I like to think of myself as “statuesque.” Ok, I’m tall. I tower over other women. My husband likes to stand on the first step and have me stand on the floor; it makes him feel “more powerful.” When I was in sixth grade, I was the tallest pupil in the school, including the principal, who was a man.
I have spent my life compensating. When I was in my teens, I chose what my father referred to as “a long drink of water” for a boyfriend. At least I didn’t have to consider squatting when standing next to him. I have gotten very used to looking down. When at social events, I like to find a chair to sit in, rather than towering above people.
It has gotten better. I am not sure whether it is the fact that American nutrition has advanced, or whether the advent of the NBA has brought about evolutionary modification of the species to favor tallness, but at least now there are lots of teens and young people who are six feet or taller.
I am not terribly tall. But for a female born in the fifties, I was an extreme. I am five foot nine. But growing up, I had only one girlfriend who was my height. All the others were tiny, petite things. It made me feel decidedly un-feminine. After all, there were very few people I could look up to.
Clothing was always problematical. Waists were too short. Hems, too. Capri pants weren’t in style, and most of the pants I tried on looked like pedal pushers. Ugh. Shoe styles that were “all the rage” stopped at size eight. I wore a ten. So while my friends wore really cute sandals and kitten heels, I had to scrounge around for the least offensive saddle shoes. I learned never to extend my arms when wearing a long sleeved blouse, because when I did that, the cuffs quickly rose up my arm to end up somewhere in the vicinity of my elbows.
Dancing? Forget it. I was ok for “fast dancing,” when partners stood a few feet apart. But when the band played “When a Man Loves a Woman,” I went to the ladies room. Nothing is worse than putting one’s arms around a boy who then stares directly into one’s (ok, my) collarbone for the entire dance.
Tall people have larger appetites than middle sized people. That has always been an issue. Dining out, in school cafeterias, as a dinner guest at somebody’s house: never enough food. Good grief—how anyone survives on a chicken leg, two dozen peas and a tablespoon of mashed potatoes is a mystery to me. My husband now knows that he has to whisper “Are you having seconds?” rather than announcing it out loud. And yes, if possible, I will want seconds—is the Pope Catholic?
I have hit my head on low lying archways, had to duck down in historical buildings, and eat my knees on airplanes my entire adult life. I have gotten used to children looking up at me with wonder, and on many occasions had to show them my nail-polished hands to prove that I am a female (wait—it isn’t that I look like Abraham Lincoln—I just have very short hair).
I have good posture, in spite of all this, because my mother drilled it into me that slumping just makes everything worse. So I walk tall, in my size tens, wearing Capri pants (thank God, now in style), flashing my manicure, and carrying snacks in my purse. I have learned to take pride in my height.
I recently watched a documentary about girls who want to become super models. All of them are much taller than I am. And few of them seem to favor saddle shoes. The tide has finally turned. Tall is beautiful. Wow.
And just as all of this is happening, just as the world is changing, I go to the doctor for my physical–to discover to my horror that I have started to shrink. Good grief! When I am walking down the hall of the nursing home with my walker, will they refer to me as a “little old lady?”