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"You're so tall, you should write about that!"
Someone has said that to me. Someone has said something about my height almost every day of my life. I am 6-feet-2-inches tall. Maybe a half. Maybe I'm 6-feet-2-inches and a half.
Anyway, I'm really fucking tall.
"I'd have to see it to believe it, LOL," one poetic man once wrote me on MySpace back in the day. And when I told a friend I was writing an article about why men were afraid to date me, she interrupted.
"Because you're so tall," she completed. "No, that's not what it's about," I said, feeling tears well. "It's because I write about my life. But thanks. Yes. There's that, too. Let's count all the strikes against me. Plus, I'm divorced. Let's see, what else."
God, I am such a fucking C about my height. And by extension, every stranger's desire to bring it up to me nervously -- or way too intimately. I mean, where do I shop for pants?
I'm not quite sure why every random in the world feels like they have the right to come up to me and ask me about being a tall woman. Why they feel like they have the right to comment on my body, ponder what it must be like, tell me how I play basketball, ask me questions, tell me who I can and can't date, lament about clothes I can and can't wear or conclude, patting me on the head metaphorically, "But you wear it well. You don't look weird at all."
I went into the Yankees store once to buy a Yankees baseball cap because I liked a guy who was a big Yankees fan. Because I am a woman of science, I deduced that if I bought a Yankees baseball cap, he would probably become my husband.
"Can I ask you something? How tall are you?" the guy behind the register asked, a little grin on his face, with the two other male clerks grinning beside him.
"Can I ask you something?" I responded. "How big is your dick?" The three men doubled over. "DAMN!!!!"
Other times I just stop people mid-question. "Can I ask you something--"
"Six-feet-two," I reply, and then continue on with whatever we had been talking about.
I am such a fucking bitch about my height. And this is now at a point where I would say I am at an almost 87 percent comfort level with it. If I were a gauging woman. This is a far improvement from where it once was. At nothing percent.
I mean, even when I went to a Tony Robbins seminar a few months back, a dude behind me buying some boiled eggs in the food line said, "Can I ask you something? How tall are you?" "Six-feet-two," I said, super curt.
"I just had to ask," he said apologetically.
"Great, do you feel better about yourself now?" I said, shooting him a look of steel.
"Sorry," he stammered. "I mean it as -- it's a compliment."
"Thanks," I snapped.
Here's why it doesn't feel like a compliment. To have people constantly commenting on your body and pointing out that you can't wear heels or telling you that you can't date guys shorter than you or reminding you -- above anything else -- that you are so fucking tall, it feels like it obliterates everything else about you. It makes you feel incredibly weird and odd and lame and different and "other." It makes you feel very other.
Short guys and tall chicks. These are two of the archetypes of people attracted to comedy. If people are laughing, well then, you want to control why.
"I know a woman who's as tall as you, and she wears all sorts of different socks, some with kittens and hearts on them, and she met a great man, and he's shorter than her, and everyone loves her," my very sweet therapist once said to me. She is an amazing therapist for the 12-step personality, but she's also kind of like my mom's age-ish, and so sometimes she says things that aren't very hip. But the nice thing is that she can take my complete eviscerating bitchiness.
"Yeah," I said, ice cold. "Well, that doesn't make me feel better to be compared to some neutered woman who wears cats on her socks or some shit. That sounds like a fucking nightmare."
My therapist smiled and said, "I understand." She likes my feistiness. I like that she lets me express my anger. It feels good. It feels healthy. It feels really good, actually.
One of the most life-changing interviews I've ever done was with Brad Blanton, who is a Gestaltian psychologist who practices "radical honesty." I gave him my little speech about how I didn't like people to gawk and point out my height as the only fucking thing they want to talk about when they meet me, and Dr. Blanton said essentially that I probably had some unresolved anger about this.
In the theory of radical honesty, he told me I should express this each and every time to the person, to be "radically honest." He told me the next time someone asked me how tall I was that I should tell them, "Fuck you, eat shit and die." Which made me laugh very hard.
And then I told him, "But then people would think I'm this easily hurt oversensitive person." Dr. Blanton made me see that this was a concern with a perception. I was concerned what people would think of me.
He explained, there is:
- The thing that actually happened
- The story that we attach to what actually happened
- The meaning we attach to the story that we tell about what actually happened
Which can make Point One as far away from Point Three as an eternity.
Fact: I am an exceptionally tall woman. The meaning I attach to the story I tell myself about this is: I am very different, and I am very ashamed.
I know where some of this shame comes from.
When I was younger, and I shot up very quickly, I was very skinny for a time. I would have people tell me -- just straight up -- that I was anorexic. I wasn't. The taller I grew, the more people felt comfortable constantly commenting on my body. I was just growing very quickly. Then when I reached six feet in high school, and it seemed that I might be getting taller, my mom told me that she hoped I didn't get any taller because "if I was over six feet it would be weird." That's what my mom told me.
I was crushed and ashamed and couldn't stop my body. I wished I could, but I couldn't. I didn't want to disappoint her. I didn't want to be weird for her. I had someone else close in my family call me the Jolly Green Giant. I can barely even remember that memory because it is so humiliating and painful, but I know that it happened because I have it in my writing.
When friends would ask about my height growing up, my father would get angry and defensive, and say, "Why don't you say how beautiful she is?" and I knew that my height was a thing we were embarrassed about. I shouldn't be so tall. It was weird. I was weird.
Waiting for the elevator at News Corp. one day when I worked at The New York Post, I had two men approach me and start a conversation.
"Can I ask you something? How tall are you?"
"Six feet two," I said, no emotion.
"So it must be hard to date because you can only date men taller than you," the short muscle-bound one said. "Otherwise, it wouldn't look right."
"No," I said. "I can date whoever the fuck I want. But it does require the man to have confidence, and you're right, a lot of men don't have that."
I got on the elevator. They didn't. So angry.
When I did the Caron Institute's Breakthrough Program where I did an intensive five-day therapy retreat culminating in a psychodrama about various traumas in my life, one of the exercises we did was to draw the words that we associated with our body. I wrote "shame" and I circled the whole body. I was crying as I did it.
I had never thought before about how exhausting it was to have strangers constantly come up to me and tell me about my height and what they thought about it and poking and prodding me like a zoo animal.
I had a roommate once who was a classic Tri-Delt mindfuck ninja warrior -- in some ways, I almost had to stand back and appreciate her skill the way one might a great artist, the subtle strokes and mastery of her cruelty craft.
I always say about this type of asshole dynamic: I get it. I know how to play it. But it is -- so boring and obvious. It's so much more interesting and daring to be supportive, loving, kind and earnest. I adore dark and wicked humor, but true cruelty in the form of passive-aggressive negging and, "What? Oh, did that offend you?" is just so seventh-grade in my book. And here was the woman's spectacular remark.
I told her, "Yeah I'm going on a date with a guy who's actually a bit taller than me tonight."
She scoffed: "What? Is he in the circus?"
It stung. I gave a weak, stomach-unsettled, not showing any pain laugh and said, "Ha ha, no."
I can't tell you how many men have told me not to wear heels before I go on a first date with them. When I was getting a divorce, my ex-mother-in-law, in between her tears of not wanting us to split said, "And you two were the same height. You were a match that way, too."
I kind of want to marry a little person. Just to spite everyone.
"Have you grown since last time I saw you?" my sponsor asked me the last time I met up with her. My response was to burst into tears.
"Please," I said. "Don't say stuff like that."
I actually have a speech I do. If a man I am dating wants to have kids, and he is quite tall, I am careful about the topic. I remind him that if we had a girl, she would be exceptionally tall, and I wouldn't want to do that to her. Not because she wouldn't be gorgeous and exceptionally tall and wonderful in every way, but I simply don't have the confidence and self-esteem to role model it for her. So maybe I'm not the right woman for him.
How sick is my thinking there? I am very grateful for my height now, and I wouldn't change who I am because it's made me the person I am today -- it's made me fearless and forced me to have a big personality that I love that matches my big body. My beautiful big body. I honestly don't think I would have tried so hard in school or sought to be funny had I just been average. Oh, that's another one of my dick lines.
I was out with Taylor Negron once, and a woman came up to him, recognizing him from somewhere and then turned to me and exclaimed, "You're so tall!"
I looked at her and replied: "And you're so average." Taylor's jaw dropped. "What?" I said. "I just mean, if we're comparing."
I know that it is my societal duty to just nod and grin and delight in the pleasure with a stranger of marveling at how tall I am -- can you believe it? I mean, can you honestly believe it? So tall! But I can't and I won't and I don't.
It's the same reason I don't laugh at hack Larry the Cable Guy jokes. Because it is boring and obvious. If you want to be funny and say something original, great. Whenever I see Gilbert Gottfried, he will physically shrink as if he's on a mime-staircase going downward. Hysterical. Let's riff on that.
But if it's the same conversation I've had a million times? Where you are the slack-jawed bozo with the McDonald's Happy Meal in one hand, remote in the other, drool dripping out of your mouth as if I'm an extra-large cheesesteak, staring at me and grunting, "Me see you. Me think you big," well, then I have no time for how painfully basic you are.
Yes, yes, I will smile and indulge you, but I will secretly want to respond, "Can I ask you a question? How boring are you? Honestly, what's it like to be so boring?"
But I won't.
Because I'm not.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.