Rum and Stumpy and the Lash

Stephin Merritt, in a Magnetic Fields publicity shot

Runt, the party for short men and the men who enjoy them, is observed on Wednesday nights in a low-ceilinged half-basement on East Fourteenth Street, between First and Second Avenues, not far from the firehouse and the bike shop. It is a project of the pop musician Stephin Merritt, who is short. The bar is called Nowhere Bar.

Given this week’s Slate article on Mr. Merritt, the song “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah,” race, and dispute with Mr. Merritt by music critics Jessica Hopper and Sasha Frere-Jones, The Transom thought tonight might be a nice evening to stop by Mr. Merritt’s party.

Nine fellows were on the street outside, smoking in the mist. Two were baldish, two were bearish. One was kind of short.

The Transom was equally delighted to be carded and to discover there was no cover charge.

Inside the light was all red. Thirty or so men loitered, an average age being perhaps 36. An apparently off-white D.J. was playing verifiably white music from a collection of compact discs; it may have been Yaz. It was decidedly Yaz-like. Some played pool.

None of the men appeared visibly short. (Some were sitting.) Mr. Merritt was most certainly not there, or at least not yet. It was 11:40 p.m. A story had been going around town that a few weeks previous at Runt, a similar crowd, height-wise, had watched in discomfort as a very short man, perhaps a midget, danced alone under the red light in the middle of the bar.

In a recent issue of Out, Mr. Merritt explained that among gay men, stereotypes of short men included qualities of passivity and submission. Other short men quoted in the magazine said that they had found that many men of “normal” height were concerned about the size of the genitalia of short potential sex partners. This is absurd; all imagined correlations between any other physical traits and penis size have been long disproven.

(Or, at the very least, those correlations have been proven mightily unstable.)

A great number of gay porn stars are quite short, to good effect. On film, naked, their relative proportions are often flattering. It is a question of scale.

Naturally-occurring issues of scale are not unlike the making of perspective in two dimensions. Leonardo da Vinci wrote something in his notebooks that applies as well to any critical dust-up as it does to making drawings of the human body: “There is no object so large but that at a great distance from the eye it does not appear smaller than a smaller object near.”

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