“You’re really tall.”
As a woman standing at five-foot-nine this is something people say to me. Mostly men. Particularly from men shorter than I. As though I am unaware.
It’s not exactly a compliment.
It’s not exactly an insult.
It’s kind of like an accusation.
Sometimes I think they mean it as a good thing, and then it’s not?
More often than not, it’s a shitty observation that comes with the subtextual message that I am somehow doing wrong by being such a fucking–TALL PERSON. It makes me feel immediately self-conscious: Is he trying to say I’m too tall? Is there something wrong with being tall? Does he think I’m ENORMOUS?
For example: I recently attended a friend’s wedding, and after the toasts, the meal, and the cake cutting we all hit the dance floor. The gentleman who had been sitting across the beautifully decorated dinner table sidled up to me,
“Wow. You’re really tall. I was going to talk to you… but you know, you’re so tall.”
“Oh, well, I mean we have actually spoken.”
“I know, but I meant, like, talk to you.”
Now, how the fuck am I supposed to respond to that? I mean…He’s right. I am tall, extra tall in the heels I’m wearing. But this statement wasn’t about me, it was about him, he’s five-foot-six or something and I guess he just can’t help himself but alert me to the fact that my height excludes me from being a prospective sexual partner. And because, women’s bodies are like, you know, public property wherein comments about their physical appearance are offered freely and without consequence, I guess I should just be happy that a man is speaking to me and just eat it, right?
I don’t get it; in the Western ideal of beauty we worship tall, long legged, super models and actresses. High heels are marketed specifically to women. But I’ve found that once those uncomfortable, overly priced, fuck me pumps have you looming over a man, he’ll take the opportunity to knock you down a peg with a look up and down and make an announcement that makes you rethink what exactly you are supposed to look like.
Maybe I should react in kind, making declarations about men without offering a clear indication of what exactly I mean by it:
“You have hair on your face.” (subtext: SLOB)
“Your hands are medium sized.” (subtext: WHAT DOES THAT MEAN ABOUT YOUR DICK?)
“You have lips.” (subtext: DON’T YOU THINK THAT MAKES YOU WEIRD?)
I guess my insecurity about my height goes back to the seventh grade when I hit puberty and shot up five inches in a summer and suddenly had breasts. School dances provided horrifying opportunities where I would awkwardly slow dance with the boys a solid foot shorter than me, their hands perched lightly on my waist, the space between us not because we were, “leaving room for the Holy Spirit”, as my teachers used to say, but because in comparison to these prepubescent boys I was a gigantic sweaty weirdo they didn’t want to get too close to. Inevitably, my crushes would end up “going out” with the petite, cute girls in class.
And so, in the wish to be a smaller, lighter, cooler girl I began to slouch, like really slouch (much to the horror and constant objection of my Chiropractor father).
It took me years to have the confidence to stand up straight. Boys finally caught up with me and we could start talking and dancing at eye level, but there is still a small part of me that just wants to slouch my shoulders and droop my head forward, lest I be noticed.
So what’s with this unwritten rule that heterosexual men are supposed to be taller than their partner? … I guess…It’s because… they’re better than us right? Something…about… how they are supposed to be physically stronger and, just like, more superior? That’s it right? Okay, I’m being too facetious, I recognize and can sympathize with an impossible and prescriptive beauty standard, and I know there is pressure on men to be tall and fit and just like Jon Hamm. I get it.
What I came to quickly realize when I started to date, specifically online, and when using the app Tinder is that a lot of men mentioned their height (and those who did all said they were 6 feet tall… really… are you all six feet tall?!)
I had a Tinder date a little while back. I really liked this guy’s photos. He was hot. In the description section he stated, “These photos make me look taller than I really am, I’m 5”8” I was like, Okay, That’s really a problem for me. A little shorter than me shouldn’t be a big deal right?
HOWEVER, when he showed up for the date, he was more like five-foot-six. It didn’t bother me so much that he was shorter, it was that he was a short LIAR.
Like, I get that everyone lies a little bit when they are dating, like little white lies like making your job sound more exciting than it actually is, and that you work out and eat kale or… whatever, those are lies that can go on for a long time before the other person realizes you’re a phony, but to lie about your height? That’s something you can tell right away. The date didn’t go well for other reasons (he kind of sucked as a person), but I couldn’t help but be simultaneously bothered by his deceitfulness and ultimately reflective about the nature of our heightist society where we all feel pressure to look and act a certain way.
Now, I’m a vapid, beauty obsessed, shallow asshole like the rest of us, and I do tend to find taller men more attractive, which makes me a huge hypocrite, but I have never walked up to a shortie and been like, “Damn. You short.” Because that would not be kind of me. I would be commenting on something they just couldn’t help, so why do these men think it’s okay to point out my stature in a negative way?
I am tall and am going to continue to be so until I’m an old lady and start to shrink. But in the meantime I’m going to stand up straight, own my height, and maybe instead of just pointing out that I stand at a different altitude, just be nice to me and see me a whole person and if you say something about my physical appearance it should be something respectful and maybe complimentary?
Because, really, everybody’s the same height lying down, AMIRITE?