Let me start out by saying I like being tall. This is not a woe-is-me bitch fest about the plight of bumping your head on door frames or overhead bins or tree branches or emergency exit signs. What I will say though is that being tall comes with its own very specific set of challenges.
And after 25 years of being vertically gifted, I think it’s safe to say I know a thing or two on the subject. In fact, it’s one of the few things I would go so far as to call myself an expert on. The list goes:
- Being tall
Let me spin you a yarn real quick here. Just now, I took a quick break from writing this to go grab lunch. On my way to the commissary, a man stopped me to say, “What are you, 6’5?…You’re taller than me!” Now, I’m not 6’5 and this man was maybe 5’9 on a good day so yeah duh a lot of people are taller than you, sir, but no big deal.
Questions about how tall I am don’t really bother me. It’s the follow up comments where things get uncomfortable.
“Man, you make me feel short!” or, “Wow, you’re so tall!” or in today’s case, “You’re taller than me!”
It’s not generally considered good conversation to just blurt out facts at people. Emily Post would back me up on this one. What exactly is the proper response to “You make me feel short”? “Sorry”? And everyone’s always got a snarky response to suggest to me, like, “That’s because you are short!” or, “Sucks for you.”
But that shit’s rude and I’m not looking to get into a tussle 4 times a day. I’m building an empire here. My favorite suggestion is the how’s-the-weather-up-there-raining-*spit* classic that every single person thinks they’re the first to tell me about (like I’ve never read Bazooka Joe). As though just because I’m tall I’m now expected to go around spitting on people. I’m tall, not a sociopath. Plus, I’m pretty sure spitting on people has been officially outlawed since February 26, 2006.
Honestly, I’m usually not thinking about my height until someone brings it up. And really, why would I? If someone told you that they were thinking about how 5’6 they are in between bites of oatmeal this morning, wouldn’t you think that’s a little weird? But, inevitably I’m reminded by someone or something or some compact car with very little headroom. Sometimes I’ll go through dry spells where no one says anything about it, but that often just means a big storm’s a-brewin’. It leaves me a little caught off guard the next time it does happen.
Case and point is a little story I like to call, “The Ultimate Balk.”
A few months ago, I was playing softball as part of a co-worker recreational league. As I was lacing up and watching the game before ours, the umpire from the game in progress saw me and started asking me about my height. It was the usual, “Wow, you’re tall! How tall are you?” (pitch thrown) “You play basketball or volleyball?” (second pitch) “They’d go crazy for you in the women’s basketball league here!” (third pitch). Out of respect for the sanctity of the game, I answered quickly and warmed up out of sight so the ump could focus on calling the game at hand. Alright, so maybe this guy doesn’t get out much. Or maybe he was raised in Cambodia or some sort of Andamanese Tribe. No big deal. I’m happy to oblige. I generally assume that the people who ask are just genuinely curious and there’s no harm in that. Little did I know the sweaty, sweaty floodgates had just burst open.
I had the unfortunate pleasure of playing catcher for a pretty long inning (we weren’t very good), so it was just me and ol’ Gape-y Gus side-by-side for 15 years 20 minutes.
“What’s your name?…What do people call ya? Melanie, Mel, BIG Mel, Amazon? HA.”
Seem like a lot of yucking it up for someone who needs to pay attention and give a call on every pitch (and there were quite a few pitches…we.were.not.good.) to have with another person who needs to catch every aforementioned pitch? That’s because it is. Between badgerings, I tagged someone out at home and looked to him to confirm the out, to which he replied,
“You should have knocked ‘er out! Picked ‘er up over your head and tore her in half like a true Amazon! Like King Kong!”
Now, that, my friends, is some ignorant shit.
Which brings me to my main point here: everybody wanna talk like they got somethin’ to say. Eminem’s said it, Kweli’s said it, Tebow’s said it. People will always have a comment for us tall ones about our height whether it be completely innocent or wildly offensive. It’s as sure a thing as basics loving “I (heart) Haterz” shirts or Bath & Body Works Gift Cards. And just when you think you’ve heard it all, life sends you a sweaty, obnoxious work-league umpire and you realize you ain’t even heard the half of it.
But that’s OK!
Embrace it, my heightened honeys. Let people say what they gonna say and let it roll off your elongated back. At the very least it keeps things interesting. And take comfort in knowing that you can always bolt in the night to Norway, Denmark, or any of the Nordic countries really. Where the tall roam free.