My problems started the first time I was asked to join a single-file line in grade school. In my first-grade class, there was only one person taller than I was, a girl like me, and since our teacher thought it was adorable for us all to arrange ourselves according to height (whenever we weren’t being asked to alphabetize ourselves by first name), that girl and I stayed on back-of-the-bus status. “Aw,” the teacher would quietly coo, “you guys are just like little stair-steps.” On the one hand, it was kind of cool to be “at the top of the stairs,” even if it meant being the back of the line. It meant we were the highest at something, and any extreme can be a superlative when you’re in grade school. But on the other hand, we were teased a lot, especially by boys who were secretly upset they weren’t taller than a girl.
The teasing led to slouching. The slouching led to looking for other ways to make myself appear smaller: writing in tiny script, talking softly, wearing earth tones. For a while, height seemed like it would limit my love life. Whenever I developed a high school crush on a guy (which was often), he was shorter than I was, and thus totally uninterested.
But fortunately, the extreme self-consciousness of childhood eventually wanes, and it gets easier to embrace who you are, even if who you are is taller than everyone else. I’m close to 5 feet 10 inches. It’s a great height. I know many women taller than I am who feel the same. But for the younger reader — or the older one willing to reminisce with me about the days of yore — here are a few “problems” I used to have with my height. And here’s how I solved them.
1. That Too-Short-Clothing Struggle
Problem: When I was in my teens, most mainstream clothing stores hadn’t begun to carry “tall” sizes. You’d just have to make do with pants that exposed your ankles, unless your mom was an avid catalog orderer (mine wasn’t). My maxi-dresses were never “maxi” enough; the hem always stopped at least three inches above the ankle. The same was true of all my long skirts. What was worse: Someone usually felt the need to call out my “high-waters” like I wasn’t aware of them. It was the worst!
Solution: Times, they are a-changin’. Now all manner of clothing is readily available to the taller woman. An in-store, 34-inch inseam changed my life. Stores even go so far as to carry 36-inch inseams regularly, without special order. Some have whole tall sections! And, of course, online shopping opened an entirely new world to the tall shopper. Sites like long tall sally, with its tagline “tall is beautiful” and Quincy really celebrate height.
2. Dating Shorter Men
Problem: Though it rarely seems to bother Russell Simmons or Tom Cruise, many men shorter than 6′ would prefer a woman a few inches shorter than they are (so when she rocks a four-inch heel, she isn’t towering over them). For the more self-conscious woman, being able to see the top of her date’s head during a hug or having to lean down or sit to kiss him might be a bit distracting.
Solution: In order to attract a man who doesn’t find your height to be an impediment, you can’t consider it one yourself. In other words, if there’s a taller-man shortage out there and you’re attracted to everything about a potential suitor except his shorter height, build a stepladder and get over that hurdle, girl!
3. Posture and the Confidence Correlative
Problem: As earlier stated, I used to have the tendency to slouch. Sometimes, I still have to correct my less-than-perfect posture. In the past, it was an instinctive action to (hopefully) fit in and to distract anyone who might decide to make a big deal about me being the tallest person in a small group of people. Now it’s just that my body has gotten used to the subtle hunch.
Solution: 5 feet 10 inches tall isn’t as much of a height anomaly for adult women as it is for adolescents, especially when some women adore wearing heels that’ll rocket them above the 6-foot mark. As someone who prefers flats whenever I can get away with them, I’m rarely the tallest person in a room anymore, and I find rolling my shoulders back and rising to my full height to be easier that way. Standing at your tallest is an immediate confidence booster.
4. The Model/Basketball Question
Problem: It can be a particular peeve when a stranger walks up and quips, “Boy, you’re tall! Do you play basketball?!” or “You’re really tall; you should model.” While either comment could be considered a compliment, it’s also weird to have to address it so often. If you neither play ball or nor model, the person asking is usually kind of disappointed; and sometimes, the takeaway from the exchange is that you’ve missed one of the only two callings for which your height would be fully welcome.
Solution: Get great at witty comebacks. Even if you do play basketball or model, the occasional wry response can be really amusing. Try something, like, “No, but I do make an excellent living as a professional reacher. Yeah, people pay me to come their homes and retrieve things from high shelves.” Or, “No. Equestrian’s my thing. I’m actually a jockey.”
Do you have Tall Girl Problems?