I can’t believe I haven’t talked about height here yet. Except, yes I can, because it’s something I completely forget about for weeks at a time until I’m reminded by someone who thinks he or she is the first person to point out that I can see over the bathroom stall.
I’ve always been tall for my age. I have a kindergarten finger-painting that says, “Laura, 4ft! Laura, 5!” Not a lie. It’s been a life of 98th percentiles and lots of drinking milk and standing in the back of class pictures. It’s my dad’s fault–at 6’3″ he pretty much set the path for my brother and me.
I had a two-year head start on Todd, so I got to be the tallest kid for years. I could sit in the front seat of the car because my legs were the longest. I sat in a special row in chorus with friends who then stopped growing and became woefully average in size. People used to ask me if I played basketball, and if I didn’t, why I didn’t, until I told them that my best friend in 5th grade had tried to teach me how to play like they played in her league and raked me with her fingernails and I decided that it wasn’t my idea of a good time.
I did make the JV volleyball team even though I could barely run a quarter mile.
I stopped growing at 5′ 11 3/4″. It varies slightly, enough that I call myself 5’11” instead of 6″. I feel like a milestone like a new foot of measurement needs to be fully earned.
This is one of the reasons it was pretty easy for me to tomboy-out whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to be afraid of the boys because, most of the time, I towered over them (male puberty’s time table served me well). It also turned the tables on me when I wanted to be more “girly.” I had to seriously think about whether to wear heels or flats to prom (went with kitten heels). I saw lots of shorter, more fragile-looking girls ending up with the guys I wanted to date, and while I’m sure their size wasn’t the only reason, I heard enough from my guy friends about who they found attractive to know that there were some definite predilections.
The other thing everyone always says when you’re tall: “Oh my gosh, you should be a model!” To which my answer used to be (pre-Enlightenment) that I would have to lose some serious weight, and then (post-Enlightenment) that I didn’t want to be involved in an industry that promotes unhealthy ways of life and standards of beauty.
(I did get asked to become a model one day while walking down my street in India. That’s because a) Indian kurtas drape beautifully and b) I was white and “exotic.” So, still not something I was super excited about.)
So what’s it like being tall? Honestly, it can be hard to say. I’ve never not been tall, so I don’t really know what it would be like to be a shorter adult. I can see pretty well in crowds, I can breathe decently in packed subway trains, my head doesn’t get bumped often (except for in low stairways), and I don’t feel especially vulnerable when I’m out on the street at night. I can reach lots of things. I’m afraid to learn how to cartwheel or do aikido rolls because I’m so far from the ground and you know what they say about “the harder they fall.”
I’ve dated people shorter and taller than me, and I don’t really care about height in other people. I know as well as anyone that you don’t get to pick it. I’ve never slouched–in fact I have very good posture–but I also don’t tend to wear shoes with any additional height. Except for in the last year, when I decided to buy some pumps and start torturing my feet. Today I walked to Dunkin Donuts in bright blue H&M heels, which felt great for about…three minutes. At some point my beautiful feet might start to resemble a 19th-century Chinese concubine’s. But not as soon as other women’s do, because I’m saving my heels for special occasions when I want to have my head especially in the clouds.
Oh, and my brother? Passed me in height around sophomore year of college. And now demands all the height-related benefits, forever and always amen. Un. Fair.
I like being tall. I just don’t like not being the tallest.