*Dedicated to my tall and extremely lovely niece Shelby, who asked me to write this piece.
I started out short, like we all do, but by the time I hit kindergarten, I was the big oaf in the back row of my class picture. I remained in the back row, looming over all the other adorable children until they stopped taking those kinds of pictures in the sixth grade.
By seventh grade, I hit six feet, which, while a slightly more common height today, was considered freakish then.
To make matters worse, I was on the chunky side. I hated sports and loved Ding Dongs—it didn’t take long for the pounds to pile on.
In Freshman year of high school, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine which tends to strike tall adolescent girls. Just my luck. The doctor slapped me into a full body brace for a couple of years which made me look and feel like the Bride of Frankenstein.
I lumbered and lurched my way through high school, becoming morose and sarcastic which I perceived to be the only antidote to the legions of giggling fine boned girls who roamed the halls.
How I hated them. It was the eighties, and the sight of them in their leg warmers and jelly shoes, their Member’s Only jackets and Izod shirts filled me with rage.
Oddly, I never lacked male admirers—but they weren’t the guys I wanted attention from. They were the losers, like me, and more often than not, were shorter than average. My prom date was 5’6″ on a good day, and I twisted myself into a complicated slump so as not to tower over him in our pictures.
My entire night was spent trying to squeeze myself like an accordion down to an acceptable height.
In college, I pretended not to care anymore. I got myself a tall boyfriend and tried to ignore the fact that my girlfriends were all under 5’2″ and weighed 105lbs. I clocked in at 160 (I told everyone 140) and I had no hope of fitting into anything fashionable. Jeans were too short, my wrists hung out of long sleeved shirts and coats, and my size 10, extra wide feet wouldn’t squeeze into a decent pump or anything but a gym shoe.
Those were the dark ages for tall and big girls. There were no plus size models, no online shopping, and no tall or plus sizes. The closest I got to a store that catered to me was the Sears “Pretty Plus” and “Husky” sections—not exactly a confidence booster.
Eventually, I grew to appreciate, if not love, my height. When embraced, height can give you power and presence, two things women often sorely lack. But there was still a secret side of me that hated being bigger than everyone else.
Imagine my surprise when I went to the doctor for my annual physical this year and was told my height was only 5’10”! Apparently, at the ripe old age of 43, I have shrunk two inches.
At this rate, by the time I’m 50, I should five feet tall.
What happens to shorter women as they age? Do they disappear entirely?
After a lifetime of wishing I was shorter, I suddenly am.
I went to the farmer’s market the other day and found myself surrounded by ridiculously tall women. I don’t know what was in the air that day, but the Amazons were out. These girls were as tall as my husband, and he’s 6’6.
I stared and glared at them with a nasty frown, until I caught myself—I was jealous. After a lifetime of wishing I was shorter, here I was, not only shorter, but shorter in a taller world. And I didn’t like it one bit.
I guess you’re never to old to learn a new lesson, or rather, learn an old lesson in a new way. “Be careful what you wish for…”
I plan on spending my remaining years as a tall (ish) woman in the highest damn heels I can stand. I’m sad that I wasted so much time hating my body and praying it was different. It has done some pretty cool stuff, not the least of which is making a human being from scratch–who is also, incidentally, destined to be tall.
Self love is a lifelong endeavor—I hope to master it while I can still see over the driving wheel.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise