This goes out to you, the man in Hannaford who knocked down the bread display on your dash to ask me The Question; the nurse who, while inserting my IV, exclaimed he’d never seen a woman “so long” she hung off the gurney; the lady in the elevator who lifted my pant leg to see if I was wearing heels, and the valet who called me the “really big lady in the really little” car.
I’m also talking to the kid in Wal-Mart who grabbed his mom’s hand, dragged her over and said, “That lady is huge,” while pointing his sticky finger at me, and to the mother who said, “(Expletive), yeah, she is,” then asked for my number.
And by number, I mean the digits that follow “height” on my driver’s license.
Yes, I’m tall. Very tall. So tall, in fact, that I’m taller than 99 percent of women in the world. And for years it felt like most of them were letting me know they noticed — and not in a nice way. A study from Wakefield Research reported that 58 percent of women shorter than 5-foot-8 wish they were taller and believe tall women to be “stylish,” “graceful” and “beautiful.”
I didn’t encounter them.
Instead of “graceful,” I got “giraffe.”
Just how tall are we talking? Six feet, 72 inches or, as I prefer, 5-foot-12.
It keeps the five in there.
Oh, and I know what’s coming next. Yes, my parents are tall — 6-6 and 5-10.
And now there’s a week dedicated to me and all the other leggy women of North America. National Stand Tall Week is an initiative from Long Tall Sally, a clothing company dedicated to women 5-foot-8 and taller. The goal is to encourage women to “stand tall” and embrace their height.
Where was this week five years ago, when I ached for two fewer inches? Knowing that wasn’t possible, I embraced flats. I sacrificed fashion to keep myself lower to the ground. When that wasn’t enough (meaning people still pointed, stared and asked), I slouched.
Then I read “The Tall Book: A Celebration of Life from on High” by Delmar native Arianne Cohen. She advocates for proper posture and embraces every smidgen of her 6-foot-3 frame.
Now I find myself encouraging other young women to keep their shoulders back when I photograph them.
Being tall has gotten much easier. Ankle and wrist bones no longer peek out from my cuffs and hems, thanks to J. Crew, Banana Republic, Gap and other stores designing lines specifically for taller women. Companies even make longer golf clubs — and coffins — for us tall ones.
Even dating is more specialized.
Tall Friends (TallFriends.com) bills itself as a dating site for “tall singles and tall admirers.” I was on there for a bit, looking for someone who could pick me up — literally — and not the other way around. Unfortunately, the Capital Region wasn’t ripe with members, but if you are a woman seeking a man between the age of 30 and 40 and want to travel to Minnesota for a little wining and dining, the dates are likely to be plentiful.
Thing is, accepting something about yourself becomes more challenging when others can’t. After more than 15 years of excessive tallness, I remain appalled (although not surprised) that people continue to deliver The Question. Would you ask an overweight person to step on a scale or a blond if that’s really her natural hair color?
No. So don’t ask me where I get my pants — unless you are also tall. That’s OK. Tall women understand the sisterhood of walking up to another willowy gal on the street and asking where she shops.
Oh, and please, please don’t think that you — as a petite woman — can commiserate by saying, “You think you have a hard time? All my pants and skirts are too long.”
I have two words for you: Hem ‘em. I can’t make fabric appear. You, on the other hand, can make it disappear.
So the next time you are tempted to express shock and awe over the tall person you see in the elevator, in the store or on the hospital bed, be prepared to receive an equally obnoxious inquiry in return.