I see us everywhere. Restaurants. The grocery store. The mall. I hear our sighs in the dressing room as we try on skirts that, mid-thigh on others, graze dangerous territory on us. I see our longing gazes as we pick up and then put back those high, high stiletto heels at Nine West or Nordstrom's or Last Call.
Yes, I see you, my tall sisters.
We slouch our shoulders, curve our upper backs in order to make others feel more comfortable around us. We choose flatter shoes for our first, and second, and third date, because he's cute and we're interested and he's only about an inch taller than we are and we don't want to rock the boat. Would it really rock the boat? We don't know, so we play it on the safe side. We know that men love women in heels, but do men still love women in heels when that woman in heels is three inches taller than he is in his best cowboy boots?
Can we even ask these questions? How much of it is unspoken? If my date hops up onto the curb beside my 5'9" self as we're walking down the street (making him an inch or so taller) there's a part of my brain that wonders if it's boyish caprice or insecurity. I notice that I quickly shut this question down because I sense it's a place not to go to so soon. It's okay with me if he wants to stand on the uphill side to kiss me when we're in the park. At least, I think it is. Part of me wants so badly to ask how he feels about the upward trajectory of his loving gaze when I'm decked out to the nines the way I like to be. I struggle between my love of him and my love of those Gwen Stefani L.A.M.B. peeptoes.
I know I'm not alone in this dilemma, even if none of us are talking about it.
In our culture, tallness equates in the eyes of many with social dominance. Tall men are the guys that seemingly everyone wants to either be or be with in both gay and straight world. Whether we consciously do so or not, we turn to tall men as some kind of symbol of competence, masculinity, protectiveness and confidence.
But tall women? Where do we fit into that? Are we less feminine because we tower, less approachable because our natural sight line is over the heads of many? Can I get away with the same assertive behavior a shorter woman would display without being regarded as bitchy, overly aggressive, demanding? I've noticed that my shorter female friends often get complimented by being called "cute" or "adorable." As I can best recall, the only men who ever described me this way were all 6'4 or taller. Leaving aside the question of whether "cute" is even a desirable way to be described, I wonder if my cuteness occurs in a pretty predictable ratio to the height differential between myself and a man. I've also noticed that men 6'4 and over tend to make a beeline for me in social situations where we could meet one another. Maybe they're tired of displacing discs in their necks to kiss a woman.
I'd like to ask these questions and I wonder at that lack of confidence in myself. Being tall doesn't necessarily make me more confident, though I've learned that others perceive me that way regardless of how I'm feeling on the inside. Let's face it, the discussion about tallness is often not the easiest one for women to have - especially with men.
Tall women are seen whether we want to be or not, and we know it. We catch each others' eyes over the racks in the Juniors department of Macy's, smile wryly, and turn back toward the motley selection of dresses that we already know are all too short. And maybe, just maybe, one of us whispers to the other in the dressing room, "There's some stuff in our size on the sale rack. In the back."
Elaine Dove is an artist and healer living in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit her blog.
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