators or doing some other stupid shit -- but they treat Wee Man as an equal. He's one of them. He has to do embarrassing stuff, but so does everyone else. He may have a dumb nickname, but he's not their little mascot, out there killing himself while Knoxville and Steve-O sit back and sip beer and laugh at the poor people. He's a jackass through and through -- he just happens to come in a different size (and is a legit pro skater that can do things on a plank with wheels that most people can't even stand on regardless of height).

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
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Truly the egalitarian trailblazers of our generation.

Then there are the dwarf wrestlers. Not the WWF, mind you, where dwarfs are called midgets (not the kindest word on Earth), dress like leprechauns, and basically demean themselves instead of wrestling. In the past, they'd even get spanked by the ref at times, because short people are actually babies. But go to Mexico and dwarf wrestlers are treated very well. Known as Mini-Estrella, these are legitimate athletes who are presented seriously (well, as seriously as any pro wrestler could hope for), even successfully competing with larger athletes in legitimate scripted exhibitions. OK, so it's not the Olympics, but at least nobody's getting spanked.

Gene Therapy Might Render Us Extinct (and That's a Good Thing)

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
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Something big is in the works regarding dwarfism, and it's straight out of an X-Men film. Sadly, though, it's the crappy third one. You know, the one where they try to eradicate mutant powers and any remaining cool factor Wolverine may have had. There's now a push to develop a "cure" for dwarfism, one that could help any pre-pubescent dwarf grow normally, at least until they reach puberty. Yet one more way for puberty to screw us all!

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Teenage embarrassment is where we all feel small.

To be honest ... I'm kind of for it. Not because I'm a self-loathing turd, or because lack of height is such a hindrance -- thanks to technology and human ingenuity, just about every facet of work and life can be successfully performed by little people nowadays. No, it's because of health. Dwarfism might not be a disease, but it's not exactly a dream come true. Dwarfs' lives are often racked with health issues, such as sleep apnea and obesity, but mostly bone and joint issues. At 8 years old, I developed bone spurs in my right knee. When I was 16, my legs started bowing out even more than they already did, and if they hadn't stopped on their own, doctors would have had to surgically realign them. This would have meant cutting my leg bones and pinning them straight, a procedure a lot of dwarfs need eventually.

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
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"Not only do I have a disproportionately large penis, I'm also a cyborg."

Like I said, if two dwarfs mate, there's still a good chance their child will be normal-sized. But if it's not, and two dwarfs create another dwarf, that could lead to double-dominant syndrome. A child born with this condition will be extremely small. It's a miracle if a child with DDS survives more than a couple months.

So, I say bring on gene therapy. It's not about eliminating race, sexual thought, or bone claws -- it's about saving and extending the future. A world where as many children as possible grow up healthy and have a fair shake at remaining so sounds pretty damn good to me. And if that means my generation is one of the last to experience the joys of endless Lucky Charms jokes, then so be it.

5 Insane Realities of My Life as a Dwarf
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Count Chocula's better anyway.

Jason Iannone edits articles, lays them out, interviews people, and writes columns. Loudly complain about a minor typo he made in 2010 via Facebook and Twitter.

For more insider perspectives, check out 7 Adventures of the World's Biggest Pot Smuggler. And then check out 24 Video Game Plot Twists That Would Have Blown Your Mind.

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Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.

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