I am tall! Well, actually, I topped out at 5’11”, so in the overall scheme of things I am on the shorter side of tall as an adult. The average height for an American female is 5’5”. Not that there is anything “average” about American females. There seems to be discord in the findings for the average height of American males. I believe this is fairly typical of the male species, remember gals, they have been trying to convince us that 5” is 8” since the beginning of time. For the sake of argument I am going with 5’9” on the guys. In any event, I am firmly placing myself in the tall people camp.
There are definite advantages to being tall, you can see over everyone else’s head during a parade, people tend to move out of our way in a crowd, in group settings people listen to the tall person (a phenomenon that I am unsure of why it exists, either it is because they have to look up to us so they think what we say carries more weight OR they are afraid we might eat them), we give no thought to needing a step stool to reach the top shelf. Me not needing a step stool is still befuddling to my mother, who is 5’4” on a good day, which means she likes to think she is 5’4”, but I seriously doubt there is any truth to this notion. I have been tripping and continue to trip over her damn stool, which I have not needed and to my aggravation has magically appeared out of nowhere under my feet since the age of 10.
Unfortunately, living in the land of giants is not all lollipops and rainbows. Oh, no, no, no, there are disadvantages to being tall. Most of these are keenly felt as a youngster. Before I continue with my tale of woe on these disadvantages, I want to give you a little perspective into how tall I was as a child. I hit 5’9” upon entering the sixth grade. All during elementary school I was the tallest person in my class and in some cases this included the teachers.
Imagine being five years old with the maturity, wonderment, playfulness and selfishness of a five year old but your body is the size of an eight year old. Guess how those pesky adults would treat you? If you guessed like an eight year old you would be spot on. This may not seem like a big deal, but after having children of my own I can assure you, there is a vast difference in the behavior of a 5 year old and an 8 year old. Everyone expected me to act my size, not my age. I learned very quickly not to be around any shenanigans because the tall girl is the easiest to spot. I started to hold myself apart from my peers. They were allowed to act differently than me. I became a very solemn young child.
There was one set of adults that would start salivating when they would first lay eyes on me, coaches. Yes, coaches. There seems to be the opinion out there that tall people are naturally good athletes. My first adventure into athletics was when my mom decided I needed to play a sport and the only one available at the time was softball. Way back in the day you had to be 9 to start playing organized sports. There wasn’t any of this t-ball for 3 year olds or soccer for tots crap.
So, there I was with three other 9 years olds, scared shitless, on a team made up of girls ranging in ages from 9-12. Soft ball my ass, that freaking ball was hard as a rock. I was terrified of the ball, then again, so were all the other 9 year olds. My coach was thoroughly disgusted that someone my size was afraid of the ball. She put me against the backstop and had the meanest, toughest, roughest girl I had ever beheld throw balls at me as hard as she could. I was roughly the same size as this mean 12 year old who took no mercy on me. I knew without a doubt she was trying to break my bones. It was a trial by fire, catch the ball or die. To my fucking amazement I caught the ball and kept catching the ball. It stung my hand like a bitch, but I could live with that. I would like to mention, the other 9 year olds on the team were not subjected to this treatment. I believe they were out in the fields chasing butterflies. I can honestly say, if anyone did that to my 9-year-old daughter I would wring their neck.
Believe it or not, I was a natural athlete. I didn’t know it until that first sadistic coach. Of course, it had nothing to do with my being tall, but it did make me a very intimidating opponent in whatever sport I was participating in.
When you are overly tall as a child there is a subconscious tendency to try and scrunch yourself down to the size of those around you, especially if you are a girl. My mother was very adamant that I never slump, scrunch or hunch. I will always be thankful that she enforced this no slouching policy even if it did come with a reminding thump to stand or sit up straight. Be proud of who and what you are, she would tell me. It did and does wonders for my self-esteem. When you walk into a room tall, proud and confident, regardless of whether you are a quivering bowl of terrified jelly on the inside, people take you for what you look like…tall, proud and confident.
Unfortunately, tall, proud and confident doesn’t always translate very well with boys, or men for that matter. Forget about the tall part for a minute. Most men have no idea how to handle a confident woman. It perplexes them to the point that they would rather not deal with it. Now, add back in being taller than them and they run like scared rabbits.
I never dated a boy from my own high school. Even though some of them finally caught up to and even surpassed me in height they couldn’t forget that I was for most of the time they knew me much taller than they were. It probably didn’t help that none of them could beat me in a race until we got much older. A senior from my school did ask me out once when I was a freshman. He was this big mountain of a boy, popular, captain of the football team and all state wrestler. He would walk down the halls like a king, towering above his subjects and nodding to them as he passed by. That he even noticed me was shocking. Just so you know, he wasn’t the typical douche bag popular jock; he actually was a very nice boy.
To my dismay, the night of my very first dance and first date ever, there was a huge snowstorm. The dance was cancelled. He never asked me out again. Years later we became friends. He would come and watch me sing. I asked him one time why on earth he ever asked me out. He chuckled. First, he said, he thought I was pretty. Second, he thought I looked like someone who couldn’t give a shit what anybody else thought. And, third, I didn’t act like a silly girl. I’m not sure all of that was a resounding compliment. What the heck, I’ll take it. He didn’t ask me out again because he decided I was too young. Apparently, he had more sense than my mother and I had at the time. (I would never even consider letting my freshman daughter go out with a senior. No way, no how.)
The most tragic part of being tall is giving up high heels. Well, not high heels all together, just extremely high heels. A few years back I made a very unwise impulse buy. I fell in love with this pair of black suede sling backs with a 5” heel and 1” platform. A beautiful snakeskin pattern covers the heel and platform. I just had to have them. What I didn’t consider before splashing down my cash was where on God’s green earth was I going to wear these shoes.
To this day they sit where I can eye spy them in my closet. My loving and longing gaze lingers on them and I sometimes have to touch the buttery soft suede with a sigh. I’ve worn them once. I had a date with a guy who was 6’6”. We liked that we were both tall and that was about it.
It takes a special kind of man to be comfortable with a taller woman. They do exist. For this I am grateful. It isn’t that I need a man. It is just nice to cozy up to one now and again. I’m pretty sure this is true no matter how tall or short you are.