Thinking tall

Shapelings might be interested in this NYT piece called “Life as a Tall Girl,” about having a female body that is considered unacceptably big on the vertical axis. It’s written by a college student, and some of it, I imagine, will sound familiar to many of us:

Everywhere I go people stare at me. At the grocery store children gawk at me wide-eyed, craning their necks and pointing as they tug their mothers’ shirts. When I pass people on the street, I hear them mumble comments about my appearance.

I was 5-foot-10 in fourth grade. I had a small group of friends in elementary school, but sometimes the boys picked on me, calling me a bean pole or the Jolly Green Giant. I still remember my embarrassment when they taunted me, and how badly I wanted to be invisible.

In high school I got more involved in sports, but I spent most days in the art room. By this time everyone at my school was used to my height (by ninth grade I was 6-foot-3), but if I went out of town people would gawk and comment about my appearance. They acted like I couldn’t hear them.

The author, Rebecca Thomas, sounds like she has come out the other side of the constant public comment on her body and learned to take pride in herself and smartly deflect strangers’ insults.

What are your experiences with height? Personally, I’m about 5′ 7″ , which has never made me particularly short or tall, but my sense of my own height did shift drastically once in my adult life: when I graduated from a women’s college and started grad school at a coed public university. Instantly I went from being on the tall side wherever I went to being in the middle of the height range, which disconcerted me greatly at the time — not because I felt emotionally invested in my height in any particular way, but because I had had a sense of my own body that I had to revise very suddenly. There’s nothing like walking behind a group of basketball players to make an average-height person feel very short. I remember feeling much more vulnerable when I was adjusting to no longer being a “tall” person.

One final note on this article, since we’ve been talking about intersectionality and language — when I read this article, this paragraph made me wince:

I am not deformed or handicapped, I’m not a circus attraction. I have strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes. What makes me different is that I’m 6-foot-4, and I’m a woman.

I don’t think Thomas means any insult to people who have unusual features, are disabled, or are non-white (or even non-blonde and blue-eyed). In fact, later in the article she explicitly acknowledges how different kinds of privilege intersect with her height: “And I’ve got it easy; I’m a minority only in the sense of height. I can only imagine how those under the burden of a group prejudice based on their race or religion must feel.” But notice how the implicit assumption behind this paragraph is that if she were “deformed,” “handicapped,” or non-blonde, it would be understandable to stare at her, because she’d be like “a circus attraction.” Again, I’m not saying that Thomas explicitly holds those views; I’m just pointing out how privilege seeps into language and informs our sense of what is acceptable to say. Some people might read that paragraph and not blink. I can’t; I grew up with a brother who is “deformed” and “handicapped,” and people do often treat him like a circus freak. As long as some bodies are considered acceptable for public comment and ridicule, we all suffer. We all are vulnerable. That’s yet another reason why members of every social justice movement must reach outside their own interests and try to find a discourse that includes others.

87 thoughts on “Thinking tall

  1. I’m short at 5’3″. Th only difficulties stemming from my height are usually an inability to reach things in tall cabinets, which usually leaves me standing precariously on a chair with hopes I don’t fall and break a hip. I now have a 6’1″ husband to do these things for me.

    It is more difficult being short and fat when it comes to buying clothes. Most designers think all fat women are Amazons, even though the average American woman is 5’4″. “Average” size pants in a size 16 are often made for a woman who stands 5’6″ or 5’7″ depending on the designer. The height gets progressively taller with each size up. Some designers make petite sizes, but then the size is different. For example, I might be able to wear a 14 average but when I try on a petite size, I have to get a 16 petite. It’s kind of maddening.

    Sure I can get my pants tailored – but c’mon. It’s tiring, it’s expensive, and it takes up a lot of time that I don’t have to dedicate on alterations. If I could get pants in my size and height when I was thin, why can’t I get pants in my size and height when I am fat?

    But notice how the implicit assumption behind this paragraph is that if she were “deformed,” “handicapped,” or non-blonde, it would be understandable to stare at her, because she’d be like “a circus attraction.”

    I disagree with your interpretation, here. And this is coming from someone who does have family members who are handicapped and one with Down’s Syndrome. I interpreted her mention of hair and eye color more along the lines of her drawing attention to the fact that it is her height alone that attracts stares, not anything else about her. For example, if she had a pink mohawk and those contacts that turn your eyes red, I’d have trouble believing people are only staring at her because of her height. And I don’t think she is implicitly or expressly promoting deformities or handicaps as circus attractions at all; rather, quite the opposite.

  2. I interpreted her mention of hair and eye color more along the lines of her drawing attention to the fact that it is her height alone that attracts stares, not anything else about her.

    Rachel, I see what you mean here, but that’s what I mean about language being important: one could just as easily write “I dress conservatively and don’t have an unusual hairstyle; if I were shorter, I would blend into a Midwestern crowd” (or something to that effect) to convey that idea, instead of positing blonde/blue-eyed/able-bodied as the norm from which others deviate. I am not trying to denigrate Thomas or pick apart her otherwise fine essay; I just wanted to point out that this is an example of how what seems innocuous to one person can seem very painful to another, since that’s been a topic of discussion this week.

  3. I developed a total complex about my height when I was in high school. For a few years, the group of friends I spent the most time with happened to be a bunch of very tall girls – ranging from 5’10″ to 6’3″ – and a few similarly tall guys. I’m 5’4″ in my sneakers, which is average, but for years I was convinced that I was really short. Which is understandable given that everyone towered over me! I still think I’m short sometimes, even though it’s demonstrably not true.

  4. I’m almost 5’10″, and hit that height by the time I was 11 or 12. I always dug being taller than everyone in my class, and a tiny part of me is still a little shocked when I meet someone who’s taller than me because I’m so accustomed to being the biggest wherever I go. But I think part of digging that I was taller than everyone was that it provided me with some sort of…power, maybe. I looked like a kid who could scrap hardcore if you crossed me on the playground.

  5. I’m 6’2″, with the added bonus round of fat and a large squareish frame. I’ve had people tell me that they sometimes forget that I’m fat because the overall impression is that I’m so large in general. On the down-side, I do get the “circus freak” look, and fitting into things like plane/bus seats/jeans/long sleeve dress shirts is even harder than for an average height fat girl. Plus it’s hard to date, mostly because of my own hangups about shorter men and how it “looks” like such a tired old Victorian comedy routine of the big dominant woman/short thin man (I know it’s silly, it’s in my head, and I’m working on it). I also have the stigma where people expect me to be either stupid and/or violent simply because I have a large build. Group pictures are hard; I’m built to a larger scale than other people so it looks distorted, like I’m somehow closer to the camera than my friends. On the plus side, I can generally reach things other women I know would have to use a ladder or stool for, which comes in handy enough that I count it a real positive. I have to worry somewhat less about things like walking alone at night or in parking garages because, honestly, my height makes me intimidating. I can see over the heads of crowds (although I try to be considerate about blocking others’ views) and maybe taken a bit more seriously than other woman (judging by the reactions of managers when I complain vs. some of my friends). It’s a real mixed bag, and while I don’t think it’s the bee’s knees, I also wouldn’t trade it in for the benefits of average height (like, you know, being able to wear stilettos without looking like you’re on stilts). I suppose it’s a matter of the grass being greener anywhere that isn’t what you’re used to.

  6. I am 28 years old and only 4’8″. Due to various health problems, I’d always been small for my age, and round about sixth grade or so, when the rest of my classmates started shooting upwards, the difference became really obvious.

    I’m finally getting to the point now where I suppose I look “mature” enough that people don’t automatically assume that I’m a 12-year-old, despite my height (although it still happens occasionally…even just a couple months ago I was accused of having a fake ID, and my mother was sitting right next to me!). Until about my mid-twenties or so, though, life was an obstacle course of childrens menus and condescending stares (and once I turned 21, I was always sure to order a margarita with my Choo-Choo Chicken Fingers). ;)

    One thing being short has taught me is that actual 12-year-olds get treated like shit. They are no longer cute kids, so they don’t get oohed and ahhhed over, but society has not yet deemed them worthy or old enough to be thinking, functioning adults. People act like you’re invisible, often they would speak around me: “Would she like a childrens menu?” (to my boyfriend). “I’m sorry, you’re not allowed to bring her in here.” (at a nightclub). I sometimes think that it’s no wonder that kids around that age start acting out. They just want people to realize that they exist. At least I have an ID I can whip out at any time to regain back people’s respect.

    One of the most annoying things I hear: I will “appreciate it when I’m older.” I most certainly will not! This is the number-one backpedalling reaction people seem to have when they discover my true age. The fact is, you think I’m young because I’m short, not because of my miraculously young-looking face. Just because I looked 12 at 22 does not mean I will look 33 at 43, I will just look like a short 43 year old. (No offense to 43 year olds intended, of course. It’s not that I’m afraid of getting older, it’s just that I feel this is a stupid, ill-thought-out rationalization people come up with).

    Oh, and to tie it all into the size-acceptance thing, being short is very interesting for weight gain/loss. Normal fluctuations of a few pounds can send me up/down whole clothing sizes. And it is heeellll finding pants that fit. Because, as mentioned above, manufacturers assume that all fat women are amazons, and that all short women are little bird-boned petite fragile things (definitely not me!). I’ve gotten very good at hemming pants.

    Well, that post is longer than I intended it to be, but I guess I like to vent about this when given the opportunity!

  7. I’m 5′ 5″, which is pretty boring and average height-wise. I once dated a guy who was an inch shorter than me, and I remember being happy that it was in the summer so I could wear flip-flops rather than the higher-heeled shoes I wore the rest of the year. (Why this weirdness, I don’t know. Just a data point since we’re talking about height.)

    My husband is 6′ 5″ and he does come in terribly handy for “tall person” jobs like reaching high cupboards or changing batteries in the smoke detector, but he ducks through every doorway in our house. When we bought a new car, he had to sit in every one to see if he could fit behind the wheel. His clothing options are very limited; most stores don’t carry his size, but the same stores’ websites sometimes do. His T-shirts ride up because if we can ever find tall-size T-shirts, they’re $5 or $10 more; he’s just past the larger sizes of regular stores but just below the small sizes of big & tall stores. I’m sure this is all sounding terribly familiar! In fact, height is one of the reasons I prefer SIZE acceptance to FAT acceptance, and it pisses me off a little bit that when we talk about “size” in the movement we’re always talking about the horizontal axis, not the vertical one.

    Tall people don’t have quite as much vitriol directed at them, though they do have their share of name-calling and stupid questions: “how’s the weather up there” has long since stopped being funny. It’s true that no one’s telling tall people to lose a few inches (in height) for their health, but as my husband will tell you, the world is not made for people who are taller than 6′. And so many of the accessibility issues the same as for fat people, just on a different axis.

  8. Petite fatties represent!

    I am 5’2″ with a longish torso and little stumpy wiener dog legs. I wear size 14-16 pants with like a 26″ inseam– so when I can find petite non-Mom Jeans pants in my size, they’re still at least 2 inches too long. I usually have to settle for “average” length jeans and just hem them 6+ inches. There’s something depressing about having to shorten your pants so much that you almost have enough material left for a pair of shorts. Someone needs to tell clothing designers that not everyone who wears a double digit size is an Amazon. Seriously.

  9. “There’s something depressing about having to shorten your pants so much that you almost have enough material left for a pair of shorts.”

    Tell it, sista! Amen! :D

    It especially sucks when there are cute little designs or cuts around the bottom of the hems, which get lost when you have to cut off what feels like the entire lower half off the calf.

    Hemming will also often change the hang of the pants, so they just look badly tailored. The worst is when the place where the knee is “supposed” to go is down above your ankles, and you get those nice Amelia Earhart aviator bulges right below your butt. Nice if you’re flying planes, bad if you’re going in for a job interview.

  10. I’m 5′-4″, but for whatever reason, I’ve never felt short. Maybe it’s because everyone in my Mom’s family is within a couple inches of 5′-0″, and they all have imposing personalities that make them seem bigger, somehow.

  11. I’m 5’4″ and I’ve always felt short. I’m shorter than both my parents and 3/4 of my grandparents. I’m shorter than my cousins; my aunts and uncles. In my family I would’ve expected to be another two or three inches taller, but it just didn’t work out that way.

    The worst part of being what is apparently the average height for women is, as Rachel said, buying clothes. I rarely find a pair of pants that fits comfort and doesn’t need to be hemmed. And you know, I could live with it if it were limited to dress pants or even jeans, but I haven’t been able to find a quality pair of yoga pants in some time because I refuse to spend money to hem lounge pants (and I am useless with a needle).

    But this year, I made friends with a girl who is pretty tall and I learned that she has the same problem in reverse: on her, everything is too short, and that this is probably worse because nothing can be done about that.

  12. Jae:

    I ended up buying a pair of capri yoga pants in the end. They fit just like normal pants on me! :D

  13. I also have the stigma where people expect me to be either stupid and/or violent simply because I have a large build.

    Folks react to my 6’5″ tall husband this way, which always makes me giggle helplessly because I’ve seen the man go all rubbery kneed over kittens.

    I think most of Thomas’ essay can be boiled down to the idea that people treat women’s bodies as if they are public property and open for comment or discussion. At 5’10″ I’ve had strangers tell me what I should wear, how I should walk, and demand that I not wear high heeled shoes, because apparently I signed a waiver at birth that said I didn’t have a right to just walk around without being harassed. Women of all heights and sizes everywhere are subjected to this kind of treatment every single day. People talk behind our backs or right to our faces about how we look or how we live our lives.

    I think it would be pretty cool to be that tall, but then, I’m already used to being treated like an anomaly because of my weight. I could loom over all of the people demanding that I wear makeup & stop shaving my head, plus I wouldn’t have to kick quite as high to reach other people’s asses.

  14. EntoAggie, I am going to have to try that because petite yoga pants have not worked out for me *lol*. They do this really annoying thing where after one wash they make me look as if I’d had a growth spurt after putting them on!

    Oh and in regards to tall husbands: My cousin’s husband is 6’7″ and he is a firefighter in his city. When he went in for the tests, the grumbled about modifying the pull-up portion for him, in spite of the fact that he had a lot more to pull over the bar than most people!

  15. Long time lurker. First time commenter

    I’m almost 5’9″. I grew up in an environment where I was much taller than the average. I was 5’8″ and extremely skinny when I was 12 and head and shoulders taller than anyone else in my year group at school. And yes I was teased about my height and my weight; made very aware of being different. All through my teenage years my appearance attracted comments, which frankly sucked whether the comments were nice or nasty. Strangers regularly used to come up to and comment on my height., usually to my mother if she was with me. Buying clothes was tricky to say the least. My paternal grandmother was 6′ 2″ and pretty solid and muscular so while the genes have been somewhat diluted over the generations the pattern is still there. The skinny teenager is long gone and now I definitely fit into the tall and solid pattern. For years I was conscious of being different and then I reveled in it. Made the most of it. Now it is just part of who I am but it still gets a reaction. I work in a male dominated industry and I am still at least as tall as most of the people I work with if not taller and that disconcerts people because I am outside the norm on two counts. There is always a pause and a double take when people realize my size. Recently I had to be measured for a study for the MSc I am studying for and again I was the tallest female in the group which attracted comments (the only person in the group that got any comment at all about anything we were measuring). I am married to guy whose is 5′ 4″ and he finds clothes shopping a nightmare. He rarely gets much overt reaction to his height, which is arguably more unusual than my own.

  16. I’m 4’10″. When people ask me how tall I am, I say “I’m not.” I don’t notice my height much, though, and I find most others don’t realize how short I am until I tell them. Or until I can’t reach things in my own house. Or I tell them I can’t drive their vehicle without a pillow or three to boost me up and forward. And sure, I buying pants is nigh impossible – I often just get tired of that and wear skirts which affects people’s gendered perception of me, but oh well. The fat has been far more of an influence on my life, probably because of many many years of being taught that I not only can but should change that aspect of myself.

  17. Well, it’s really so realative. I’m 5’6″ and my husband is 6’3″. In the States, I’m above average and he’s almost always the tallest in the room. We moved to Holland a few years back. Now the Dutch are, by the way, the tallest group of people in the world. He is literally average male height here and I find myself talking to belly buttons all day. I also help out in my girl’s school and there are so many 8th grade girls who are towering over me that my head is in constant explosion. My husband has three girl cousins who are over 6’4″. No one here second looks. In the States they’d be like monsters.

  18. I don’t understand this whole “double digit sizes = amazon” thing. Where are you finding these clothes? Because at 5’11″ I’m pretty much an amazon, and it is nearly impossible for me to find pants that are long enough. Most pants that come in Long are either 33″ or 34″ inseam, which is barely long enough for me to wear with sneakers. And you can forget about heels.

    Add that on top of the fact that I am higher end of the sizes in your average clothing store and have pretty curvy hips and it’s even harder to find pants. I was sort of upset when a “plus-size” clothing store opened near me and I found out their sizes start the next size up from mine. My jeans are constantly sliding down my hips, most likely because the waist to hip ratio isn’t right.

    Back to the original topic, I’ve had to deal with the weird comments about my height too. It gets worse when I wear heels, and I usually stick with 1-3″ heels for comfort. (Oddly enough, I get only compliments when I wear my 5″ platforms to cons and goth clubs.) The other weird thing is that apparently I look pretty young, even though I’m tall. I’ve gotten carded for an R rated movie in the past year (I’m 27).

  19. I’m 5’3″. In one sense, 5’3″ is not short, since, as someone pointed out, the average American woman is around that height. On the other hand, plenty of people are taller than me. The biggest disadvantage of this is that I cannot $#@%@!!! navigate when I’m in a crowd, and I *hate* outdoor events (parades, certain kinds of concerts) where everyone is standing, because unless I push my way to the front, I can’t see. Oh, and I can barely reach the overhead bar on the subway to hang on; I was relieved when Boston started adding hanging handstraps of the type that you see in New York. And clothes manufacturers seem to think that the average height of American women is actually 5′ 8″ (why? so they can develop another special line of petite clothing and charge more, even though it has less fabric?) On the other other hand, I never bump my head in the basement or under the eaves in the attic. There are advantages and disadvantages.

    To EntoAggie: I know it must be hurtful and difficult when people act as though they can’t see you, but please try to see the opposite perspective – maybe sometimes they actually don’t see you. If everyone is standing, and it’s a crowded place, you may actually be out of their range of vision. I know that doesn’t explain the comments you get in restaurants and bars, but it may explain some of the strange behavior you observe.

  20. I’m 5’3, but I wear 2.5 inch heels every day because, well, I think I’m short. I’m two or three inches shorter than my parents, so clearly that makes me short. I also have a 6’1 boyfriend who gets things out of tall cupboards. It’s nice.

    Also, pants = hell. It seems that no matter what size you are, the pants are the wrong length. Petite pants run the gamut from two inches too short for me (yeah, I don’t know how) to two inches too long (again, how?). Average pants are just too long, even when the petites of the same type are too short. And let’s not talk about skirts.

    I know women who are much shorter (4’9) and much taller (6’4) than I am. I think they manage what they do by sheer force of personality. The 6’4 woman is one of the most insanely gorgeous women I have ever met in my entire life.

  21. Nothing to add really. I’m 6′ tall, I’m taller than my entire department at work by at least 6 inches. (all men) No one comments on this, but, it’s weird when tiny little men open doors for me.

    I did used to get a lot of comments when I was younger from classmates etc, who would “suddenly” realize how tall I was. “Man, You’re Tall” like every day in the lunch line.

    My biggest clothing related problem is actually skirts. (I like them more than pants.) Skirts generally do not come in “tall” length, whereas pants often do, so I’ll go to buy a skirt/suit thing, and the skirt is designed to come to the knee, and on me it is halfway up the thigh.

    Oh, and every time I’m in a wedding (which is a lot) I have to pay an extra 20-50 bucks for extra length. Though now I’m getting a dress from David’s Bridal, and they don’t “do” extra length (WHAT!?!) and of course my titchy bride and her tiny asian family didn’t even consider that the germanic maid of honor might need, y’know, some space. So… this should be interesting.

  22. I’ve been six feet tall since junior high. In elementary school, I was the tallest person in the school save one male teacher by sixth grade.

    Although pants have gotten easier to find and shoes for my size 11 feet have gotten…er…better…my main challenge was always dating. It seemed like men really dug me if they met me while I was sitting but would back off really quickly if I stood up. A lot of men didn’t find my height (or weight, for that matter…) very feminine so I was often the friend and rarely the girlfriend.

    Every once in a while, I’ll be in line somewhere next to a woman who only comes up to my navel or breast height. We will look at each other and shrug, both knowing that we having similar difficulties with clothes and such even though we our heads are at two very different levels.

  23. His clothing options are very limited; most stores don’t carry his size, but the same stores’ websites sometimes do. His T-shirts ride up because if we can ever find tall-size T-shirts, they’re $5 or $10 more; he’s just past the larger sizes of regular stores but just below the small sizes of big & tall stores.

    My 6’1″ husband is quite thin, so it’s easy to find clothes that fit him around the waist, and pant sizes are made in a greater diversity of waist sizes and lengths for men. But he does have a problem with shirt lengths, or rather, I have a problem with shirt lengths since I am the one who buys his clothes. Really, the last time he went clothes shopping for himself was a few months after we met and when we got married (he bought a suit). He hates shopping, I love shopping, we make a great combo.

    My dad has the opposite problem: he’s short and fat, like me. I also buy clothes for him from time to time because he doesn’t make much money. He’s short and weighs in excess of 400 pounds. He pretty much has to wear sweat pants now because he cannot find pants in his size that he can afford. One thing I have noticed with clothes in his size is that they are really really long and tall, too. Can’t they just have a “Big” section for men in addition to a “Big and Tall”? And don’t you love how they guise fat women sizes with the euphemism “plus-size” while reserving plain speak for fat men sizes?

  24. sushi:

    “I don’t understand this whole “double digit sizes = amazon” thing. Where are you finding these clothes? Because at 5′11″ I’m pretty much an amazon, and it is nearly impossible for me to find pants that are long enough. ”

    lol…Admittedly, “Amazon” is a relative term. Literally, to me, any woman over 5′ is “tall,” and any woman over 5’6″ is “Amazon.” So, maybe I am not the best person to be making objective measurements. ;)

    By the same token, it used to piss me off all the time when my 5-foot-something friends would complain about being too short. To me. As if I would be sympathetic. I’ve been trying to cool that side of my personality lately, though…everybody’s experience is subjective and relative, and there is always someone worse off than someone else in some aspect. I certainly haven’t cornered the market on short women, even though I am distinctly below average.

    GiniLiz:

    “Or I tell them I can’t drive their vehicle without a pillow or three to boost me up and forward”

    I used to have to do this as well. I have found, however, that the Nissan sedans have wonderful interior proportions for shorties. I haven’t had to sit on a pillow, with the exception of rental cars, for seven years now.

  25. I’m 5’4, and I know that’s supposed to be average for a woman, but I FEEL short. Until I was like 16, I was always the shortest in my class, so maybe that’s just carried over. And I’ve definitely gotten good-natured mocking from taller friends. Also, my most recent ex–tall, lanky, kind of an asshole–’s favorite adjective for me was “wee.”

    Come to think of it, there’s something skewed about that. I make jokes about my shortness all the time, and it goes unchallenged even though it’s not even true. Could it be that (taller) male bodies are the assumed norm, making an average-sized woman abnormal by default? But then, tall women obviously don’t get a get-out-of-sexism-free pass. I don’t know where I’m going with all this. It’s just interesting.

    I think I’ll wear flats today.

  26. I don’t understand this whole “double digit sizes = amazon” thing. Where are you finding these clothes? Because at 5′11″ I’m pretty much an amazon, and it is nearly impossible for me to find pants that are long enough. Most pants that come in Long are either 33″ or 34″ inseam, which is barely long enough for me to wear with sneakers.

    We-ell… I’m 5’6″. I take a 29″ inseam, 30″ if my shoes have a bit of a heel. If you stretched me to your proportions, I still wouldn’t take much past 32″. I’m not all that unusual a build for a woman either :). But… it’s also common for women to have proportionally longer legs than I do. Designers expect that someone my height will have a 32″ inseam or so, and from comparing notes with other women that’s fairly common.

    So yes, if you’re short and built like me, a 34″ inseam does feel like it’s designed for an amazon. The length is wrong, the fullest part of the hips are in the wrong place (1″ too low for me most of the time, but sometimes it’s 2-3″ too low), the shaping from crotch to waist is out of whack (usually the curves aren’t steep enough for my shape)… And you’ll have the same kinds of problems, and feel like clothes are designed for midgets. Both are valid, since the measurements are equally crappy for both of us.

    (and trust me, be glad you’ve never gone bike shopping with your proportions… bike companies are convinced that a) all women are short and b) only women need bikes built to suit long legs and short torsos.)

  27. Meanwhile, I’m getting annoyed as hell that designers seem to think “single digit sizes = Amazon” as well. Old Navy’s “short” jeans? Still too damn long. And most of my 5’3″ is in my legs, so people with legs that are ACTUALLY SHORT are out of luck, I guess.

    I still think of myself as “short,” but that’s partly because I shop in the “petites” (sleeves that fit FTW) and partly because my husband is always making short jokes at my expense. :P

  28. Frankly I think we have shown here conclusively that clothing produced on a massive scale is a pain in the freakin arse.

    I long for the days of tailoring and clothing sewn to fit ones body. (Of course in this world, I’m rich and have amazing gowns and stuff custom made for me.)

  29. sweetmachine, just . . . thank you. i have never even *thought* about accessibility, being differently-abled, or about the invisibility of privilege. and i consider myself a card-carrying left-wing feminist. this post and the last “ask aunt fattie” have been incredible eye-openers. more, even – mind-openers.

    see, this is why i love shapely prose. intelligent people deconstructing hurtful paradigms, and doing it with elegance, intelligence, kindness, and – goodness gracious me – a hefty dose of BWHAHAHAHA THAT’S FUNNY!!1! y’all rock.

  30. The interesting thing for me is that I get loads of comments on how short I am, and under other circumstances, I usually get outraged by people thinking they have a right to say something about my body–but short remarks/questions have never bothered me. Now, part of that may be because I’m over 5 feet, so I’m not extraordinarily short–I’m not getting the circus freak treatment. But I think it’s also because shortness can actually be a social asset. As a fat loudmouth, I’ve never been able to pass myself off as the kind of demure, unassuming woman much of the culture prefers–but my shortness sorta takes the edge off my presence, you know? I don’t seem physically threatening or intimidating (even if I’ve been told by plenty of guys, especially in college, that I’m fucking terrifying). So I can probably get away with a little more loud, a little more fuck-you, than a taller woman, because nobody’s worried I could squash them like a bug. If I were a tall, fat woman with my personality, I’m sure a lot more people would work hard at putting me in my place.

    At the same time, I can’t physically intimidate a guy who harasses me. I feel–and in fact, am–more vulnerable than someone like Jo Geek. I’ve gotten in arguments with Al (who’s 6’2″ and fat) because he’ll be tickling me or something, and I’ll start to feel completely overpowered–if he won’t stop at the exact second I tell him too, I feel helpless, because there’s no other way for me to make him stop. I love and trust him more than anyone in the world, but he could completely control me physically if he wanted to–and I’m cognizant of that, even when we’re just playing. He can’t quite understand why I’d even think in those terms, because all he’s thinking is, “I would never hurt you.” I know that’s true; I wouldn’t be with him if I didn’t know it. But he is twice my fucking size, so my theoretical vulnerability is just a fact, and my lizard brain is aware of it, even if my conscious brain knows it’s not an issue.

    I have to wonder if comments about my shortness would bug me more if I weren’t fat, if that were the only characteristic that made perfect strangers feel free to say things about my body. Since, “Wow, you’re short” comments don’t carry even a whiff of the negative judgment fat comments do, I’ve never been offended or even all that annoyed by them. But if that were the only thing reminding me on a regular basis that women’s bodies are considered public property, it might send me through the roof.

    Oh, and the other thing that’s happened to me lots of times is that people who have known me for a little while suddenly notice how short I am and flip out. I have literally heard, “Wait, were you always this short?” — and it was only half tongue-in-cheek. I take that as a compliment, because the thought process behind it is usually that they can’t believe this much attitude/personality comes in such a compact package. But then, if I had more mental energy right now, I could write a long screed on how disturbingly gendered that thought process is, how women are expected to be small, and small people are expected to be meek… Not to mention that fat women just do not fall into the category of “small,” even if, like me, they don’t actually take up all that much space. The fact that some people cannot even process the simple, obvious reality of my height when they meet me says a lot about cultural expectations.

    Also, being able to reach top shelves seems like a fucking superpower to me.

  31. I visit a regular’s table in a SM-Bar about twice a month, and I have two friends there. One is the proverbial Amazon at 6’6″ (she likes to dress up as Amazons or Klingons, I still want to photograph her in her bear skins and with her sword), and the other is a dwarf (is that correct to say, if the person suffers from dwarfism? Sorry for my english) of 4’1″. Everytime I see them together I marvel at what shapes and sizes humans come in, and smile, cause it’s fabulous.

  32. I wish women’s jeans were labeled based on inseam and waist measurement like men’s jeans, instead of silly arbitrary sizes. I’ve noticed more stores labeling jeans by waist measurement, but all with unlisted lengths which is just bizarre.

  33. Skreee, the least loaded term is “little person,” but I gather that, on the whole, little people don’t find “dwarf” offensive.

  34. I’m 5″3 and I love it. Pants length issue aside.

    Psipsina, I actually find it easier to get around crowds because I duck and weave my way through, and by the time they look down to see who elbowed them – I’m long gone. Hee!

    Also, we have rolls of bubble wrap and plastic paper on the walls at work and I’m the only person who can walk under them without hitting my head. I actually can’t remember the last time I hit my head on anything.

    I was this height in fourth grade, which made me the tallest girl. Then I had surgery for scoliosis and got my spine fused, so my growth stopped.

    Regardless – I find it disgusting as well that women’s bodies are up for public comments by strangers. I guess it’s a good thing I always have my iPod on when I’m outside, so I don’t hear what people say about me.

  35. It’s funny that the tall thing came up today. Yesterday I was noticing that the tall (6′ 4″) male president of our company hunches over when he’s standing to make himself seem smaller.

    He is a powerful (financially and physically) man who has no societal pressure to be demure and meek and yet his height is still uncomfortable for him, I can’t even imagine how I would feel being that tall and being female.

    I’m 5′ 7″ and have always wanted to be taller. My mom is 5′ 9″ and my 97 year old grandpa still stands over 6′, so for my family I’m on the smaller side, yet my boyfriend is just a hair taller than me and since I almost always wear heels I generally stand taller than him, and I’ve never even thought about except when we’re going somewhere and he scrunches up his face and says “you’re tall” in a “I feel short” tone, which is adorable.

    Anyways, that was a lot of words without really saying anything, but yeah… height… man.

  36. As a woman who’s six one herself I totally understand this post and the comments in it. However, I sometimes don’t even think about my size..I just..accept that I’m taller than everyone else.

    I do like the ability to be intimidating if I need it though, I’m a big Germanic woman as well, with big shoulders long arms and legs and a solid build. It takes a very aggressive person to go toe to toe with me when I’m in defense mode.

    The weirdest thing about this, though, is the whole fat thing. At my heaviest I was pushing above 400 pounds, and while I did look overweight I did not look as over weight as my 5’3 friend did when she was at the same time. Now I’m under 300 and I’m two or three sizes down than her and she’s at the same weight.

    Our height differences totally point out the flaws in the BMI chart.

  37. I am 5’1″ with an average-height torso. My legs are just stumpy. But then it became fashionable to tread your trews under your heels! Yay, fashion!

  38. I accidentally hit submit before I was finished, but it looks like that didn’t show up anyway, so let’s try again.

    I’m 5’1. My whole life I was always the shortest kid in the class, and hated it. When I realised I was finished growing and this was the tallest I was going to be, I was pretty upset. And when my baby brother’s friends started being taller than me (at the age of 12, when I was 18), I was annoyed. But when I got older, I kind of came to terms with my height. Now I have no problem with it, except when trying to reach things on high shelves (I’ve become quite adept at climbing on things over the years!) and trying to find clothes. As several other people have mentioned, trying to find larger sized clothes for my height and build is an absolute nightmare. Larger sized clothes are cut for larger women, and I am not a large woman. I am a very small woman who is also fat. That’s why Reitman’s is my new favourite store, they have a large proportion of both their regular and plus clothes available in petites (and talls!) (Unfortunately, their plus section is shit compared to their regular section, but that’s a seperate issue).

    I’ve never really been made fun of for my height, or had strangers comment on it. I get a lot of teasing, but it’s mostly good natured, so I don’t mind. I guess 5’1 is not that unusual of a height on a woman.

    Sweetmachine, I know how you feel about having to revise your sense of height. After years of being the shortest person everywhere I went, I went to University and became friends with two Asian girls who are 5’0 and 4’10, respectively. As I often wear heels and they often don’t, there are times when I find myself looking down at them. Which feels too weird for words, because I always look up at people. Being the one to look down feels all wrong.

  39. I was a really short (and young-looking) kid, to the point that when I started at a new school in grade 3, people thought I was in kindergarten, and when I started Junior High, there was apparently a debate among the grade 9′s as to whether I really went there or was one of the teachers’ kids.

    As a result, adults treated me as if I was precociously smart, which was kind of cool. Now I’m average height (5’5″) but I still *feel* like a short person, if that makes sense.

    Weirdly, people who have only seen me in pictures but not in real life always think I’m at least 5’11″. Somehow I photograph tall.

  40. at 5’2″ i consider myself on the shorter side, which only ever bothers me when i am trying to access the top shelf on the cupboard. i am not so short that people notice it first off, but i have to admit to playing it up a bit. as my best friend once said, the first sentence of my autobiography could read, “i may be small, but i’m feisty.”

    with regard to pants. i don’t think there are actual human women who don’t have trouble with pants sizing, regardless of body type. i am naturally small framed and thin, but apparently size two pants are only designed for waifs, because i can’t fit them over my thighs. size four– sure, they fit my thighs, but gap enormously at the waist. and even when i find pants that fit everywhere else, it is a given that every pair of pants i buy will have to be hemmed about six inches. that is why i love summer. all skirts, all the time.

    and about women as objects. when i was 24, i got two pretty sizeable tattoos, one on each shoulder. and i understand that this was a choice, and i don’t mind having the occasional conversation with a stranger about what they mean, and if i don’t feel like being stared at, i wear a shirt that covers them. however, there are actually people in the world who feel that it is okay to come up behind me and touch them. and they always seem surprised when i startle. yes, there is an actual human being under that ink. seriously, who reared you???

  41. “Also, being able to reach top shelves seems like a fucking superpower to me.”

    If I could only remember where I left my cape and tights :-) Really this is the biggest perk of tallness, and worth a whole heck of a lot of drawbacks. Especially for a single person who can’t stand the thought of depending on someone else to do little things like that for me.

    “dwarf (is that correct to say, if the person suffers from dwarfism?”

    The little people I know are pretty agreed in preferring the term “little people”. Dwarf is the equivalent of obese in that in implies a medical abnormality/sickness rather than a natural state of some bodies.

    Also, in reading down the comments on the original NYT article in this post, I see a lot of references to the Tall Clubs International, which seems like a sort of NAAFA for tall people. I sent an inquiry to the (sort of) local group, but does anyone have any first hand experiences with these groups (i.e. is it really just a thinly disguised meat market)?

  42. I’m 5’5″. I have been this height since 5th grade (age 10). I was the tallest kid in my class. My dad is 6’5″. Everyone assumed that I would be tall.

    I’m not.

    I’m bitter.

    I’m kidding. :-) I would like to be taller, however. Anyone have a stretching device? I don’t think about height very often. Maybe because I am average?

    I found it very helpful, SM, that you pointed out the language in the article. As you say, in light of recent conversations, I find it helpful to be reminded of instances of potentially exclusionary phrasing. Thank you for keeping this flame lit.

  43. I’m about 5′ 7″ , which has never made me particularly short or tall, but my sense of my own height did shift drastically once in my adult life: </i.

    The average woman is 5′ 4″. At three inches above average, you’re tall.

    I’m a shade over 5′ and have officially become too big for every line of petite clothes except Lands End (frumpy) and Talbot’s (too expensive). Sigh. If there’s a benefit to being short I have yet to experience it.

  44. ah, bikes!

    I’m 5’8″ with a long torso and short legs. Apparently this is the Upper Limit on how tall you’re allowed to be and still get a bike that fits your proportions.I had to special order the thing. I’m not that tall!

    I am also of a size such that tops that fit me in the shoulders inevitably leave me belly perilously near exposure. I am constantly tugging the suckers down.

  45. “I love and trust him more than anyone in the world, but he could completely control me physically if he wanted to–and I’m cognizant of that, even when we’re just playing.”

    I definitely feel you on that one. My boyfriend is damn sure a lot bigger/stronger than me, and we do a lot of physical play–wrestling and tickling and the like. Sometimes, at some point–and it could be something as simple as his hand tightening around my wrist too suddenly, or perhaps he puts just a little too much of his weight on me–suddenly I start *freaking out*.

    It’s like there really is a sudden *snap* where you can almost feel your primitive brain cry out: you go from “this is fun” to “OMG I can’t escape!!” in an instant. I will go from laughing and squealing to shouting and kicking. Then I’ll be mad at him because he didn’t stop IMMEDIATELY, even though, like you said, in his mind he *knows* he’s not going to hurt me, his mind isn’t even in that ballpark, so he doesn’t necessarily realize when things have suddenly become emphatically Not Fun for me.

  46. The average woman is 5′ 4″. At three inches above average, you’re tall.

    You know, I guess I know that, but because I have no sisters, tall brothers, and lots of tall friends (and a tall partner) I forget it all the time. Thanks for the reality check.

  47. “dwarf (is that correct to say, if the person suffers from dwarfism?”

    You’ve got your answer, but I also want to add that we should remember the wisdom of Pippi when it comes to the “suffers from” construction. :)

    (And because this is something we’ve been talking about lately, I just want to say that Skreee is awesome for asking, and this is exactly the kind of conversation we like to have about language–it’s always educational. I already used the term “little people,” but the “dwarf”/”obesity” parallel had never occurred to me. )

  48. I’m 5′ 4.5″, 5′ 5″ on a good day. That makes me pretty much average in height.

    However, I always see myself as short because starting with the last couple of years in high school, I’ve always been around a predominantly male group of colleagues in my classes and profession. Simply put, I am shorter than most men. But then I attended one meeting of women engineers and was stunned to find that I was among the taller women in the room! It felt very strange.

    one could just as easily write “I dress conservatively and don’t have an unusual hairstyle; if I were shorter, I would blend into a Midwestern crowd” (or something to that effect) to convey that idea

    I hope it’s ok to say this because it is somewhat off-topic, but one of my own personal hot topics is the use of “Midwestern” in this context. I admit it comes from my own personal experiences moving to the middle of the country after living on the east and west coasts for many years, and discovering how many assumptions are made about people simply because of their geographic location (most of which are dated at best and completely untrue at worst).

  49. I’m a shade over 5′ and have officially become too big for every line of petite clothes except Lands End (frumpy) and Talbot’s (too expensive).

    Two words, lady: EDDIE BAUER. Not as cheap as LE, but not as expensive as Talbot’s. They are the foundation of my wardrobe.

    It’s like there really is a sudden *snap* where you can almost feel your primitive brain cry out: you go from “this is fun” to “OMG I can’t escape!!” in an instant.

    Exactly, EntoAggie.

  50. My dad was recruited by the Packers when he was young (for real) and I am built just like him. I’m 5’10 and 350 lbs and have a bear-like frame. I wear size 12 shoes, 12.5 or 13 if it has a narrow toebox. I build muscle without trying, all I have to do is walk to the bus and eat protein, heh. More than once I’ve had a fatphobic doctor poke my thigh and exclaim “oh! It’s all muscle!” like they’d never seen anything like it.

    There are definitely positives to being built like this. I’m physically able to defend myself without training in some circumstances, for instance, just by basically showing my size and digging in my heels. On the other hand, I do get weary of some things about people’s attitudes. Like I hear from smaller friends all the time that if they were my size, they wouldn’t worry about rape, and that I can’t really compare my experience as a woman to theirs. Well, I don’t think that’s exactly fair or accurate. Rape is about power, and while size does lend some power, so does social privilege and so sure as hell does a gun or a knife, which criminals have been known to carry. I may be big, but I still get scared and I still have to deal with sexism and misogyny. Overall, I resent the implication that once again, my size somehow makes me “un-woman.”

    That’s the hardest part, IMHO. There’s just this attitude that I’m too big to be a woman. Not just too big to be feminine, but just womanly in general. My broad shoulders and big feet make most “femme” styles impossible for me, even if I was motivated to try them. My sturdy, muscular legs make my stance “masculine,” and make me look like at best a third rate drag queen if I try to wear a pencil skirt or shoes that make you mince. My square jaw means I have to find ace hair stylists.

    Everybody has problems fitting prefabbed clothes, no doubt, so that’s not my primary gripe. My gripe is with the attitude that woman=small, dainty, shorter than men, and that any woman who doesn’t fit that paradigm is a “she-bear” or an “amazon” or somehow freakish. I mean I get that “amazon” is supposed to sound like a compliment, but it doesn’t usually feel like one any more than a short person would feel flattered being called “elvin” or “hobbit-like.”

  51. Thanks for the link, fillyjonk! Goofy name, but a default 36″ inseam is pretty cool.

    Oh, and the bike thing? Oddly enough, I didn’t have too much of a problem. I got a Trek that fits my legs pretty well, and the bike shop I went to had it in stock, no special orders or anything. I do feel a bit hunched over up top, but at least I can straighten my legs when I pedal. Way better than the old bike I had.

  52. Try being 4’10″ tall. I am not a “little person”, nor do I have dwarfism. I’m just short. My paternal grandmother was also 4’10″, and I take after her.

    The biggest problem I’ve had with being this height is that people tend to treat you as if you don’t exist. Whether it’s being pushed around in crowded subway trains or other crowds, or people ordering over your head at delis and pizza counters when they can see perfectly well that you’re standing there, because you’re below their eye level, you might as well not even be there.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to yell at people “Am I fucking invisible here?” I feel like Dustin Hoffman in the “I’m walking heah!” scene from MIDNIGHT COWBOY.

    Sometimes I think I’m more comfortable heavier because it at least gives me some “heft.”

    And of course there’s the issue of clothes. When I was younger I didn’t mind doing hems and cutting 10″ off of everything, but now I just can’t be bothered. Fortunately, pants from Woman Within petite are just the right length.

    When I was younger I wore things like 4″ heels and platform shoes. And they did a job on my feet. So now I wear flats. If people don’t want to look at a short fat person, they can damn well look away.

    The other thing was when I was dating, I always gravitated toward tall guys. Height in a man was always important to me because I never wanted to be half of “Oh, look at the little toy couple, aren’t they cute?”

    Mr. Brilliant is 6′.

  53. I hope it’s ok to say this because it is somewhat off-topic, but one of my own personal hot topics is the use of “Midwestern” in this context.

    You know, TC, I have the same hot button and even had the same thought — though I decided SM’s use of it there didn’t really bother me. It definitely drives me nuts that “midwestern” is so often used to mean “plain/provincial/conservative/wev.” It especially drives me fucking nuts that people will come to Chicago from New York and be like, “OMG! It’s a real city!” GEE, YA THINK? But aside from that, I’m a huge fan of rural Wisconsin and lots of other, more traditionally “midwestern” locations, so I don’t like to see them getting shit, either. (Listening to people from, say, Vermont talk shit about the ruberrrific midwest is perhaps even more galling than listening to coastal types express their shock that Chicago has big buildings and world-class restaurants and a real theatre district. And I love Vermont.)

  54. It is more difficult being short and fat when it comes to buying clothes. Most designers think all fat women are Amazons, even though the average American woman is 5′4″.

    Unless it’s Woman Within catalog. I ordered sweatpants from them when they were still Lane Bryant Catalog, and their “petite” comes up to about 1/3 of the way up my leg, and I have SHORT legs at 5’3″. They go to the other extreme.

    I wouldn’t mind another inch or two, especially on my legs. Being able to see better at parades — and yeah, reach the top shelves — that would be a happy.

  55. Fortunately, pants from Woman Within petite are just the right length.

    I’ve also noticed that Silhouettes petites have a 26″ inseam, which is even a tad too short for me, so that might be worth checking out for the under 5′ crew. And Land’s End will hem a lot of their pants for free.

  56. I hope it’s ok to say this because it is somewhat off-topic, but one of my own personal hot topics is the use of “Midwestern” in this context.

    TropicalChrome, I wasn’t meaning “Midwestern” as shorthand there; I actually meant it literally! The author of the article is a student at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I’m sorry if it sounded like I was using “Midwestern” to mean “white” or “nondiverse.”

  57. Yeah I think the fans of Green Acres forget that Chicago and Detroit are both cozy little farm-n-garden “Midwestern” towns :-)

  58. This has been a big reality check for me also. I’m 5′ 8″ (was 5′ 9″ in high school) and always considered myself of average height (my mom and her sister are both 5′ 7″ and their mother was 5′ 6″, my dad’s mother was 5′ 8″). But all of the men, on both sides of the family, range in height from 5′ 10″ to 6′ 5″, so that could be why I thought I was average in height and not tall (I never really considered that men are usually expected to be taller than women since most of the men I knew outside our family were right around my height). So it seems that all the women in our family are actually taller than the average woman (and considering that my grandmothers were born around the turn of the century [1900's], they were actually tall for women of their generation). I guess all the men in the family were tall for their generations too (must be the German and Polish genes, or maybe the French, Dutch, or Irish?). It’s an interesting conversation, to be sure.

  59. “If I were a tall, fat woman with my personality, I’m sure a lot more people would work hard at putting me in my place.”

    The Story of my 5’11′ Life… Too bad their success rate close to zero. :^)

  60. Also, being able to reach top shelves seems like a fucking superpower to me.

    Yeah, it’s like my husband has go-go gadget arms that can reach anything effortlessly. He can also assemble furniture and generally do anything that involves reading directions. Boy, I lucked out.

  61. 5′ 9″, size 16. Hips Of The Gods.

    When I was accidentally starving myself as the result of some medical issues, and I had starved myself enough to shut down my menstruation for 4 months without even realizing it, I was a size 10. Bony, jagged hips. Size 10. MY HIPS ARE HUGE.

    So finding pants is a two-fold problem because

    1) Pants in my size are always a good three inches too short. Add shoes and then they just look silly.

    2) Womens pants tend to not give enough room for the hips, and mens pants don’t come in at the waist. Though, in general, I’ve found I can make mens pants fit easier than womens. Plus, mens pants have functional pockets. Which I need, because I would totally lose a purse.

    As for how my height was an issue growing up – I think it kind of balanced itself out. I’m on the taller side, and was definitely among the taller girls at school, but I have two tall parents and two older brothers. So at home I was always shorter than everybody. (I feel bad for my little sister, who just realised a week ago that despite her being 17, she is still about two inches shorter than I am – meaning that once my little brother starts sprouting up, she will probably be the shortest in the family. She threw a tiny amusing fit of “That’s just not fair!”). In the end, height was never much of a issue for me – aside from difficulty finding clothes.

  62. I’m 5’9″. Everyone I’ve dated has been just a tiny bit shorter than me, save for one person.

    I’ve always kind of reveled in my height. Sometimes I am surprised when I run into people who are bigger than me physically. Like I just expect to be the biggest person around, to be taking up the most space. When I wear platforms or wedges or heels, which is next to never, I feel like I could conquer the world, I am that tall. Get the fuck out of my way, people, I am fat and 6 feet tall. I am a force to be reckoned with.

  63. I’m six feet tall, and everything said in the article about being just more *noticeable* resonated with me. I’m fairly average in terms of clothing size, and I look completely average in my hometown (Germanic midwestern enclave– my grandma’s the shortest member of the family at 5’6″), but in other places people notice me and feel free to comment. And they always seem a little surprised when I tell them it’s none of their business how tall I am– not that I’m insecure about it (I love being tall)– more just that it ISN’T any of their damn business.

    Clothes are impossible, though– if 3/4 sleeves and capri pants ever go out of style again, I’m quitting. There is exactly one brand of jeans that fits me, and dress pants above a 34 inch inseam evidently don’t exist outside the really expensive “tall girl” shops.

    I’ve never felt really that defined by my height– I was never unusually tall as a kid, since I just kept on growing until I was 19, and fortunately for me, people don’t view taking up vertical space as a moral failing, the way they do taking up horizontal space. I love being able to reach high things, I love being able to intimidate harassers, I love being able to kiss my boyfriend without getting kinks in my neck. There are times when I wish I wasn’t so *obvious* (I attract a lot of harassment) but mostly I don’t find height to be a problem. I do have a cousin who’s 6’3″, and she might have a different opinion.

  64. I’m also 5’9. My mom is 5’11. Since I have really no memory of my bio dad, I have no idea how tall he was, but he must have been tall since my mom has only been with tall men. My stepdad is 6’2, and my brother is the same height as well. My grandfather is 6’3 and so is my uncle. So, the tall gene runs in the family.

    Add my fatness to it, and it’s like Godzilla attacking Tokyo. That’s probably why a lot of people don’t mess with me. Being big vertically and horizontally does have its advantages.

  65. man, this brings back memories…

    i’m 5’2″ but to my amuse/amazement i’m often read as taller – my guess is 15 years of horseback riding gave me killer posture.
    I was, of course, always the shortest one in class every year until sometime in high school; in first grade my two best friends put me on the monkey bars and dangled from my legs trying to stretch me… I fell on them
    Being short wasn’t really that big of a deal to me until I gained weight in 4th grade. Once I was on the fat side I didn’t really know it until I realized that all the pants that fit me were super long… and what that really meant was that I wasn’t too short (as I had always thought) but rather too fat for my height. I used to flip my pants under to avoid having obviously rolled up jeans – if people could see that I had to roll my jeans up then they would know! that I was fat!
    man… who’d’ve thought that off the rack clothing could provoke such stress in women over not having the “right” proportions…

  66. I was always the tallest girl in my class growing up; in elementary school, I was much bigger than many of the girls and boys in my class. I had learned from our culture that it is unacceptable for girls to be bigger than boys, and so I felt masculine. I was not fat then, but I perceived myself so, and I knew that was the worst thing I could be. Now I know that it is completely natural for some women’s bodies to be larger than men’s. Women come in a range of sizes, and it is a horrible thing that they are treated as if only one size is acceptable.

  67. Rachel, way upthread: He hates shopping, I love shopping, we make a great combo.

    Same here. :D And while men’s stores have fewer euphemisms (big & tall vs. “plus size”), they do still have euphemisms. I am entirely in favor of selling all clothing by listed measurements rather than an arbitrary size number or letter. My husband was helping me shop for underwear the other day and he knows my jeans size, but I had to tell him my underwear size. He shared my frustration at having to memorize a different size for every piece of clothing and store. Who does that bullshit serve? Ain’t me.

    Kate, also a ways upthread: he’ll be tickling me or something, and I’ll start to feel completely overpowered–if he won’t stop at the exact second I tell him too, I feel helpless, because there’s no other way for me to make him stop. I love and trust him more than anyone in the world, but he could completely control me physically if he wanted to–and I’m cognizant of that, even when we’re just playing.

    We’re the same way. My husband is also broad and strong, and he he has a side job as a bouncer because he knows how to work “intimidating”. Dude is HUGE. He also goes very mushy over his (very tiny) cat and I’ve seen the giggling boy in him, so I’m not intimidated by him all the time, but he could definitely hold me down and keep me there if he wanted to. I have SO been overwhelmed in the tickle-games. When we fight it’s usually in the kitchen, which has only one exit, and I had to ask him to stop standing in the doorway because I felt trapped and it was activating some serious lizard-brain defense mechanisms.

  68. I’m 5’5″. I”ve always been shorter than almost everyone I know. I also have size 11 feet. Add being fat on top of that, and it’s no wonder the boys called me “Waddler” in middle school. :(

  69. My husband is also broad and strong, and he he has a side job as a bouncer because he knows how to work “intimidating”.

    Al’s done that, too, though informally. And I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has that reaction sometimes.

  70. psipsina: “To EntoAggie: I know it must be hurtful and difficult when people act as though they can’t see you, but please try to see the opposite perspective – maybe sometimes they actually don’t see you. If everyone is standing, and it’s a crowded place, you may actually be out of their range of vision. I know that doesn’t explain the comments you get in restaurants and bars, but it may explain some of the strange behavior you observe.”

    As a 5-foot tall woman, I literally have people walk straight into me, then push past me without so much as an “excuse me”. I understand that I am out of their field of vision, as apparently some people can’t comprehend that short people exist. That still doesn’t excuse the behavior. It’s really not difficult when in a crowd to cast your eyes down a bit for a second, thus avoiding a collision with another human being who has just as much right to be there.

    Generally I don’t have too many problems due to my height (other than the obvious one of needing a step stool quite often). Of course I’m doomed to be “cute” rather than “elegant” and “beautiful”, but I’m a scientist and PhD candidate. I’d rather be considered “intelligent” and “talented”. So far I haven’t noticed that my lack of height has hindered my professional development.

  71. no wonder the boys called me “Waddler” in middle school.

    Actually, it’s because they were assholes.

  72. I’m 6 foot and half an inch. Aside from the ability to reach the top of tall shelves and spot people in crowded stores, it’s a pain in the ass (for the aforementioned fashion reasons).

    While the clothing companies are now deigning to make clothing for women of various widths, (as discussed above) once you’re in the plus-sized zone they’re all cut for someone who’s 5’5″. I’m not as mad about the pants – there are quite a few companies out there now who make tall sizes for those of us up through size 26 or 28 and an inseam of 33″ or 34″. (Though of course there are plenty of women outside of that range – I just barely fit in it.) But finding shirts is a special kind of hell. Most stores that carry Tall Plus sizes only do so in pants. I dream of the day when I can freely buy shirts that don’t ride up to midriff length, or a long sleeved tee that doesn’t become a 3/4 length tee, or a button down shirt where I don’t have to roll up the sleeves.

    Men have big and tall sized stores, why not one for women?

  73. I’ve been reading this site for a while, but it took a discussion about height to draw me out of the woodwork. At 6’1″, I can relate to nearly everything in that article, right down to being called Jolly Green Giant in grade school and overhearing the completely non-veiled comments of others as I pass them in public. I especially love feigning shock and amazement when informed of my tallness by a stranger.

    When I was a gangly, awkward youth who was being picked on for daring to tower over everyone else, I hated being tall, but by the time I was maybe 14 or 15, I really loved it. It became a thing that defined me and that I was proud of (although, I do realize how strange it is to be proud of something over which you have no control). My mom and my maternal aunts are all at least 5’10″, so I suppose I have always just been used to the idea of extreme height. Like others have mentioned, I think my height really enhances my don’t-fuck-with-me-vibe, which I kind of enjoy.

    Despite experiencing outloud-reactions throughout my life, it’s never really bothered me to be an object of public commentary except in one regard–I find that some men tend to fetishize my height. In college, especially, I got a lot of blatant admiration (though no serious suitors except my eventual husband) because guys seemed to equate my height with this idea of supermodel unattainability, or with dominatrix fantasies, and the like (probably exacerbated by my very curvy figure). That kind of shit usually made me feel like a giant blow-up doll.

  74. I have wondered what you do if you are tall and fat. For most of my adult life I was short and fat, and I sometimes could find “women’s petites,” 14P through 24P or 26P. Which doesn’t help if you’re above their largest size, but always worked for me as I was a 20-22 at my largest. Liz Claiborne made a decent selection of women’s petites but I found the brand to be very hit-or-miss. Sometimes I could find lots of stuff that worked for me, other times it would all be too matronly. The brand’s fancier label, Elisabeth, was perfect for a dress for a formal event.

    I am not quite five feet tall, and petite sizes are supposedly for women 5’4″ and under. I’ve often thought someone could make a lot of money designing clothes for those of us who think 5’4″ is tall. All of us who are 4’10″-5’2″ or thereabouts. I’ve met plenty of us.

    If you can wear the higher end of regular sizes, I recommend Gap curvy jeans. They are the first jeans I’ve ever had that actually fit my hips right. It probably helps that they are sufficiently below the waist that they only have to fit my hips and not my waist too. I believe Gap jeans go up to size 20 in regular and tall length and 16 in petite or short or ankle or whatever the particular line is called. The ones I have are called ankle length. Ankle, my ass. I have to wear boots with them to wear them at all. I don’t know anyone who wears their jeans at their ankles.

  75. My husband, bless his cotton socks, is 6’10″ tall.

    He regularly gets stared at, and asked how tall he is, and people making comments about how he must have been on the basketball team, and things of a similar nature. He’s incredibly easy to pick out of a crowd, when he’s standing up. He’s been taller than his sister, who is five years older than him, since he was 7 years old.

    He is also disabled, in that he must walk with a cane and takes large doses of narcotic pain killers just to do what he’s doing right now – lying in bed reading a book. (His illness is the same reason he is tall.)

    He told me once that if he was going to get stared at anyway, he would get stared at because of what he chose, not because of what he is, and thus wears bright and flowing clothing, whimsical hats, and dyes his long hair whenever the whim takes him. (Sadly, the whim has not taken him lately, woe!)

    I’m, of course, much shorter than he is (about a foot, I think), but my own sense of my height is completely wonky at this point. People will say “Mine, you’re very tall” to me when I start a new job or something similar, and I’m usually pretty confused because, in the rest of my life, I’m really really not.

  76. I love that…especially the last paragraph. Because it’s true…that I don’t think she meant to allow hurt to anyone, but it sounds that way from the language she uses. And I have done this at times myself. Awareness to the words one uses is key. I commit to it as much as I am able, and still sometimes I fail. Thanks for the reminder.

  77. I’m 5’10″, but instead of being from a family of tall people, I was born with Trisomy X, which tends to lead to extra height (anyone else?). I’m the only tall woman in either side of my family, by at least five inches. I always felt like I stuck out oddly with my extended family, especially while growing up – never mind being taller than most of my classmates! Everyone was so “normal” and petite, I thought, except me – the oaf.

    I’ve learned to accept my height to the point where I actually rather enjoy it and have no trouble carrying myself confidently, but it took quite awhile to get here.

  78. My late friend’s second husband was 6’10″ and large boned.
    At one point he was arrested for being drunk in public and the handcuffs would not fit around his wrists. I’m pretty sure he
    had to have his military uniforms custom made.

  79. My mom was 6′ 2.5″ in high school, (in the forties!), and she was subjected to horrendous name-calling. Her parents didn’t help any. She has felt like a freak all of her life.

    I’m 6′ tall, and reached that height sometime around age 15 or 16. I got fatter as I got older, so that I have reached truly Amazonian proportions now in my 50s. The worst comment I remember, though, was when I was barely 20 (and maybe about 210 pounds?). One of the security guards where I worked came face to face with me in a corridor and stopped dead in his tracks. He eyed me slowly up and down, then said, “I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley!” Ugh.

    As far as clothes go, well, I agree with the comment that mass-produced clothing is just never going to work for very many people. Everyone will have some problem or other. For me, it seems like those catalogs that have clothes large enough for my width (I currently weigh about 360 and usually wear around size 28) don’t believe that anyone that heavy can be TALL, too.

    All too often I see catalogs crowing about having tall sizes, but when you check the charts, you see they only go up to about size 20 or so, and any “plus” sizes they offer are just “regular” length.

    And clothing manufacturers never seem to realize that those of us with long legs tend to have long ARMS as well! A few tall/big long-sleeved shirts would be SO welcome! Once I ran across a jersey that was listed as “tall,” and bought it just because I could! (Didn’t even like the thing, really, but hey! long sleeves that cover my wrists!)

    Thanks for opening up this discussion.

  80. On walking or being walked into because of height differences:

    It’s rude to walk into people and not apologise, no matter how tall you are. It’s rude when a 5′ tall person walks into a 3′ tall person and when a 7′ tall person walks into a 5′ tall person. Also, if you don’t look down when you’re walking in crowded places, you might walk into chewing gum and dogshit.

    (Though perhaps my children shouldn’t be allowed to walk in public spaces, getting all their exercise at the baby gym?)

  81. I’m 5′ 9″. I’m Godzilla. I tower over all the women I know, and most of the men. I’m told that 5′ 9″ is average height for a man, so I can use myself as a yardstick — a man who is shorter than me is short, no matter what he says. They get really offended when I point that out, which amuses me.

    I wish I were smaller. Hanging out with friends the other day, one of them yelled “Muppet hands!” and waved her hands around over her head. “I can’t do that,” I said. “I’ll break something.” She comes up to my collarbone; she has no idea how hard it is to be quiet and small when you’re as big as I am. I take up more space than I should. It’s embarrassing. I hate it. There’s nothing good about being tall.

  82. I’m 5′ 6″, so I’m not short, but, I’m small and thin, and young looking, so I seem to read as MUCH smaller, and all of my adult life, I’ve wanted to be more, well, intimidating.
    Believe me, I think I am a lovely person, but my nature is by no means one that could be characterized as ‘friendly and open’, and my apparent young smallness has made even total strangers freakishly line-crossing with me. I get patted on the head and petted on the arms and shoulders, hugged randomly, my hair is brushed out of my eyes and my glasses pushed up my nose, and have even been lifted up by acquaintances and strangers so constantly, that friends have pulled me aside in horror to comment on the sheer lunacy of it all.

    When I was about thirty, professional situations with new people were routinely awful; I was humored, ignored, and received dismissive ‘aren’t-you-cute’ responses even when I was the senior in the room.

    The solution that finally worked was to wear very high heels whenever I had to tell people what to do. At 5′ 6″, five inch heels can make a huge perception difference, and ramped up my physical presence enough to at least keep people from touching me, and put them off a little bit.
    I still get carded, but all the grey in my hair (I get asked if ‘it’s real’), that I refuse to color, has made this less pronounced over time, and maybe now the end is in sight, but even though I’ve been lucky enough to avoid truly BAD experiences, it has been a very long lesson in the greater culture (men and women) viewing a women’s physicality as public property.
    I’m sorry to rant this much, but this really strikes a nerve. I always wanted the kind of build that would make people think twice just by its inherent power…

  83. Lily, you pretty much wrote my comment for me. I was a serious weightlifter for seven years, which added a whole lot of bulk to my previously-skinny frame. I’m 5’8″ and 180 lbs, with broad shoulders, beefy arms and thick thighs. And I love a lot of the femmey styles that are popular now, but the pencil skirts and baby-doll dresses don’t really work with my body. Luckily, the flowy, long-skirted bohemian look is one that I can rock. (I make my own jewelry and have two-and-a-half-foot-long hair).

    Also, word to this:

    “Like I hear from smaller friends all the time that if they were my size, they wouldn’t worry about rape, and that I can’t really compare my experience as a woman to theirs. Well, I don’t think that’s exactly fair or accurate. Rape is about power, and while size does lend some power, so does social privilege and so sure as hell does a gun or a knife, which criminals have been known to carry. I may be big, but I still get scared and I still have to deal with sexism and misogyny.”

    I do love that I can walk around somewhat more freely than most women, but my physical size and strength do not make me Wonder Woman. Bullets or knives will kill me just as they will kill anybody, and as I am completely untrained in any martial art, I would probably not be all that formidable in a fight.

  84. Ok, I’m really late to this thread (yay vacations to mendocino!) but had to comment because at 5’11″ (been there since 8th grade) I definitely experience cognizance of my size on a regular basis. Following is a bunch of random observations on height:

    I find that I group people into a “my height” category that stretches for three inches on either side of me, so my friends at 5’7″ are “short,” and my brother at 6’2″ is my height, but my boyfriend of 6’6″ is “tall”. I really do not differentiate at all between 5’8″ and 6’2″–it all gets lumped in at “around my size”.

    I play water polo, therefore have really big shoulders, and often roam around with a LOUD tall posse of women. My two best friends are my height, and totally take no prisoners. It’s really fun to be tall with people rather than at people. We regularly get the “what sport do YOU play?” comment, and some of the guesses (Pro football! “Sacramento Kings Girls (Monarchs???)”) have been pretty funny.

    When a woman on the street hits my radar as “tall,” I always want to talk to her–just the shared consciousness of having the same out-of-the-ordinary thing. But then I worry that I’m being one of the irritating “Gee, you’re tall” folks.

    I have also felt size advantage in terms of street situations. The hypothetical sexual predator is probably not going to pick me over a shorter or less athletic woman to attack, and I appreciate that I can pass as male with an oversized coat on a dark night, but the reality is (as has been said before) that the presence of a rapist is what makes a situation dangerous, and most of the scary situations I’ve been in have been times on unsafe streets alone, where there’s no shorter women to choose from. So I try not to count on the height as a get out of jail free card for assault.

    I also think that I feel less threatened (though no less offended) by catcalls on the street due to my height. Often the catcalls address the height, rather than the boobs, which is refreshing. Often people (ok, usually street people) mutter out loud to themselves as though I can’t hear them about my height.

    I used to hate sticking out because of my height, but now I love it and wouldn’t trade it, except maybe for a day or two to see how the other half lives.

  85. “Where the heck do you live that you tower over everybody at 5′9″!?”

    Heh, probably one planet over from the place where 5’7″ women are “tiny.” Yes, I’ve seen women say that!

    (I’ve noticed that a lot of very tall people think they’re average–and that everyone else is a midget. It’s weird.)

Comments are closed.