Being a tall guy is pretty awesome. From my own six-foot-four point of view, the world looks A-OK. I’m tall enough to grab anything you might need off of the top shelf in the closet, but not so tall where my height gets in the way of a regular day-to-day life. And everybody’s read those studies that show how tall people tend to make more money than regular sized people, right? So on the surface anyway, there’s really not much to complain about.
Which is why the negative aspects of being a tall guy are a subtle form of suffering. So whenever I mention anything less than positive about my height, everyone I know is quick to shut me down. “Please, I don’t want to hear it, you’re so tall, I’d kill to be your height.” And so I’ve been conditioned my whole life to remain silent, forced to endure the minor hardships occasionally associated with being tall all by myself. I’m sure it’s the same for tall guys everywhere. Here are 6 things only tall guys will understand.
1. Good luck finding a pair of pants that fit right
All of my pants are just a little too short. For whatever reason, most brands refuse to sell anything bigger than a thirty-four in length. Once every four years or so, I’ll magically stumble across some thirty-sixes, maybe, but even then, they’re likely to only be paired with a size 36 waist at the minimum. So I’ve got a choice: do I want to wear pants that are falling off my hips or do I want them to rest an inch above my ankles? I’ll almost always choose the latter, and it means that wearing low cut, white socks is forever out of the question.
Nobody likes hearing me complain about clothes, and so the response I usually get is something like, “Well, why don’t you go shopping at a big and tall store?” And I just want to be like, why don’t you shop at a big and tall store? The clothes at big and tall stores are the worst. And everything for sale is meant for guys size XL and up. If there were maybe just a tall store, without necessarily catering simultaneously to the big, perhaps I’d give it another shot.
2. I’ve probably done a lot of damage hitting my head
I go grocery shopping at a store right by my house. The produce section is just by the entranceway. When I enter, the store’s layout encourages me to automatically grab a bag and start walking toward the row of vegetables against the wall. And every single time, I run straight into that hook dispensing little plastic baggies, smacking my head loud and hard enough for everyone around me to let out a collective, “Ooooh.” As I sit there and curse my inability to instinctively dodge objects that most people pay no attention to, I wonder how many more times I’m going to hit my head before I start suffering actual damage.
And it’s not just grocery store hooks. It’s everything. I can’t stand up straight in my basement. It’s the subway. I actually have to duck when boarding a train. Sometimes I’ll be walking on the sidewalk and a low-hanging branch will whack me right in the eye. Come on! Ceiling fans are especially bothersome, because once I get caught up, the blades keep hitting me over and over again. “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” I worry that my body is being trained to compulsively hunch over, just a little bit, just to avoid getting hit, and that as I get older, I’m going to grow crooked, and nobody’s going to want to talk or hang out with me.
3. Everyone assumes I must be good at basketball
Sure, it’s a seemingly benign tall person stereotype. But just because a person has a natural vertical advantage doesn’t really say anything to his skills in regard to, say, ball handling, or hand-eye coordination, or the ability to execute a solid box-and-one zone defense. I’m not saying that I’m bad at basketball, I’m just saying that, if I weren’t so tall, I’d absolutely be terrible at basketball. I can’t shoot, dribble, or pass. But I can stand under the net with my hands straight up in the air in an effort at preventing the opposing team from getting in any easy layups. Meaning, anytime anybody asks me to play basketball, there’s no way I’m not going to wind up disappointing everybody involved.
Do you know what that was like for me growing up? “You must love playing on the basketball team!” random people would ask me when I was in high school. I’d try to respond that, no, I actually didn’t wind up making the team. But because I grew so fast when I was only fourteen, I hadn’t yet developed the necessary motor skills to explain myself, or do much of anything really, without tripping over my feet and falling over. That usually ended pretty much any conversation.
4. Airplanes are the worst
Gone are the days when tall people could show up at the departing gate a few minutes early, speak to a ticketing representative, and be awarded one of those coveted emergency exit seats, along with all of the comfort those extra few inches of legroom provided. Airlines got wise to the fact that those emergency aisles represented precious dollars to be wrung out of their already cash-strapped passengers. And such are the laws of capitalist economics that, once you divert attention from customer satisfaction to strict numbers, you wind up falling into a tiered system where those with the most money get the best treatment.
And so now when I go to fly, I invariably wind up getting sat not in, but right behind the emergency row. I have to lower my head as I schlep down the aisle. While I stow my carryon in the overhead compartment, I can’t help but noticing how not-tall the guy in front of me is, how when he stretches his legs all the way out, he can’t even reach the seat in front of him. And of course, as soon as the plane reaches its cruising altitude, the undeserved imp lets out an audible “Ahhh …” as he lowers his seat into the recline position. There’s that distinct “thump” as the back slams right into my already scrunched up knees.
5. My whole life, I’ve been given really cheesy tall nicknames
Old people see me on the street and say stuff like, “Hey Stretch, how’s the weather up there?” and what am I supposed to do, get pissed off? No, I just have to smile and act polite and maybe even throw in a fake laugh or two. But it’s not funny. Stop calling me Stretch. If anything, wouldn’t it be a little cleverer if you called me something ironic, like Shorty, or Shrimp? “Hey Shrimpy,” OK, I just said that in my head, and it wasn’t funnier. If anything, I’m even more annoyed now.
It was the worst when I was in high school. My early growth spurt meant that my body wouldn’t have a chance for another four years or so to add any additional weight onto my already lean frame. And so I’d have my parents’ friends attempt to make jokes at my expense, saying stuff like, “Whoa, what are you feeding him?” and then everyone would laugh and laugh. And apparently this name-calling is strictly a one-way street, because one time one of my dad’s friends said something to me like, “Hey Stilts,” and I responded, “What’s up Fatso?” and everyone got really pissed off at me.
6. What happens if I ever lose my legs?
Maybe I’m overthinking things a little bit, but I always run through this scenario in my head where the country goes to war. It’s a really bad one, and the government drafts me along with all of the able-bodied citizenry into mandatory military conscription. I answer the call and march to the frontlines, and everything goes OK for the most part. But a few days before my tour is over, I accidentally step on a landmine and lose both of my legs above the knee.
But not to worry, the army fits me for two of the newest, most hi-tech prosthetic legs available. “In many ways, they’ll be far superior to your biological limbs,” the doctors will assure me. And while my new legs take some getting used to, eventually I’m able to reintegrate back into society as if I’d never been wounded at all. Except there’s one problem: my new legs aren’t tall person legs, they’re just regular sized legs, and so now I’m about four inches shorter. What should be a pretty easy rehabilitation back into civilian life turns into a complete inability to cope with the world from my new, shortened vantage point. I wind up spending days on line at the VA, arguing unsuccessfully with the doctors about the incorrect height, all while they scratch their heads and try to tell me that, “You’re not that short. You’ll get used to it. Come on, six feet is pretty tall.”
I doubt that’ll ever happen, but still, how often do I take my height for granted? What happens if I have a bunch of kids and they all wind up being taller than I am? How am I going to live not being the tallest one in my family? While it can occasionally be a pain, I wouldn’t trade my height for anything. Well, maybe for billions and billions of dollars. Then I could just pay a group of much shorter people to hang out with me all day and make me feel better about myself. But who would ever offer me that kind of a trade? And how would they go about scaling me down to a more regular size?