I was watching the trailer for a new Netflix movie, “Tall Girl,” the other day. I saw the way the main character, a high school student, seemed to tower over most of her classmates, and I thought, “Wow, that girl is REALLY tall. Poor thing.” And then I read that she’s 6-foot-1.
Funny thing: that’s how tall I am.
Six one and a quarter, according to the doctor’s office. And of course if I’m wearing any sort of thick shoe or heels, which I prefer to avoid, I can quickly be 6’3” or 6’4”, which to me feels like the point at which one is extraordinarily tall.
But is 6’1” really so tall as to feel freakish? I’ll just say this: my height was a huge part of my life as I was growing up. It was part of my identity, part of almost every conversation I had with a stranger. (Either “Yes, I do play basketball” or “Yes I can reach that for you.”)
When I was a baby, my pediatrician told my mother that I’d be more than 6 feet tall, and I was always at the top of the height charts. In a preschool class photo, I was in the back row center (as usual) with just my two preschool teachers, and I was just a few inches shorter than they were. In first grade, my shoe size (which often correlates to height) was the same as my teacher’s. Throughout grade school, my classmates frequently called me Jolly Green Giant, which I took as good-natured teasing from friends, even though some people now would probably see it as bullying. I mean, it was a fact! I was much taller than almost everyone. But sure, it sometimes was an unwelcome reminder that I was different.
Sometimes, that difference was humiliating. In fifth grade, I had already hit about 5’10”, and at some point my knees didn’t fit under the elementary-sized desks. Someone thoughtfully brought a desk over from the middle school, but it was kind of jarring to see a big orange desk lined up in a sea of little blue ones.
And for some reason, probably partly because I was clumsy, I hit my head a lot. Once at a choir concert I walked up to the middle back of the risers, as usual. We had practiced on the stage for days, but someone had moved the band shell behind the risers closer. I bumped my head, painfully, and kind of stumbled backward in front of the crowd.
Eventually, I started playing sports, which helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin. It made my height a positive thing, and it helped me become more coordinated and seem less gangly.
And by high school, other people, especially boys, also started to catch up. In my 6A school, a few other girls were in the 6-foot range, and several boys were much taller. But I can tell you that in the dating department, being tall was always an issue, at least for me, and never far from my mind.
What’s funny, then, as I reflect on how much my height seemed to be a part of my life then, is how little it seems to matter now that I’m an adult. Maybe I’m more comfortable in my own skin. Maybe I’m just wider, which makes a person seem less tall. But many people don’t seem to notice my height. And my husband, who is almost my height, doesn’t seem to care, which helps.
Probably the only thing that is a recurring problem is finding clothes. It’s hard to find extra-long pants, tall shirts, and big (but still feminine) shoes. But I’ve resigned myself to ordering from a few key places. And hey, we all have our problems.
It’s funny that my first response to seeing this “Tall Girl” movie was something close to pity, because I don’t feel that way about myself, especially not at this point in my life. I’ve come to appreciate being tall.
So if you see me in the grocery store, don’t hesitate to ask me to grab something off the top shelf for you. I’m used to it.