Yesterday, I was at a sandwich shop getting some lunch. It was “casual Friday” at work, so I was wearing jeans, a 2″ heeled boot, and a flowered blouse. Not a particularly strange outfit (not for me, anyway). Just standing in line, waiting for a sandwich, minding my own goddamn business.
Suddenly, there’s a voice behind me. I turn around, it’s a older guy, a senior. He says to me “You’re a tall girl, aren’t you?”
I give my usual non-committal response, which is kind of an “mmmm” noise. Because my other responses, you don’t want to hear, sir. I’m too polite to say what I really want to, but it starts with “f”.
See, yeah, I’m tall. I’m not bizarrely tall, I’m not circus, world-record tall, but I am pretty tall for a woman, much taller than average. Sure. Okay. I accept your observation as correct.
But, guess what? I KNOW. Okay? I know. It’s not news. It doesn’t need to be commented upon. I will not get magically shorter when the one millionth person tells me I’m tall. It is not something that is going to change, until I’m really old and start shrinking. Statistically, we don’t live as long as you shorties anyway, so that’s unlikely to happen. I am not going to be doing any special exercises, or go on height-reducing diet any time soon. I will not have my shins surgically removed. I am pretty much stuck up here. I am tall. I will not get shorter. I will not live my life in flats, not with legs like these.
But just as soon as I get comfortable with my body, someone has to go and make a stupid comment. When I was young, I had terrible posture, hair hanging over my face, mumbling, just from trying to blend in and not attract insults. It didn’t work, kids are mean. I took a lot of shit, didn’t fight back, was beaten down and miserable. We grow, though, we change and learn to empathize, become more comfortable with ourselves, and accepting of others. So now, I walk tall, I dress tall, and I feel like I cut quite an imposing figure in the world. Boots, heavy jewelery, long crazy hair. I strut, I lope. I have a loud laugh. I’ll look you in the eye. I’ll tell you what I think.
If I’m sitting down in my office and some young testosterone junkie comes in and decides to try to intimidate me, usually my first line of defence is just to stand up. It usually de-escalates the situation pretty quickly. See, because not only am I tall, I could probably bench-press you. Does that make me unfeminine? Not at all. I’m a sweetheart, a marshmallow, a big ol’ teddy bear. I’m a bleeding heart liberal pacifist. But I AM an ass-kickingly strong woman, who’s never kicked an ass in her life. I like looking like I potentially could, though. I think it’s saved me from having to endure a lot of intimidation tactics.
It’s funny though. Seniors tend to tell me I’m tall like it’s not a good thing, a little unladylike, something I should not be, or should be a little ashamed of. They feel SORRY for me, which just pisses me off. A lot of men seem to find it a little intimidating, depending on how comfortable they are with their own masculinity. I was on a random date through an online service earlier in the summer, and the first thing out of his mouth was “Wow, you really ARE tall.” Well, yeah, buddy, I warned you. Did you think I made that up? Needless to say that, although it wasn’t an absolute nightmare, it didn’t work out. Really, although the rest of his behaviour didn’t bear this out, I thought it was pretty rude, and it didn’t lead to any further dates, believe me.
Children don’t even tend to notice, because everyone is tall to them, there’s just degrees of tallness. That’s why I like children so much. They don’t even notice, and if they do, they really don’t care. When you’re five, it’s okay to say “Wow, you’re really tall”. It’s just an observation, not a judgment. Kids haven’t developed a really good filter yet.
Women, though – that’s different. Almost always, women say it with a little bit of envy. Most women I know would like to be taller. “But it’s so hard to get pants and sleeves to fit,” I tell them. Doesn’t matter. They want to be taller. Men, too.
Why, though? I don’t get it. It’s not something you get to choose. It took no work whatsoever on my part to get this way, so I can’t really claim any pride in an accomplishment. It doesn’t confer any benefits that I can see. I’m not ashamed of it, though, either. I am what I am. And what I am is someone who can wear big, loud, flowing, embellished clothes, and carry them off beautifully, and not be swallowed up by them. I wear my clothes, they do not wear me. So, it’s not a matter of pride, of blame, or of shame – just – a fact. Genetics at work. I also have Morton’s toe, mismatched feet, a bizarre amount of hair, and a huge gap in my teeth, all thanks to genetics.
How about I’ll be me, you be you, and we just delight in our differences? People who would never dream of saying to a person “wow, you’re really fat”, or “wow, you’re really blind”, or “wow, you’re sure Asian”, still feel that it’s okay. Excuse me, but how is this okay? It isn’t. But it’s your problem, not mine. I was raised better than that. Thanks Mum and Dad. Thanks for the genetics, and thanks for the manners. Much appreciated.