“I know you play basketball.” When the response is no, people move on to the next sport populated by tall people, volleyball. Again, I answer in the negative, which is generally received with disappointment. I stopped growing at 6’1”, around my junior year of high school. I’ve always been taller than my peers, allowing me to (frequently) be mistaken for older than I am. This can be an advantage and disadvantage. My height allowed me to seamlessly blend in with the doubtlessly very mature second graders when I skipped the first grade. Later, in middle and high school, it saved me from being a potential object of ridicule, it not being immediately obvious that I would obtain my driver’s license a year late, or that I had yet to experience a sweet sixteen.
However, being unusually tall seems to have given total strangers carte blanche to approach me and say whatever comes into their heads. Recently I went to get my car washed, a service which I paid for at a local business. Things were proceeding as normal until I stepped out of the car, at which point the young man assisting me shouted “Damn! You could knock a motherf***er out!”. Not only was this an entirely inappropriate thing to say, but he continued to stare at me until I walked out of his point of view.
On another occasion, I was standing in Publix selecting a birthday present, when another shopper came up to me and said “6’2”, right?”. He was frustrated to hear that he was an inch off, and seemed to be somewhat in disbelief. Somehow, I don’t think he would’ve been very pleased if I had tried to guess his size.
Even the more well-meaning people can come across as insulting. Growing up, I constantly heard that really, I shouldn’t be ashamed of my height, I should embrace it! Despite the fact that other people might think that so many inches being awarded to a girl was extraordinarily off-putting, I ought to love myself anyway. I had never had a problem with my height until so many people told me that I shouldn’t. I didn’t know that it was something to be concerned about until I was told not to.
It is funny, actually, when I stand next to a shorter friend, and the difference is staggering. Even I have to laugh when I try on clothes, and the sleeves stop far before my hands, or the pants unintentionally show off my ankles. I’ve learned now to choose between length or fit, or to accept that a dress will be shorter than I’m entirely comfortable with. Still, these are lessons that were hard-learned. For a long time, dressing up meant a skirt and shirt or a maxi dress. Middle school dances were a source of extreme envy for me, as my friends could easily find (short) party dresses that were still appropriate for twelve-year-old girls. In contrast, I tried on dress after dress as I watched my mother’s face, disappointed after every time I showed her the back or touched the ground, eventually settling on a (what else!) maxi dress.
This sounds an awful lot like complaining, which I don’t want it to be. I do love my height, going so far as to wear heels to prom, and dealing with all the comments that came with that. I like being tall, being able to reach things on the top shelf and seeing over people’s heads. But that’s my business. My height does not give you or anyone else the right to approach me and ask the same clichéd questions that I and every other tall person has heard ten thousand times before. I’d love to discuss some of my other hobbies, like reading and not watching sports.