Aug 21 2011

Overheard By A Tall Person

My dearest Height of Lifers,

I haven’t taken the Overheard By A Tall Person feature out for a spin in quite a while. Does that mean that I haven’t had to dodge all kinds of idiotic comments like so many games of dodge ball and I’m not even in this gym class? Alas, no. I’m lucky in that most of the comments I get now are of the well-meaning but mind-blowingly repetitive, annoying and kind of intrusive variety. Yeah, it may wear me down to hear this tripe on rewind from gormless idiots who somehow feel entitled to ask random strangers highly-personal information, but I am genuinely lucky that I don’t have to endure hate-crime-level harassment. A sense of perspective is always important.

All that said, since many comments I get are like cut-out snowflake versions of each other, there haven’t been too many memorable, truly bizarre/hilarious ones of late…except for last week.

We lay our fair scene at the gas station (not even the gas station in Verona, I’m afraid). I’m filling up my car, as one does at gas stations, and I see this older man (for visual clues, see the over-enthusiastic Texan from “The Simpsons”), staring at me with a big grin on his face. The wheels are turning. He gets really close, even though is pump is on the other side, and asks me how tall I am. Before I could respond, he bellows the question at me again, just in case I missed it a second earlier. I don a long-suffering smile, and give a “oh, pretty tall” in my reply. Missing the point, he goes, “6’2?” I was so shocked at him actually getting my height right (most people who try and guess my height come out with a “7-million-foot-eleventy?!”), so I answer with a surprised yes. He then starts telling me about his grandsons, and how they’re 6’6. This is a pretty common element of Stupid Tall Comments, but a lot of people blather on about their suuuuuuuper-taaaallllll uncle who stands at a towering 5’9 SO TALLLLL!!!!, so at least the grandsons were undeniably tall.

Up until that point, this exchange hasn’t been anything memorable. Same tedious-chats-with-strangers, different day, y’know?


We’re talking about the grandsons, and their hobbies, and yadda yadda yadda, and then he brazenly looks me in the eyes, and brazenly goes: “They’re too young for the likes of you, anyways.”


Aug 4 2011

“Tall Women Can’t Hide”

5565284073_271f3e70f3The magnificent Daria Werbowy, looking breathtaking in Lanvin.

Shot by Mert and Marcus for American Vogue, March 2011

And why should they?

As I was scrolling through Jezebel today the other day, always on the procrastinating prowl clearly, the article “Tall Women Can’t Hide,” by Austinite Elaine Dove, came like manna from I’ll Get to That Tomorrow heaven.  “Expletive yeah!” sayeth I, as I grabbed some popcorn and settled in to read the heck out of this article.   The commenters on Jezebel truly are a cut above the rest, and since commiserating and joking around with other tall women is one of my favourite things, I was pretty stoked.  Of course, I felt compelled to include a rambling, verging-on-incoherent comment of my own in response.

The author stands at 5’9, and she talks about some things that are pretty familiar to many tall girls, like finding pants and skirts that are long enough (I’m still undaunted in my search for long jeans that fit me properly, kind of like what I imagine the really-ripped Spartan dudes of 300 felt in the face of Xerxes’ ridiiiiculously large army, but I’ve embraced the too-short skirts a long time ago, like Xerxes does in the movie.  He looked fabulous, and so do I.  Delusions of messianic grandeur can do wonders to one’s posture.) ANYWAY.  In addition to the clothing conundrums that so many people of so many sizes face, Dove also brings up the concept that tall women can unwillingly serve as the target for other people’s insecurities, that dating can be fraught with the difficulty of not “offending” your potential paramour’s ego by wearing high heels, and that fitting a traditional definition of femininity can be challenging when society still clings to the outdated equation of tallness with masculinity.

I appreciated Dove’s honesty about her insecurities, and her challenges in navigating the world as a tall woman rang true for me.  The article wasn’t exactly brimming with feel-good pep-talk goodness, but it’s also worth noting that it takes some people longer than others to develop self-confidence and to fully appreciate their height as a positive asset.  It’s an ongoing process.  If anything, the tone of the article really highlighted how friggin’ essential it is to develop a sense of self; an identity that isn’t defined in relation to other people, especially dudes.  It’s a tall order (oho hahaha) to do this, I know, since it’s human nature to come down with a wicked case of Compare-itis pretty often.  We’re also surrounded by a culture that loves body policing, reinforcing old-as-the-hills gender stereotypes, and making people feel badly about their perfectly lovely selves so that they will buy stuff.  But if you can see past all this every once in a while,  you will be an unstoppable tornado of love in the form of a girl!

Okay- back to the bitchin’:  Many of the comments from fellow tallies reinforced the notion that tall women are especially public targets of the insecurities and hang-ups of other people, and that these unresolved self-esteem issues, mixed with the fact that many people (especially guys) feel inexplicably entitled to comment on womens’ bodies, means that tall women face an undue level of harassment and running public commentary.  Even worse?  Many of us take all sorts of measures to make other people feel comfortable with our “impetuous” height, and resort to slouching, sitting instead of standing, losing weight as to appear more frail and to “take up less space,” deliberately changing our mannerisms to appear more passive and “non-threatening,” and being far too kind to people who truly deserve a proper verbal smackdown.  I think I’ve avoided the deliberate slouch, but I’m definitely guilty of suffering fools far, far too gladly (usually while Morrissey’s voice sings in my head “In my liiife, why do I give valuable time to people who I’d much rather kick in the eyyeeee?”)  The internalized belief that we’re somehow to blame for triggering the insecurities of others, and thus feel compelled to play therapist by changing and diminishing ourselves is….pretty friggin’ screwed up.  It’s a much larger societal screw-up, and not created by tall women themselves, so it’s pretty hard to fix by just switching into a pair of flats.  Pretttyyy screwed up.  We know that “heightism” is mere peanuts compared to systemic, all-pervasive forms of discrimination like racism, etc…, but it’s still important to note that height, weight and sexism intersect in some pretty insidious ways, and that the only way to start dismantling all of this is to talk about it.

Dove noted that she “wasn’t alone in this dilemma, even if none of us are talking about it.”

And that, ladies and gents, is precisely why The Height of Life came to be.

Have any of you read the article?  If so, what were your thoughts?