Everyone’s got one. When did you stop growing? How did your height affect you? Do you actually like being tall?
There are people who are a bit tall. 5’8 say. They’ll go through life as other people do; maybe the occasional person will point out that they’re rather tall, they might sometimes feel a bit taller than their friends, they might be able to see a little better at concerts. It won’t actually affect them though. When you’re very tall, it can affect you emotionally, physically and financially. It becomes a part of your identity; the way you view yourself and the way others view you.
I’ve always been tall, but I certainly haven’t always loved it. A lot of my tall friends are tall as a result of a late growth spurt and spent the first half of their childhood years as little munchkins. But from the second I arrived into the world – at a reasonably diminutive 7lbs 8oz – I was on a non-stop growth spurt until I reached about 20. I was always the tallest person in class or brownies; the only one who didn’t have to “think” about where I should put myself in a height-order line-up.
At the age of 8, I was left particularly devastated when my best friend held a party at the Jungle Gym at Butlins and I was too tall to go in. I remember bending my knees to try and position my head under that stupid little ruler held by the smiley wooden lion cut-out. The two hours I sat outside for with her mum were the longest 2 hours of my life.
At 10 I was taken on the train to Topshop in Oxford Circus by my own Mum and remember feeling appalled that I had to go to a grown-up shop to buy clothes. (I know, it all seems utterly ridiculous now, what with Topshop being the place I’ll probably have my ashes scattered…) I was desperate to still fit into “Tammy Girl” and shop in kids’ sections like my “normal” friends. I’d wear trainers to school discos so that I wasn’t towering over the boys there, and I’d seethe with envy at the high heels my friends were dancing in.
The most bizarre side-effect of tallness was the inappropriate attention I received from much older men. I wish I’d had the confidence to say “You realise I’m 12, right, you filthy hideous pervert?!” but instead I just ignored it and felt horribly embarrassed whenever a man would wolf-whistle at me or leer as he walked past. (Alas, it actually happens a lot less now…)
Also at the age of 12 (gosh, that must have been an action-packed year!), I got into a highly embarrassing argument with an evil bus driver who refused to believe that I was allowed to pay a child fare. It seemed to escape his attention that I was getting on the bus wearing school uniform, along with all my pixie-sized 12-year-old friends, because he looked at me as though I’d killed his nan. After he’d shouted mean-grumpy-man things like “Pull the other one love, I wasn’t born yesterday” and told me I was holding up the queue, I conceded defeat, paid the adult fare and sat down with all the fellow bus-goers staring and me feeling like a criminal. Yes, I know… it might sound like I’m making a big deal out of a teeny incident. But things are a massive big deal when you’re twelve.
As a young teenager, comments from other people cut seriously deep. I’ve been called (as I’m sure all of you have), every nickname under the sun related to height, longness, gigantism… So much so that I nearly cried at an episode on The Inbetweeners recently when everyone called Will’s new tall girlfriend “Empire State Building”. (I know, it sounds like I have some crazy, unresolved issues… but really it just brought back some horrible memories). Every time I visited family I hadn’t seen in a while, I’d dread the onslaught of “Oh-my-god… haven’t you grown” remarks. I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes the amount of times in a day someone would say “Gosh, you’re tall, aren’t you? How tall are you?” and prayed that my tallness would one day go unnoticed.
Then my mentality started to switch. As a 5’10 15 year-old, I started to realise that my height did bring with it some joyful moments. The sheer terror in the eyes of “Goal Attack” as I put on my “Goal Defence” tabard at Netball away matches. Bouncers not batting an eyelid when I walked through the door of their club. Being high enough to see Westlife at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party.
With these realisations, my confidence slowly began to grow. The negative comments from other people didn’t stop; I just handled them better. Or, at least, I handled them. Aged 19 — and out with my cousin at a Northern Ireland nightclub — I saw a man look at me and shout to his friends “Jesus, look at the size of that”. In response (and perhaps a little inebriated), I grabbed his meat-and-two-veg and shouted “Not much size on that mate”. At which his friends burst into rapturous applause. Aaaah. I’m still proud of that now.
As a 6ft adult – having outgrown my mum, dad, and all the rest of my family — I’ve finally learnt to love my height rather than just live with it. It makes me feel elegant, it earns me an automatic degree of respect, and let’s be honest… life is waaaaay too short. Even if I’m not.
Talking to other gorgeously tall women on All the Tall things has made me realise that there’s a whole massive community of fun, intelligent and stylish ladies who are there waiting to help each other out. And that’s pretty ruddy brilliant.
So there’s my story. I spent half an hour staring at a blank screen thinking about what to write. And then it all came out. I cried twice, laughed a LOT, cut a LOT of other events from it and most of all, I realised how far I’ve blooming come. Your personal tall story might have similarities with mine. Or it could be very different. You might be a lot taller than me and think I’ve had it pretty easy. And reading it back, I’m sure it sounds more than a little indulgent. Perhaps a bit insensitive considering that there are much bigger problems in the world. But I think you’ll probably agree that being tall has definitely shaped the person you are today.
So anyway, that’s my story. And what’s yours?
P.S. Coming soon to All the Tall things there’s going to be a week dedicated to YOU lovely lot. If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell… about shopping/ life/ love and how it affects tall women, then jot some ideas down and send an email to email@example.com