People meeting Ben Saylor for the first time might stare at his pink hair or his crazy hats. That's just the way the 19-year-old communications and advocacy student wants it. Ben says that way, he gets to choose why people stare at him, rather than for his dwarfism.
[0:07] BEN: "I'm a gay, Jewish, ginger, Irish dwarf with glasses and so many other things. So when you have that many oppressed minorities stuck inside you, you kind of have to be funny about it to some extent."
His mom Heather laughs, and asks Ben if he remembered to mention his pink hair.
[0:28] BEN: "Oh, well, that's not a minority. That's a life choice."
Ben says when people see him, they're distracted by his hair or his crazy hats. Heather thinks those hats and the hair, along with his humor, serve as a good defense mechanism.
She says the family was always frank about Ben's dwarfism. When Ben was eight, he had a tough question for her:
[0:59] HEATHER: " 'Mom, why did God make me a dwarf?' And, I was like, ugh, you know, kill me. Uh, so I, you know so I said: 'Well everyone is born differently and some people have big ears, some people are tall and some people are short.' And I said: 'And you were born short, you were born with dwarfism and I think that makes you really special.' "
Without skipping a beat, Heather says, Ben pointed out his brother didn't have dwarfism, and wondered if his brother was special too.
[1:35] HEATHER: "And I thought: 'Oh man, this kid is not going to let me off easy!' "
Heather turns to Ben's playground days, wondering if he remembers how kids used to tease him. She'd make him go up to those kids and explain his condition.
[2:00] BEN: "Yep. I'm like, oh great. I'd just have to go up after they were making fun of me and my mom's making me like say 'So, can you please stop? I'm a dwarf and this is a condition and stuff like that.'"
HEATHER: "And this is the way my head's supposed to look."
BEN: "Yeah and this is the way my head's supposed to look. It's a lot easier for me now especially because I feel like I'm teaching or something."
Mother and son share a moment of mutual admiration:
[2:25] HEATHER: "Ben, I admire your self assuredness, your sense of self, your ability to be so OK with who you are. I wish I was so OK, as OK with myself as you are with yourself."
BEN: "Why, thank you. And for you just like being able to put up with this like crap, but you don't put up with it. You just say 'Not only do I have to live with it, but I want to live with it.'"
NOTE: This interview was recorded in collaboration with Access Living, a station partner. Adam Peindl helped produce this report.