I wanted to follow up on Steph’s post last week about identity so I spent some time reflecting on the idea and wound up focussing on one of my identities: my appearance.
At the shallowest of levels I am a tall blonde. This is both a blessing and a curse. Being a “tall blonde" doesn’t mean you’re beautiful, that your looks get you ahead (of the line ... of life), or that you’re a volleyball champ from Sweden. To be an above average tall woman means you were an above average tall girl, and with that comes many challenges that mess with your self-esteem and identity.
I have always been tall, even when I was born. I was taller than all my friends in elementary school and in high school. It was hard to find clothes and shoes that fit me, and even harder to not grow out of them. I was taller than the boys so no one of them were ever interested in me. Once at a bar I mustered up the courage to say to a guy, “Hi, I think you’re really cute,” to which he responded, “Yeah, and you’re really tall,” before turning away. I ran out of there as fast as my long lanky legs could take me.
I’m always surprised when people’s first reaction to seeing me is, “Whoah you’re tall!” It would never occur to me to say to someone who is short, “Look how short you are!” I don’t know why it’s socially acceptable to point out if someone is tall but not if someone is short. I tell you now that it hurts my feelings.
On the flip side there are perks of being tall. Sure, I can reach the last jar of salsa on the grocery aisle shelf, and I do like helping old ladies get their milk down. But more importantly I think it has helped me a lot professionally. I am a presence (whether I like it or not) and taking advantage of that presence in a room full of clients (especially men) puts me in a powerful position. It’s hard to be intimidated by someone when they can only reach your chin.
Being tall puts you on the fringe of the population and inflicts challenges on you your average-heighted friend would not encounter. But I am glad for these challenges and these perspectives (metaphorical and physical) that I’ve gained along the way, and when I encounter a tall lady I feel a sort of kinship and understanding.
So to all the tall ladies, may we glide like gazelles through the urban landscape, with pride and with joy, and remember that girl we once were and thank her for becoming the woman she is today.