Me in the aptly named “Tall Man’s Agony” in Mammoth Cave National Park, KY.
I’ve had lots of short friends in my life. In fact nearly ALL of my friends are short! Compared to me, that is. When you’re more than 6 feet tall (especially if like me, you are a woman) you’re in an “elite” group that everyone else tends to look up to. Whether you like it…or not. And before you bother asking, “How tall are you?” I’m going to answer the way I’ve answered this question my entire life. Vaguely…but this will give you a hint. Let’s just say Monty Python actor John Cleese and I would see eye-to-eye pretty well, and that’s all I’m going to say about that! Moving on! Sometimes I want nothing more than to just sneak into a place unnoticed. Not an option when you’re a “giant.” EVERYONE notices you. I’ve heard that women who are 6-foot plus in the Netherlands are the norm, and unless they’re showing off their gorgeous long legs (among other assets) in one of the legal red light districts, probably aren’t actively getting – or seeking attention. If I visited Japan, on the other hand? Stares-o-rama. Some of the guys there probably even have a weird fetish for women of my “stature,” if they’re not the ones putting Yen into used panties vending machines, that is.. To each their own. A lot of people out there seem strangely jealous of tall people. Tall people become professional basketball players, supermodels, professional dandruff inspectors, stockpersons in stores, pitchpeople for Gold Bond lotion, The General Insurance, Buick automobiles and the other umpteen companies Shaquille O’Neal is whoring himself out to these days. A short friend of mine recently opened my eyes to a set of problems only a 5-foot-ish person would be aware of – the bane of bar stools. Yes, short women don’t tend to like sitting on bar stools or other “high-top” type seats. Mind blown. Does this mean taller folks are comfortable sitting virtually anywhere – including bar stools – which some of us can actually sit upon AND rest our long legs on the floor? No, the world simply was NOT designed for the Amazonian. Let’s explore the many, many ways the world was NOT designed for the “vertically blessed.”
- Seating – I could do an entire blog just about this topic alone. I’ll try to sum it up as best I can…bar stools cause my legs to scrunch up to the spot where “normal” legs are supposed to rest. I often have to just sit spread eagle at a bar (only when wearing pants, of course, get those minds out of the gutter) to give myself leg room AND put my arms at a comfortable resting spot. Booth seating is not always better, either, if the booths have a support post in the middle, I WILL bang my knees on it. And no good sitting across from another leggy person, either. Table seating? Fine if the chairs/tables aren’t too short. In general, no seats allow for my legs to rest at a 90-degree angle, adjustable office chairs are only good up until realizing the desk height is NOT adjustable, arena/airline/roller coaster seating (nuf said), my legs/ feet dangle off my recliner, subcompact cars NOT an option. And I haven’t even gotten to the subject of head rests. Most of my height is in my legs, so head rest heights not a big pet peeve (thank goodness)
- Public showers. How nice to be able to spray myself with hot water in the chest like it’s part of a “Flashdance” montage or something. Why, my chest hasn’t had such a thorough cleaning in AGES. And I don’t REALLY need to wash my hair anyway, do I? I think I’ve said enough here…
- Beds – Queen, extra long twin or King are the only options, really. Otherwise? Dangling feet. And since I love to camp, I have to shell out a few extra bucks for the “extra long” sleeping bag – AND sleeping pads. I have to carefully inspect the tent dimensions to make sure it’s long enough to accommodate me. If I’m in a rental cabin, the beds can become coffin like if they’re too short and encased with a headboard AND footboard. Sometimes lying diagonal on a full-sized mattress is the only way to survive. Those extra bucks I paid for the “extra long” sleeping bag? I also pay those extra bucks for other stuff. Which brings me to…
- Clothing. Do I want pants designed to fit a female body that are long enough? I have to pay an additional $5-$10 a pair for those, if a retailer is even kind enough to have a “tall” option. And generally it’s “order online only.” Many stores have “big and tall” sections for men, but very, very few “bricks and mortar” stores specialize in fashions for tall women. And the ones that do tend to come with a price tag I’m not willing to pay. Those $100 jeans can wait until I’ve won a Super Lottery Jackpot, thank you…Sure, I CAN find men’s jean’s that are long enough. But they’re not designed to fit a female body. Ditto with sleeve lengths. “Tall” sizing will always cost you more. This also means I can’t really do any shopping at “thrift” stores. Though my mom, who volunteers in a local thrift store, has found “tall” jeans from time to time that have been donated. I’m not exactly an “off the rack” person – unless it’s shorts, underwear, vests (I don’t have a very long torso), etc. But to the fashion industry’s credit, it IS easier finding things that fit me now than it was back in the ’80s, when shopping for jeans was a Quixotic quest – and when I found jeans that fit, they weren’t always cheap. This might be why I hate trying on clothes to this day…so much time wasted in the ’80s trying on jeans that just didn’t fit. In the end, I was lucky if I had two pairs of jeans in my rotation that fit well – and weren’t “floods.” In the 80s, your jeans HAD to be long enough. Capri and crop pants weren’t really an option like they are now.
- Shoes. With the extra height comes the “bonus sized” feet. Most women’s shoes in stores cut off at size 10. Some will go up to 11, but generally only the “old lady” shoes will also go up to 12. Enter online shoe shopping! Unless I want men’s shoes, I generally don’t EVER get to try on any shoes. My friend Brad is a short man, and has the opposite problem – he has to wear women’s tennis shoes! Socks are another problem. Most women’s socks don’t tend to fit. Knee-high women’s socks become crew length socks on me. Over-the-knee socks become knee socks on me. Women’s no-show socks simply…disappear on my feet (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little there). Good thing men’s “novelty” socks are en vogue right now, so I can find men’s socks in fun colors that don’t look too “manly.”
- Counter/table heights. My “dream” house will have a section of counter top set at MY height so I don’t get achy chopping vegetables or cleaning dishes. Thankfully, I hate chopping vegetables anyway, and my husband LOVES to do it, so this is not really a huge issue yet.
- People are always a little scared of you if you’re tall. Surprise a short person while walking through a doorway, and chances are they’ll say “Sorry.” It puzzles me why someone would feel compelled to apologize for their presence, but I digress. While being overly tall will keep most people from trying to pick fights with you, it’s not always a good thing, either. There’s a reason the phrase “gentle giant” exists. Most of us are big softies at heart. Who wouldn’t want a hug from Shaquille O’Neal or Andre the Giant? Some taller people I know, myself included, tend to overcompensate for our imposing height by trying to “soften the blow” in other ways. Maybe by developing a goofy sense of humor, rooted in years of being picked on by other kids, enduring endless questions about your height, stupid tall jokes, and being asked “do you play (fill in blank with sport of choice)” ALL THE TIME? I learned that Andre the Giant was a professional wrestler AFTER having other kids call me that! “Oh, that’s where that name came from!” Yeah, real creative there, other kids…! Nicely played! While shorter kids were picking on us, pelting us with unflattering nicknames and quizzing us constantly, we were dreaming up witty comebacks and snarky comments – and developing chips on our shoulders that soar above most of your heads (lol). I had a guy in a bar say, “You’re a tall drink of water, ain’t ya?” when I was 22. Unfortunately, he caught me at a time when I was in NO mood to use humor to soften the blow. Nope, I said “Don’t you think I’ve been hearing that shit since I was 14,” and backhanded the guy. He became overly apologetic and bought me a drink later. Another time a random guy in a Meijer parking lot asked me if I played sports, I decided to say, “Yeah, I’m into dwarf tossing.” What a bout of rousing laughter out of THAT guy! Recently, when a customer in the store where I work asked me the “do you play volleyball” question, I said, “No, and just to clear the air, I also never played (list of other sports you tend to be tall to be involved in). With certain exceptions, tall people don’t tend to be loud-mouthed blowhards or bullies. Why? Because we don’t have to be. We already have your attention, don’t we (whether we like it or not)? And because we know everyone is going to pay attention to us and stare at us because we’re tall (whether we like it or not), we tend to find other ways to draw people in. Maybe the excessive height is what got your attention. Or maybe you thought it was funny when we hit our heads on ceiling fan blades or on that doorway. Remember when Ian MacKellen hit his head on that beam in Bilbo’s hobbit hole in “The Fellowship of the Ring?” Yes, maybe that drew your eyes to a tall person. Now take the time to find out what we’re REALLY about! There’s your homework! Get to know a giant today! Chances are you probably already know one! We’re really not that scary!
- Being tall isn’t all bad. It’s nice being able to reach things. In college when I shared an apartment with three other women, I had FULL run of the space atop the cupboards. And none of them could reach up there without standing on a chair, so that was MY turf! I very rarely need to use ladders, and I almost always get to sit in the front seats of cars, because the shorter folks tend to fit into the back seats better than we do. When my Dad had a 1978 Corvette, it was the shorter females who had to scrunch themselves very illegally into the back window of the car, not me. If I go to a concert with “festival” seating, I always get to see what’s happening on stage (even if the short folks behind me might not be so happy). I have a nice bird’s eye view when I’m walking in a crowded mall. That’s really about it. And thus concludes this lame attempt at a blog that has nothing to do with trivia! 🙂