Tall Girl in the Photo

I come from a tall line of tallish women. One of the most common refrains I remember from my 5’9” grandmother was on the subject of height. She’d refer to a pair of short male twins in her small school in rural Colorado and how they could never see over the crowd. I can’t imagine there were many crowds to be found in rural Colorado , but she’d actually go so far as to pantomime being short and having to look through people and not over them. Nevertheless, her story would end with “always be proud of your height”.

My mom and her younger sister are both over six feet tall and my sister and I both come in at the reasonably tallish height of 5’9”. My mom never made a fuss about physical appearance at all.  When it came to her daughters, the only thing she ever tried to cure me of was slouching. You stand tall, you put your shoulders back, and you be proud of your height.

Not always the easiest advice to follow particularly in the awkward middle school years in which you ARE a head taller than most of the girls and all the guys. That’s the last place you want to be someone who stands out, and yet there you are, trying to be proud of your height as you display your latest bad haircut, unkempt eyebrows and newly discovered acne patches. Also, show me a middle school girl who doesn’t feel that “shoulders back” is synonymous with “breasts thrust forward” and is therefore completely mortified by any such show of confidence like proper posture.

But my mom was always a giant who didn’t mind being a giant (as a teen she wasn’t excited about her height, but she only went so far as fudging the math. For years she’d claim to be 5’12” just to seem not so giant), and so I got over being a lesser giant fairly quick. I also had a “short dad” (5’10”) who was never phased or censorious of the tall women in his life. Despite wearing alarming platform shoes to his wedding, I’ve never seen him embarrassed of his size in relation to my mother. It simply wasn’t an issue.

The only times I’m ever embarrassed of, or note my height as an inconvenience in any way, are when I’m in a group photo with only women, and when I hear any man say “I’d never date a girl taller than me”.

The group photo phenomenon shouldn’t exist which is why it’s so maddening. You’ll know what I mean after I describe it, and if you’re tall, you already know exactly to what I’m referring. In girl group photos you have several critical factors at play. 1) no girl wants to be in the front. 2) we somehow think it’s bad etiquette to reference if someone is actually shorter or taller than us. Rearranging is a minefield of polite innuendo. Inevitably what results is a front row of shorter women squatting so that the women in the back are still visible.

Of course, they shrink down so much that the row behind them is also forced to squat so as not to stick up and out of the photo, ruining it for everyone. What results is row upon row of squatting women who now look like some kind of overdressed cheer squad doing a routine in their spare time. Or as if the gravitational pull of that square of pavement is stronger and they’re helpless to resist. We’re in an age of selfies AND group crouch which is like being in an age of Ugg boots and short skirts.

The secondary phenomenon of “I’ll never date a woman taller than me” is only maddening because tall girls have a firm paranoid, and not entirely wrong belief that short women are a hotter commodity than tall women. We could go into a million reasons why this a belief, why it’s true, why it’s paranoid, but it’s long standing enough that I don’t need to defend the belief, you just need to know it exists.

It’s hard for many women to be proud of their height when it’s an actual impediment to their social life. When height is literally the main reason someone crosses you off as a romantic prospect, it’s difficult not to associate your tall stature with a lack of femininity and desirability. What you end up hearing is, “she’s great friend material because there’s no sexual tension with a tree.”

I’m positive this is an unfair synopsis, but it’s what results when people put ultimatums on their dating partners. I’m sure it’s equally emasculating for men to hear from women, “I’d only date a guy who was taller than me.”

Sure, there are legitimate reasons to use this criteria when considering a romantic partner, but at the end of the day, I can’t help but wonder how much of it is conditioned by our own insecurities about what height represents.

So please, take my mother and grandmother’s advice. Be proud of your height (whatever your height) and put your shoulders back and stand up straight. A little bit of confidence does a great deal more for your insecurities than any tape measure. (It also does a lot better in photos than a crouch)

4 thoughts on “Tall Girl in the Photo

  1. OTOH, a guy who won’t date you because you’re too tall is the kind of douchebag you don’t need in your life anyways.

    That said, I’ve totally dumped/avoided guys who were shorter than me because _I_felt awkward being so much taller than them…


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