This photo always makes me a smile. It’s taken after a Taylor Swift concert, with Lena Dunham awkwardly tagged on to the end of a supermodel scrum. As a six-footer, you might think I relate more to Gigi and Lily (perfect abs and million dollar paycheques aside). But I don’t. I relate to Lena. Because I always feel a bit like the odd one out. I’m a Lena in a short-girl world.
I was hesitant to write this post, as I am conscious of the fact that I am a white, privileged, cis-gendered, able-bodied woman who probably needs to STFU. But normally my blog is all about the positive, and I’d feel like a bit of a fraud if I pretended that everything is 24/7 rainbows and unicorns in my head. And while I love being tall (we’ll save that for the all important, moral-of-the-story conclusion, fear not) there are times when I’m certain my mental health has taken a few knocks for it.
I can’t quite remember when I became aware that I was different. But I certainly don’t ever remember feeling the same as everyone else. In ballet I was a foot above my peers, and from primary school I would ALWAYS know where I stood in a height line-up (‘seeya later girls… I’ll be down there heading up the boys’ division’). Having to squash down into group photos, not being able to swap clothes with friends, wishing I could buy clothes and shoes easily on shopping trips (but still sitting in Tammy for hours while everyone tried stuff on…) is going to make you feel a bit alienated, however amazing your mates are.
When puberty hit and growth-spurts collided with an interest in boys, the imagined space between my friends and I seemed to widen. I wasn’t the ‘fall in love with whoever the f*ck you like’ girl at 13, and was adamant my prospective boyfriend should be taller than me. As such, I felt like I had depressingly few options compared to my friends. I even used to look at celebrities’ heights in Sugar and Bliss magazine and try to work out who was acceptably tall enough to fancy (Bryan from Westlife if anyone is interested. I mean… BRYAN?! Jeez.)
It took me a long time to feel ‘sexy’; I just never felt like that was a word that applied to someone who had felt so gawky and awkward for so long. Sexy was something other people were; petite women in high heels with dinky feet and small features.
Despite having a lot of incredible friends, I’ve often felt a little ‘on-the-outside’. I don’t think I’ve ever visibly been an outsider, and my school/uni friends — many of whom remain my best friends today — certainly never made me feel like this, but I did. I appear on the surface to be a very confident and outgoing person, but — while my skin has grown thicker over the years — most of this has been a bit of a facade. I have simply disguised my insecurities in a different way. I wasn’t the shy ‘loser’ in the playground. I acted overly-confident, the class-clown, the drama queen. And I can think of a few occasions when I let my insecurities and jealousy get the better of me and I acted a bit spitefully.
I feel certain that this sense of ‘otherness’ contributed to the anxiety I’ve felt for a lot of my life, and the eating disorder I experienced in my late teens (I finally felt as ‘light’ and ‘dainty’ as my friends, despite being cold, hungry and beyond miserable).
I no longer feel the great despondency I felt about my body back then, but there are still occasions when I feel a bit conscious of the difference between me and my friends; going out and not hearing half the conversations that they’re having a foot below me at the bar for instance, or always being the odd-one-out in a wedding photo. (First world problems I’ll admit).
The difference now is (here comes the predictable conclusion you were waiting for), that I try to celebrate my uniqueness. I now own my tallness. I exaggerate it with four inch heels and genuinely feel special because of it. Plus I’ve found you. It’s one of the main reasons why I started a blog and one of the very best things about the evolvement of the tall community online. That sense that you are not alone. Now — thanks to the magic of Instagram and Facebook — we can share in the daily experience of being tall with people who absolutely get it.
As I write, I’m still not sure whether to share this. It seems so indulgent when one of my best friends is awaiting a kidney transplant for her two year-old, and another is in a wheelchair because of Lyme Disease. But it may well resonate with someone; someone who feels like an outsider themselves and hasn’t yet managed to conquer it. I suppose everyone feels a bit left out at one time or another. We’ve all got something, right? The heart-wrenching pain of infertility when all you hear are birth announcements from happy friends. The inability to just get on a damn tube with your mates when you’re stuck in a wheelchair. (And no, I am not in ANY WAY comparing my predicament with these).
I can’t be the only one who has had these feeling before, so please feel free to join in the conversation below. Let’s continue to build each other up, have each other’s backs, and make each other feel wonderfully, weirdly, extraordinarily… normal.