This is a spot for tall women, girls, and gender nonconforming people, and their stories.
I don’t decide who’s tall. If you think you are tall, this is your place.
Narrative 1. Tall people are statistically better off by many measures (e.g., make $789 more a year per inch above average). This includes tall women.
Narrative 2. Ninety percent of women worldwide are between 4’11 and 5’7. Ten percent of women in the United States, where I live, are taller than 5’7; five percent are 5’8 or taller. So to be in these groups is to be one of a physically noticeable very few, and it is to be physically noticeably outside what’s normative for our gender.
Growing up in San Diego, California, in the 1980s and 1990s, most of my social identifiers were those privileged by the dominant culture (white, middlish class, heterosexual, identifying with the gender I was assigned). And: I don’t think I ever met anyone, adult or child, without being told “you’re so tall!”–in tones appreciative, delighted, aghast, suspicious, or just confused. Since I was between six and 17 years old and didn’t have a ton of, you know, ego strength, what I heard was: “you’re so different!”
Six to 17 year olds aren’t taught much (or well-taught much) about the value and beauty in difference, either explicitly in schools or home, or implicitly by an ambient culture very much in love with individualism except if those individuals aren’t white men and/or don’t express bias towards white men. So I heard “you’re so different!” and when I failed to respond to the next set of questions in a way that made the questioner comfortable–“Do you play basketball?” “No.” “Well, do you play volleyball?” “No.” “Well. Hmm. Well… I hope you find a tall man to marry someday!” “Oh, I don’t care about getting married”–what I internalized was “I am a different kind of girl and it’s a problem for everyone.”
When I was about eight, though, my beautiful tall cousin Karen gave me a gift: a clipped newspaper headline with just the words “Tall is Fun.” I taped it on my bedroom door, and really, I don’t know if helped directly when I’d had a day of feeling problematically different (in my own head or prompted by my bewildered shorter peers), but I have such a clear memory of its yellowing paper, its lightly seriffed type, and of thinking hopefully, admiringly, of Karen, that I know I didn’t stop at “different from.” I also knew “different with,” and it mattered.
So now I’m a tall woman, and I revel in it. This difference no longer seems problematic to me; mine is not a marginalized voice, for the most part. Indeed, being tall (and with multiple privileged identities) means I can call more attention to myself if I choose, and I can use my voice to signal-boost stories our culture marginalizes. Still: I remember feeling my physical difference so acutely that I just wasn’t certain whether it was Okay to be like me, or ever would be. And our culture loves to make women and folks whose identity isn’t reflected in the gender binary wonder that. So now, when I see a tall person, I want to walk gently up to them and, if I get the slight nod that says “Yes…we have something in common,” ask “Is it true for you? Is it true that Tall is Fun? And if it is or if it isn’t: what is your experience?”
And now, I’m starting to. I hand them a small card that says a short version of what it says here, and invites a story, and this is where they’ll live.
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