The other night I was invited out by a new friend to meet a group of his friends. It was a lovely gathering, and I felt welcomed. As we hugged good night outside the restaurant, one of the women commented, “Wow you really are tall.” Without missing a beat, I responded, “Yes it has been the bane of my life.” As the words tumbled out of my mouth I was aware that I spoke them dispassionately, not as is usual with a catch in my throat.
Don’t get me wrong about this. I don’t go around hating myself or my body. I know I am striking. I know I stand out in a crowd. I believe I am beautiful even as I age. Still, it is difficult to be singled out as different—especially when you are just going about your business. Moreover, comments about a woman’s height are never neutral: women who are taller than men challenge gender norms by our sheer physical being. Part of what is being said is almost always: you shouldn’t be so tall.
One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same.
That night, the other woman responded, “It must be difficult.”
Difficult! Imagine that clothes are almost never designed to fit you. Imagine watching short women and girls snatch up all of the tall boys and men (because they can), leaving you without a dance partner or a boyfriend. Imagine your thoughts being interrupted as you walk down a street by someone commenting, “she must be two meters tall.” Imagine trying to find a small car you can fit into. Imagine airplane seats. Imagine not wanting to have your picture taken because you tower over the others. Imagine never seeing anyone who looks like you.
When I express the negative side of being a tall woman, others are taken aback. “Models are tall,” they say. “I would love to be tall,” they say. “No you wouldn’t,” I respond, “not if you knew what it is like to be a really tall woman.” Here is a list of 12 [less than pleasant] Things Tall Women Deal With.
But I didn’t say any of that the other night.
I spoke dispassionately.
The next day I wondered: could I change the script?
Several of my friends and I have been talking about changing the “tracks” in our minds. We are refusing to let our minds follow well-worn paths that lead to self-recrimination or self-pity. When I ask the question, “why me,” I tell myself, “I am not going there,” and divert my mind to another place.
Could I do something like this with questions about my height? Instead of expressing outrage or pain when being singled out, could I just not go there? Taking it a step further, could I disarm the questioner and affirm my body and my self dispassionately and with a smile?
“Wow you’re tall!”
“Yes I am.”
“You are really tall.”
“Pretty amazing, huh?”
“She must be two meters.”
“Actually, I am 1.85.”
“Do you play basketball?”
I love swimming in the sea.
“How tall are you anyway?”
“Taller than just about everyone in the world.”
I am fond of saying that diversity and difference are the great gifts of bounteous earth. May we learn.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator living in Lasithi, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.
Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.