I’m a beast. I’m a circus freak. I’m an Amazon.
And these are some of the nicer things that have been said about me, just in reference to being a 6’2” woman.
And of course, on a good day there’s still the lead of my big-ass body: I’m striking. I’m statuesque. I must play basketball or volleyball or row.
One commonality is for sure, though: Every damned thing about me is seen through the lens of the unusual length of my legs and torso. Until everyone is comfortable with that fact — feels OK with it — about 60 percent of what I say won't even be heard at all.
I obviously know why this is — hell, I’m the same as you — because I notice being above 5’10" on a woman is for sure “bigger.” Big gets noticed. And big is against type for a woman when we look at classically female-male dynamics.
Off the top of my head here are some of the rejections I’ve received from men over the years because of my height:
- “If only I was taller.”
- “I don’t date girls that tall.”
- “I think I’m too short for you.”
- “I like a more petite girl.”
- “It wouldn’t look right.”
- “Maybe...but you could never wear heels LOL.”
So, it was second nature to me for a long time that my height was an undeniable complicating factor in any new relationship. How would that first kiss go down? Would all the non-weirdness be suddenly gone in that one moment where I had to lean down? Because, oddly enough, I hardly ever dated men taller than me because I didn’t want to restrict myself or be superficial in that way. And so with, say, the 5’6” man whom I dated once, it felt like I was taking a parachute jump off a plane and spiraling through a wormhole of societal conventions as I leaned down to say goodbye, all the while, a litany of internal reminders swimming through my head.
Don’t emasculate him. Don’t call out that you are bending down. Don’t let him know you are thinking about this. Don’t act self-conscious. Let him take the lead even though you are eight inches higher off the ground.
Well, things didn’t work out with that guy, obviously, but it wasn’t because of the height differential.
Over the past few years, I’ve gained perspective. The scariest prospects in life stopped being so scary. Rejection. I could handle it. Failure. Not the end of the world. More rejection. OK, keep going.
So when I found myself dating very occasionally, there was no longer that thrilling swoop of pure nervous energy that occurred when it came to how my body was viewed.
A kiss was a kiss was a kiss. And they were given a lot more sparingly.
Honestly, I just didn’t think about “am I too tall?” anymore. Too much shit had gone down. Hell, I had seen too much, and someone feeling threatened by my height just didn’t even register on the interesting radar anymore.
In the last year I participated in a social experiment to find a Valentine’s Day date, which in the process led me to go on more dates in one month than I had in the prior three years combined. One of those dates led to meeting my now husband. In fact, I chronicled that first date here on xoJane.
He is the first man I’ve ever dated who has been on neither end of the spectrum in regards to my body — because, yes, there actually are creepy tall fetishists out there where the attention is almost TOO positive — but he also doesn’t just tolerate it or accept it grudgingly that I’m two inches taller.
He loves it.
He’s also the first guy who has never once encouraged me to “work out more” or “think about getting in shape” or any of the other little subtle “keep that shit tight for me” messages I’ve received endlessly since moving to New York in 2005.
His mom very recently passed away, and she was not a necessarily tall woman, but she was a strong woman, and I’ve always had a theory about men and their mothers. (Hint: If you want to know the guys to stay away from, it’s the ones who treat their moms terribly — and for no reason.) I think the fact that he respected her so much helped shape his viewpoint on women in general.
He’s a comic, so his persona and humor can be very dark and brutal at times, but interestingly, he’s been more supportive and loving about every single one of my insecurities than some of the men I’ve been with who would not shut the fuck up about feminism and fighting the establishment and meanwhile told me I was a pathetic human being with not an ounce of talent or worth or beauty.
Action is where it’s at when it comes to men. Do they actually treat you well — instead of telling you how well they treat you?
An example: When we went down to Atlanta to meet his mother right before she passed, I had kicked my bare feet up on the car’s dashboard that we had rented. One of my health issues has always been sluggish circulation (a common issue for tall people) and so my feet sometimes have embarrassing and visible purply veins on them which I’m super insecure about.
“Wow, I’ve never really noticed your feet before,” he said as we drove and traced the veins absentmindedly.
My whole body braced and tensed for what I assumed was about to be an inquisition on whether I was made of bad genetic stock and this cosmetic issue might accelerate and whether he would be stuck with a lemon should we keep dating.
He smiled appreciatively.
“It looks so cool,” he said, touching me with tenderness. “It’s like a treasure map.”
I laughed one of the biggest laughs of the trip. It was a life-affirming, letting-out-the-fear-of-years-of-insecurities kind of laugh.
A lifetime of having the world feel free to comment on my body had led me to accept any and all criticisms that came my way from men, and I thought I simply shouldn’t take offense.
In truth, I don’t think it was the men’s fault all these years.
It was mine.
Because I didn’t think I was worthy of a man who loved me for exactly who and how I am, and it wasn’t until I was able to really accept myself that I would find someone who would feel the same way.
After so many Manhattan-born guys who thought anything less than a supermodel was barely worthy of their time, my now-husband’s entire attitude toward every inch of my body was like a healing experience.
One night I caught him looking at me as I put on a floor-length gown and high heels for a black-tie night out, and he said, just totally unprovoked, “I love your height so much.”
Finally, it was a sentiment that matched what I felt inside.