After my second growth spurt at age 12, I remember wishing more than anything that it would be my last. I was in 5th grade and was already 5’9, which left me towering over most of my girl friends and all of the boys I liked.
Being a tall woman is one thing, especially if you are a Swedish Supermodel with willowy limbs and giant breasts, but being a tall girl with a pudgy face, crooked teeth, terrible haircuts, and poor balance makes it a little less romantic. You see, when you are tall, people comment on your body and what you should do with it all the time. “You’re so big!” people would tell me. “You should play basketball!” “Man you’re tall, do you sleep in a grow-bag?” “Look at you! You’re huge!” “How is the air up there?” “Hey Stretch!” After a while, you get used to the finger-pointing, stupid jokes, snide comments from gossipy girls, and uncomfortable stares. You get used to sticking out. You get used to being mistaken for being older and more mature than you actually are. You might not like it, but you have to adapt. I adapted with poor posture, reclusive tendencies, and a loathing for the word “big.”
Then I had my final growth spurt, making me just a hair shy of 6 feet tall. There was no use trying to hide it anymore. I was going to be tall (“big”) forever.
In high school, a very short male classmate was dared to “accidentally” walk into my chest because his face was at the perfect level to smash into my breasts. He pulled it off successfully and shocked me to the core. My immediate reaction to such a thing was to laugh with him and the other boys who dared him, acting as if I was in on the joke, as if it didn’t make me feel incredibly violated and defenseless. I remember rushing to the bathroom to compartmentalize my immediate emotions (i.e. punch the door on the bathroom stall while crying). That experience made me grow very self-protective and fiercely defensive of my personal space.
Some people stand out because of their striking good looks or fashion statements. I stand out because I’m taller than most of the people I stand next to. I can’t help it.
Normal sized people have this misperception that being tall is awesome. Period. They have never had to shop around for tall women’s clothes. Jeans rarely come in sizes long enough to fit my legs. You might be able to have jeans and pant hems taken up, but you can’t add inches to the bottom. Rarely are shirts long enough for my torso while also fitted in the waist. Also, another unglamorous aspect of the non-altitude challenged? Big feet. Try finding those cute shoes in a size 10-12. If a store even carries larger sized shoes the selection is usually grouped together on a tiny shelf consisting of ugly clogs and hideous white clunker heels even your Great Aunt (whose idea of a fashionable summer dress is a sleeveless Hawaiian patterned moo moo) will not touch. So being tall isn’t completely awesome, though I have grown to appreciate the extra inches.
Since college, I’ve been working on embracing my height. There are some good perks after all. When I put on my “ice queen” face and walk with excellent “I’ll kick your ass” posture, people tend to move out of my way. I can reach the items on the top shelf at the grocery store and often help those who can’t. When I put a lot of effort into my hair, make-up, and clothes (including high heels) I feel good about standing out in a crowd, though I usually get a few “Why are you wearing heels when you’re so tall?” comments to which I reply “Because I like them!” Heels give a certain swagger and confidence to your walk. There are no height restrictions for heel wearers. So what if I’m practically 6’3 when wearing heels. Heel police can shove it!
Finding boyfriends who weren’t intimidated by my height was a little difficult. A tall man is a hot commodity for most women, but many tall men prefer to date shorter women. Some men feel emasculated by tall women. Either way, I find that men who are intimidated or dissuaded by my height are not worth dating anyway.
I realize that all of this may sound like a giant (pun intended) whine session by a tall drama queen. There are cons and social awkwardness with nearly every body type imaginable. In a time when being remarkably slender is often associated with feminine perfection, all women and girls at some point in their lives have suffered with feeling too big, regardless of their height.
Being tall is really not something to complain about in the scheme of things, but it’s not exactly what I’d call “awesome.” Most of my height-related problems took place in school and now that many years have passed, I can honestly say that being a tall woman is no longer a major issue for me. I don’t feel like a freak as much as I used to and I try to use height as an advantage.
I’ve heard that in Africa being told you are “as beautiful as a giraffe” is the highest compliment a woman can get. Lots of good things are tall and I just happen to be one of them.