My Tall Story
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 probably won’t really affect them though. When you’re very tall, 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 haven’t always loved it. From the second I arrived into the world, I was on a non-stop growth spurt to 6ft1. I was always the tallest person in class or Brownies; the only one who didn’t have to ponder over where I should put myself in a height-order line-up.
As an 8-year-old, I was left particularly heartbroken 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 -- cheeks reddening and just about suppressing tears as my friends tore around the rope bridges -- were the longest 2 hours of my life.
When puberty hit and growth-spurts collided with an interest in boys, the imagined space between my friends and I seemed to widen. I was very much of the mindset that my prospective boyfriend should be taller than me, and as such, 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?!) 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 unsettling 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 13, right, and that you are indeed, teetering on sex offender status?”, but instead I just ignored it and felt horribly embarrassed whenever a man would wolf-whistle at me or leer as he walked past. (Thankfully this happens a lot less now, though I fear that’s more to do with me being well past it than such men acquiring a sense of decency).
As a young teenager, comments from other people felt relentless. I’ve been called every nickname going, and answered even more questions about the weather than the average British citizen. So much so that I nearly cry at that episode of The Inbetweeners when everyone calls Will’s new tall girlfriend “Empire State Building”. (I know, I’m a tad melodramatic, but… been there). 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.
But slowly — very very slowly — my mindset started to shift. There were things that I had to admit were quite good about being tall; the look on Goal Attack’s face as I stepped off the netball coach at away games. The ability to see Westlife (Bryan is 6’2 yknow) at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party from 50 rows back. Sauntering past bouncers into nightclubs when I was 16 (with or without fake ID).
It was a gradual dawning rather than a sudden awakening, but the realisation was this; I will NEVER stop being tall. I had allowed this idea — that I was different, unsexy and awkward -- to take up space in my head for so long, and it had all been a big old waste of time and energy. I’d ended up restricting myself in so many ways; not dating shorter boys and having a depressingly tiny list of potential suitors. Not wearing heels, and in the meantime still looking tall and probably ruining my outfit. Ducking down in photos and looking like the very tall friend with a serious hunchback.
I soon fell madly in love with a boy who was shorter than me (not just an inch, but considerably so), and it was the first time I’d felt something beyond delight at a person’s ability to make me feel little. We dated on and off through sixthform and uni, until he broke my heart for the fourth or fifth time (as boys of any height will do).
As a 6ft1 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. I like that people usually remember me at work or in a social setting. It’s useful that my friends never lose me on a night out. And now, when people tell me they’d love to be my height, I BELIEVE THEM. Because why hang on to the alternative?
And we now live in very different times. While 13-year-old me felt like the only tall girl in the village, now there is a whole community of tall women to connect with on social media; arms outstretched and ready to talk you down from a changing-room induced panic attack or a sh**ty day of comments from strangers. They're excited to share their long-length clothing and shoe finds, or divulge which hotel has a bathtub that covers both your knees and your nipples. And being part of that is pretty bloody great right?
Where are you on the spectrum of acceptance? Have you realised that nothing is changing and you'd better just embrace it like the goddamn goddess that you are...? ;)
Laura xxInstagram @ottoandivyshoes