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high heels, and that fitting a traditional definition of femininity can be challenging when society still clings to the outdated equation of tallness with masculinity.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?


Feb 14 2011

Valentine’s Day: A Guide

unicorn

Valentine’s Day is almost here…just in case the rows upon rows of drugstore chocolates, influx of “diamond ring or it’s not truuueee looooovvveee!!!!1!!!” commercials, and the anxiety-inducing high school candygrams (ugh- not exactly an inclusive idea) didn’t make their point.  If the commercials are to be believed, ideally one spends Valentine’s Day riding a cotton-candy cloud, prancing around on unicorns (who are also riding the cotton-candy cloud- keep up, people), while being showered by diamonds, fancy jewellery, chocolates, candles (err..maybe the candles aren’t showered, but placed gently) and all sorts of romancey-things by your One True Love.  Oh, and you have really bitchin’ hair.

If our inner cynics had their say, VD Day (bwahahahahahaa!!) is just a hollow, meaningless day created to hawk chocolate and other faaancy expensive things faster, and to make people feel badly about themselves- no matter what their relationship status.   If you’re in a relationship, then there must be overwhelming expections that you simply cannot meet.  If you’re not in a relationship, then you surely must spend the day moping and trudging through a dreary, opposite-of-cotton-candy cloud, and round it off wearing ratty pyjamas and nursing pints of ice-cream.  Your hair lacks volume.

Both reactions are equally cliche.  Regardless of your plans for the day, or whoever you plan to spend it with, I propose looking at the day in a new way.   Carefully compiled from years of experience, I humbly submit my guide to both surviving and thriving Valentine’s Day.

1) Realize that Valentine’s Day is just a day, and that every single moment of every single day is a prime opportunity to tell and show all the people in your life how much you care about them.  Valentine’s Day is just a reminder- a powerful pink and red reminder- to do that.

2) Don’t forget that Valentine’s Day is a powerful pink and red reminder to take care of yourself.  Eat your favourite meals (and if that includes chocolate, then you’re in luck),  surround yourself with your favourite people, pull a Ferris Bueller and flake out on your day’s responsibilities, go out and enjoy a party to end all parties, stay in with your favourite movies, have a bubble bath, walk a dog…the possibilities are endless.  Do what makes you happy.

3)  While you’re being a valentine to yourself, you can also be a valentine to the universe.  Get outside your head for a bit, and show kindness to someone in dire need of it.   Spend some time volunteering at a soup kitchen.  Stick up for that kid in your class who is constantly tormented by bullies.  Visit someone who rarely gets visits.  Again, the possibilities are endless.

4) Candy.  Ohhhhh maaaannn, so much candy.  And it’s on sale the day after VD day!

And finally,

5) Always remember that at any given time and place, there are a million people and things that you can love.  Your capacity to love and be loved is endless. Limitless.

 

Much love and delicious chalky candy hearts (with subversive messages written on them!) to you!

Kylie


Jun 17 2010

Tall Identity

G’Day, ladies and germs!

One topic that’s been rolling around in my brain for the past few years is height and identity.   More specifically, how height affects identity.  Does your height play a big part into how you define yourself, or could it be completely separate?  Is “tall” one of the first words you use to define yourself, or do you scarcely mention it at all? Although it’s downright ridiculous to make assumptions about someone based on such an arbitrary physical characteristic as height, there’s also the idea that it can shape your life in so many ways, and even alter your personality.   Do you find that being tall has a profound effect on your life?  Does it affect nearly every aspect of your life, or are you able to compartmentalize?  Is there a tall cultural identity that arises from shared tall experiences,  or is being tall just a random fluke that doesn’t really link you to other tall people?

Here’s my spin on this whole barrel of monkeys: While my height continues to profoundly shape many of my life experiences and perspectives, and is part of my overall identity, I don’t allow it to completely define me.  I don’t let my height do all the talking for me; it’s my personality first and foremost.   I do acknowledge that that sometimes is a contentious point since some people do insist on making assumptions about strangers solely based on their physical characteristics, but I like to prove them wrong.  It’s a hobby of sorts.   I also believe in the concept of a “tall culture” that is loosely defined by shared experiences and little details in common.  There is a certain kinship, a bond that makes you want to high-five other tall people and/or invent a secret handshake. 

So that’s an awful lot of questions, but hopefully we can put our heads together and find some answers.  Ugh- that sounded like an especially lame pick-up line from a creepy tutor who wears bow ties and tries to blackmail you on the regular.  ANYWAYS!  Dear readers, what are your thoughts on tall identity? Please spill and share your giant bottles of insight in the comments below!

Much love,

Kylie