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It's Hard to Be a Tall Woman In a Small World
Exit Row Seating
I know you've been there...especially the ladies.
You enter a public restroom and notice that the handicap stall is vacant. You look left...you look right...not a handicapped soul in sight, so you scamper quickly into the luxurious accommodations to take care of business. You may feel slightly guilty, but since you'll only be a moment, there's no damage done...right? Why waste a perfectly good toilet?
Yeah...I use that logic as well.
Should I exit the stall and find a handicapped person squeezing their thighs together glaring at me, I'm sure I'd feel guilty. It's not like they have the luxury of choice that I have. In a way, I can understand their proprietary claim to the handicapped stall...I feel pretty much the same about the exit row of an airplane.
All air travelers know that next to business class, the exit row is the most luxurious seating on any flight. For a few lovely inches of additional leg room, you merely have to assure the flight crew that you can speak English, have read the instructions on how to open a door and are willing to assist with tossing your fellow travelers out of it at the appropriate time should it become necessary. In my opinion, this is definitely a fair exchange...however, I think there should be one more criteria.
If you've ever been to a carnival, you may have seen those height requirement signs that state "you must be this tall to be on this ride." Most adults never have to worry about them, but occasionally you'll see a thrill-seeking little boy standing on tip-toe with a hopeful look on his face...only to face certain rejection by the ride's operator. Nothing irks me more (at the moment) than to see a shorter person claiming an exit row seat on a plane. Shouldn't there be some sort of minimal height requirement for the roomiest seats?
Trust me, I understand the handicap bathroom stall mentality of Mr. 5'6" lounging comfortably in an exit row seat, his laptop open on the table and a cold beer in his hand. He probably has no clue as he adds insult to injury by reclining his seat that I'm folded up behind him with my knees beneath my chin engaged in a wrestling match for three inches of armrest space. Never mind arterial thrombosis...if we had to assume the crash position, I would be seriously screwed.
As I sat there in this contorted fashion, I began to feel sorry for myself. Why was I being so unfairly singled out and punished for simply being of greater than average height? With over four hours to kill in flight and minimal blood circulation going to my extremities, I had nothing to do but dwell on the unfortunate circumstances of my disregarded handicap...
Most states have laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, age, gender and disability. A handful offer protection for gays and lesbians. But only Michigan includes weight and height in its anti-discrimination law.
By Ken Maguire, Associated Press Writer | May 17, 2007
Location, Location, Location
The severity of my handicap might not have been so apparent if I'd been born in the right place. In the United States, for example, the average height of an adult female human is 5'4.6" tall. However, in the Dinaric Alps of Southern Europe the average is 5'7.3" tall and the Dinkan female of the Sudan virtually towers in at around 5'11" tall. At 5'10" in height, I would be considered a lot closer to normal in the mountainous regions of Croatia and gloriously below average hanging out at a Dinkan Tupperware party. I suppose it could have been worse though. If I'd been born in the Philippines where native women are nearly Lilliputian at 4'11" tall...my life could have been even more miserable.
You aren't convinced that being above average in height is truly a handicap? Fine. Allow me to educate you then...
With garments manufactured in America, the worst thing that I occasionally had to suffer through was the dreaded "highwater" pants. While this was a definite fashion faux pas in my school years, I managed to survive with only minor emotional scarring. These days, with the ever increasing influx of clothing manufactured in countries such as India and China, shopping for clothes is an exercise in futility. With an average height scraping the 5' mark...how on earth could these people have a concept of proper fit? They simply have no comprehension of true height or proportion. Their women are delicately boned...fragile, porcelain dolls, in comparison to the western world. Like the Incredible Hulk, once I've squeezed myself into the garment, I merely have to shrug my shoulders or flex an arm to restore circulation before seams begin to pop and fabric starts to tear. This does nothing to help me in my struggle to maintain a feminine image...
Fashion trends are the bane of the tall person. Whoever came up with the 1980s style of adding shoulder pads to EVERY blouse, dress and jacket, should be beaten viciously. Because of what I began to call "the linebacker effect," I finally invested in a seam ripper to remove them immediately upon purchase.
Eventually, disheartened as I was by the futility of maintaining a decent wardrobe, I resorted to what most tall women do. That's right, I began to borrow my boyfriend's clothing.
While most women look positively adorable and sexy wearing their boyfriend's over-sized shirt, I looked like the butch half of a lesbian couple. I didn't mind so much...the propositions I received were actually rather flattering...but more importantly, I was comfortable for the first time in my life! No more shoulder bind, no more long sleeves ending 5" above my wrist, no more cutesy shades of pastel blue or pink and we can just forget about the pantyhose where the crotch stubbornly refused to climb higher than mid-thigh. And...if you put a woman in man's pants...? Well, something magical happens in the ass area...and it makes up for the flannel shirts and Nirvana T-shirts.
One boyfriend sought to feminize me. At Christmas, there were assorted boxes from Victoria's Secret waiting for me to open. With trepidation, I did. The "tall" sized thigh high stockings clung desperately to my kneecap unable to bridge the overwhelming distance required to make proper use of the lacy garter belt attachment. The corset nearly asphyxiated me as it held me in its constrictive death grip. Fortunately, I had not yet resorted to wearing men's underwear, so all items were returned for something that had a more universal fit.
Only once did my height work in my favor in regard to clothing. While shopping in a local department store, my eyes...and the eyes of a "shorty"... happened to fall upon the same beautiful peasant style skirt at the exact same time. The two of us raced to the rack, arriving in a dead heat. It could have been ugly...but fortunately there were several skirts available. I held mine up to my waist, satisfied to discover it fell about 4" above my ankle. I heard a snort of disgust from the nearby woman. I glanced up surreptitiously to discover the source of her displeasure. To my utter delight, she stood there with the skirt held up to her own waist...the hem dragging on the carpeted floor...glaring at me, before she shoved it back onto the rack and stalked off without her prize.
"Never marry a woman with big feet"
- Senegalese Proverb
Shoes were also a shopping nightmare. In my twenties, it was fun to sport three inch heels when going out. In heavily crowded bars, I was able to breathe the rarified air above everyone else...and I rather enjoyed the looks of semi-awe as men would crane their necks back to address me. Unfortunately, feet are an appendage that continue to grow throughout your life and as I edged out of the size 10 range and into the size 11 or rather the "why don't you just wear skis?" size...those cute adorable shoes went bye bye. You doubt by word? Walk into a Payless store some day and try to locate women's size 11 shoes. They'll be wedged in a small section, next to men's shoes and will consist of "practical" looking footwear. White nursing shoes, those tassel topped shiny black loafers and chunky hiking boots are the typical offering. It was a given that I would eventually start shopping the men's section. They were about as attractive as the choices I'd already been given...and they also fit better. Of course, once again, my heterosexuality was in question thanks to Robin William's line about women in comfortable shoes.
I Am Not A Boy
Growing up, I was treated differently from my more dainty siblings. My father would size us up and inevitably conclude that two out of three were far too delicate for what he had in mind. "Laurie..."he would say, "I need you to help me chop and stack firewood." My sisters would scamper off to do their hair, play with make-up and perhaps give each other a pedicure, while I would slap my feet into a pair of sturdy boots and slip into a flannel shirt to play "boy" for the day.
In grocery stores, little old people give me adoring gazes as they point to their heart's desire resting on a shelf just out of reach. "Do you mind?" they will ask in voices that make you think of grandma and apple pie. How can I refuse? At least my cheeks are out of pinching range when they exclaim afterward, "My! You are a tall one aren't you?" Because of my height, I simply look capable...of opening my own doors, my own stubborn jars and lifting heavy objects that most people would never expect the average woman to do. It can be downright annoying.
It's a Small World After All
The world is not a friendly place for tall people. Countertops are built so low that eventually you acquire a Quasimodo posture. Showerheads usually have to be replaced with handheld sprayers if you ever want to actually rinse the shampoo from the top of your head. Bathtubs, however, are the worst. I usually have a choice to make. Do I want to have my legs in the water and expose my upper body to the cold air...or immerse my upper body and stick my legs out in an ungainly awkward position braced against the wall? My husband still thinks I married him for his body when in fact I married him for his bathtub. It's simply monstrous and for the first time, I can actually have most of my body in the water at the same time.
Tall Women & Not So Tall Men
Of course, height poses a big problem when it comes to the opposite sex. Never mind the old line that "there's no difference in height while lying down." Before you even have a chance of getting into that prone position, a man has to measure up while standing. In high school, it wasn't so bad really. Boys were expected to be shorter until they suddenly hit their growth spurt and no longer danced at boob level...err...naturally. For the more impatient girls, hanging out with the boy's basketball team was a sure fire way to appear more feminine. I was positive giddy when one player picked me up and twirled me around one afternoon in a fit of exuberance. So? This is what it felt like to be a girl? I decided there and then, I would never settle for anything other than a tall man.
Understand, I have nothing truly against short men. I feel the same way about them that I do about homosexual men. I shake my head sadly as I think, "what a shame..." considering the lost potential. Before you go lighting the torches and storming the castle, you need to realize this is MY issue. It's not that I don't think shorter men are not masculine enough for my needs...it is simply that I feel less feminine around them. Like the majority of women, I'm not immune to the charm of being swept off my feet, being cuddled in a man's lap or twirled around a dance floor. However, having a man of more diminutive form stagger across the floor, gasping for breath struggling to carry me is not very appealing and seriously threatens my feminine image. I suppose we could reverse positions...but I've seen firsthand how that can damage the tender male ego and refuse to go through that again.
You're Staying Home Tonight
Sure, I know there are examples of successful relationships involving taller women and shorter men. But they are examples for a reason...pointed out to everyone because they are not considered normal. Comments such as, "he must be a very secure man" are uttered. The fact that the woman has pretty much reconciled herself to never wearing fashionable high heels in his presence ever again is overlooked.
My youngest sister, Toni eventually attained the height of 5'9" tall. In her company, I felt a bit less like a freak. There was also the added bonus of being able to share clothes...which greatly expanded my wardrobe. Unlike myself, Toni seemed to be attracted specifically to men that were 5'6" and shorter. As we perused the photo album, enjoying yet another shot of a past boyfriend where Toni stood beside him playing the leaning tower of Pisa to accommodate his stature, I asked her why. She simply shrugged and said she wasn't sure...perhaps it was just her natural instinct to nurture and shorter men brought out that feeling in her.
Tall Women Are A Knock Out
Eventually she married Dennis...a man 3" shorter than herself. During the ceremony, Dennis had us all giggling with his antics. With a mischievous grin, he began bouncing up and down on his toes to meet his lovely new bride's disapproving glare. At the reception, somebody had placed a booster seat on the groom's chair...I have no idea who would have done that...really....
The first time I met my husband, he stood on the step above me, declaring I wasn't THAT tall. Although occasionally I'll wistfully eye a pair of sexy, strappy little high heels, I don't mind that he freaks out and points out something attractive in a flat heel. In return, he turns a blind eye when I occasionally raid his closet or swipe a t-shirt from his bureau.
There are moments when I forget and playfully smack him in the shoulder, only to hear him complain that I don't know my own strength. Times when I'm angry and draw myself up to my full height to make it difficult for him to kiss me...or hold what he wants just out of reach...but other than that, we're a pretty normal couple. He may not be able to sweep me off my feet physically...but mentally and emotionally he manages to leave me breathless.
And besides all that...there is still the bathtub to be taken into consideration.