As I lean against the cold bricks enjoying the rare sunshine on my face, swaying my head to Bonnie Taylor’s ”Total Eclipse of the Heart”, I flip through the photos and stories in my mind from the previous night out. I laugh a little to myself. I smile. I am lost in the moment until I see from the corner of my eye a man, slowly approaching, with a slight hobble. Sometimes people ask for cigarettes, sometimes for money. Without staring, I tried to think of what he could want. The iPod headphones and snazzy shoes had me doubt that he would bum for change. As he neared, I kept my eyes straight ahead, but noticed him coming closer, eyebrows furrowed, neck now extended, curious. For a moment I thought he may have mistaken me for someone else. As he hobbled forward I took out my headphones, still curious as to what this strange, interested man could ask of me. Metro directions? The time, perhaps?
“Par-par-pardon, moi, Madame, mais j’ai une question pour vous….j’espère que ce n’est pas trop indiscret, et si c’est le cas, je me pardon…”
(Ec-Ec-Excuse me, miss, but I have a question for you..I hope it’s not too indiscreet, and if this is the case, I apologize…”)
What could it be..?? Oh dear, I hope he’s not about to ask me if I have a boyfriend… (Which has been the case before…)…
Vous mesurez combien, Madame??
(How tall are you, miss?)
I literally laughed out loud. That was honestly the last thing I was expecting. He giggled as well, surprised and seemingly delighted that I found humour in his question. I politely replied, answering the routine questions; Yes, basketball, yes I have been tall my whole life, no, my parents are not giants who played for the CFL, and no, no crazy mix of origins, either.
I get it; I am tall (6″2 and 2/8ths, or about 188 cm). After seeing a person taller than me once, I stared, gawked, even. I understand the natural human reaction to stare in amazement at something so rare and wonder, but how? To want ask questions to know more. It’s like seeing giraffes by a watering hole…. will their legs break if they bend even further? How often do they fall? How do they sleep? Do they get sick of salad?
For this curiosity, I don’t blame you. I simply ask before you open your mouth to think about what words may come out. This may apply to all people with physical differences that don’t follow the norm (redheads, dwarves, people with three arms, etc.).
To avoid future frustration and embarrassment, here are a few guidelines/suggestions when approaching tall women:
She already knows she is tall. There is no need to tell her. If you really need to express your utter astonishment, try instead, “You carry your height well”, “Being tall is rare and beautiful” or “It is nice to see such a tall lady”.
Does she play basketball? Stop. If you feel you won’t sleep that night without knowing this vital information, surround the question with many compliments to ease her disappointment of normality and prejudgements. Try, “Wow! What beautiful height! As I assume you get this question all the time, I excuse myself. Do you play sports? Basketball? Did I mention it is a beautiful thing? You are beautiful.”
If you are a stranger, do not ask if she dates short men (unless you’re an equally tall woman and would like an intelligent conversation on another viewpoint). If you are a man and are truly interested in this tall majestic Amazon lady, self confidence is the best way to get her positive attention. Ignoring the height difference will show her that it is not important to you, and that you are truly interested in getting to know her and not her measurements. If she shoots you down, don’t loathe in self pity because you may be short.
It is normal to look, wonder and gaze in curiosity and amazement, but try not to stare. Three seconds is a maximum. Straining your neck to get a better view, nudging your buddies or having your girlfriend casually and not so indiscreetly walk past to get a comparison is not welcomed. We are normal people, not a one man show. Note: If you can’t seem to pull your gawking daze away, at least make the effort to mention it (again with phrases such as “Sorry for staring, but your height is beautiful”, etc.).
With all of this being said, I love being tall. Sure I was a clumsy adolescent who tripped over my own feet and I pay a lot more for my jeans than the average girl, but I am different. Concerts are a breeze, I meet strangers on a daily basis and my height alone is a conversation starter.
I simply ask that you try to keep an open mind when approaching people and think about how what you say or do may come off.
Whether you may be tall, short, freckled, or you have a third nipple on your face, I hope you all treasure your differences and realize how special you are. You are the only you, after all, which is fabulous. Own it.
As the great Dr. Seuss puts it,
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is Youer than you.”