Here Be (Female) Giants!

Love thy neighbor…and if [s]he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating, it will be that much easier.

~Mae West

Whenever I go through the local drive-thru, a funny thing happens.

I am exactly six feet tall and drive a small import sedan, which is no mean feat considering I have to practically shoehorn myself into the bloody thing. When I drive it, I am visible only from the neck down. And the kid who takes my order always says:

“You know, you’re really tall.”

I honestly had no idea, kid. Thanks for telling me.

Tall women have a unique set of challenges, as this New York Times writer ennumerates. While I’m not freakishly tall at six feet, my life, especially when it comes to suitable clothes, has not been easy. Try shopping for fashionable, comfortable shoes that aren’t Converse Chuck Taylors and get back to me. Most shoe stores only stock to size 10. I need a 12 or 13. Worse, try putting together a suitable business wardrobe on a limited budget and not look like a weirdo or someone’s transsexual aunt. (I could make a great reality show out of all this.) In fact, I have an added set of challenges because of my autism-related sensory issues. I can’t wear certain kinds of fabrics and I despise wearing anything with buttons or zippers. Thus, I’ve become a pullover/stretch velvet/cotton kind of woman. My fashion sense is somewhere between boho-chic and Brienne of Tarth.

And of course, a tall woman, like it or not, draws her share of unnecessary and unflattering comments. At times I feel like one of those “World’s Largest Horse” exhibits at a county fair. Are they pointing and staring because they like me, or am I just another exhibition? With the average height of humanity on a slow and steady rise, it’s not as if I’m a great specimen anyway. I’ve met quite a few women who make me look positively small by comparison. (Check these out if you don’t believe me.)

And stereotypes? Yes, I’ve heard them all, and I fit quite a few. I played basketball but not volleyball. I tend to be more athletic and less girly. And I will not date a guy shorter than, say, 5’11”. Sorry to disappoint all you suitors of, shall we say, Napoleonic stature. But I’m also quite shy and self-conscious about my appearance. And I’m not the only one. Not all of us are angry, ball-busting, Xena-style Amazons.

I have had some positive experiences as a Tall Woman. I’m always the first to get asked to take things down from the top shelf. I did well enough as a 5 in basketball. Some people, like the kid at the drive-thru, tell me “it must be really cool” to be so tall. And I’m always the last woman muggers and rapists will pick on.

So, you see, it’s not all that bad to be tall. I at least have the satisfaction of knowing that when I get to be about 70, I’ll not be a little old lady but an old lady with some height left over. And maybe that’s the best part of it.

If you’re tall, what have your experiences been? Likewise if you’re shorter than average?

Note to Piper Bayard and Patrick Thunstrom: your prizes from the Hunger Games are coming. I promise…I’ve just been backed up.

~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on November 4, 2012.

12 Responses to “Here Be (Female) Giants!”

  1. I am 5’4″ tall and am considered pretty average, but can imagine the challenges. Have you ever worn heels to really get a “rise” from people? I would!

  2. Oh, I used to, when my knees weren’t as banged up as they are now! 😉

  3. I feel ya, sista.

    I’m just shy of 6’2″ tall, and have been since I was about 15. I went through the awekward, feel like a freak, can’t get a date, slouch against the wall stage. Now, I wouldn’t say I love it, but I’m at least used to it. And there’s something incredibly cool about wearing 3″ heels and standing next to overbearing men who like to look down on women.

    Clothes shopping is the bane of my life. And I rarely go a week without someone telling me I’m tall. Which shocks me every time. Really.

    When I was a bit younger, I’d constantly get, “Wow, you’re really tall. You should play basketball.” The basketball comments have now stopped. Either people are less rude these days, or I look far too old for any kind of sporting career.

    I’ve tried answering the “You’re really tall” comment a variety of ways, including:
    – Oh my goodness, am I?
    – Are you sure?
    – No, you’re just really short.
    – Thanks for noticing. Wow, you’ve got black hair.
    – Yeah, my parents used to stretch me on a rack every night before bed. Did you hear that tall people get paid more?

    • Holy cow, Jo, I thought I was tall! You make a great point about standing tall next to men who want to dominate women…that’s a terrific advantage. And those are some great comebacks to the insensitive “You’re really tall” remarks. Hope you don’t mind if I use them. 😉

  4. Have you tried making your own clothes? Or adapting ones that don’t quite work.

  5. I’m somewhere between 5.1″ and 5.2″. I have similar issues but on the opposite end. On top of that I have a childish looking face.

    Sometimes average height people ask me to wear heels more often. I’m guessing it’s because then they’ll feel more comfortable talking to me?

    People use the word “cute” a lot to describe my work, and I don’t know if it’s because of my ideas or if it’s their physical perception of me. It feels like I always have to try harder than everyone else to be heard and taken seriously.

    This is a great subject btw and the way you expose it is entertaining.

    • Thanks, Ave. Height is such a tricky subject whether one is taller or shorter than average. I feel like anyone who is not “average” gets picked on because he or she stands out. Isn’t that a sad thing? I feel like I have to dial it down so I won’t be perceived as Xena/Wonder Woman/Sarah Connor, so I guess it goes both ways. 😀

  6. I think it depends on the gender. Society seems more accepting of short women, or tall men than it does the other way around. For me? I am short. I clipped 5’4” over 15 years ago, and then my body basically said “ehhh good enough” and called it quits. People have a tendency to ignore that I am in a room, especially if I am wearing a neutral color like gray, or they treat to me like I’m still a kid. The thing is, though, once you realize why these things are happening, it’s pretty easy to turn them to your advantage.

    You have NO IDEA how much candy I can rake in during parades.

  7. I’m 5.8, roughly. Not that tall, I think, but I look taller because I stand straight and have a long neck. People always think I’m much taller than I am and it annoys me cause I always wanted to be petite. Oh well!

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