Single women ask: "Am I too tall to date?"
By Elizabeth Roehrig
There I was, sitting with a friend on a Friday night, when we noticed a couple of hip and handsome guys sitting next to us. Witty banter ensued between me and the Casey Affleck-alike and things were looking promising... that is, until we both stood up to pick a few songs from the jukebox. It was the moment of truth, and yep, at almost 5'10", I was a couple of inches taller than him. I could feel him sizing me up, and our sizzle from a moment ago beginning to fizzle.
If you're in the "tall woman" club like me, you've probably experienced a similar scenario. And while dating for women like us may have its own inherent set of challenges, they're hardly the type that we can't overcome. Let the pros, cons and advice listed below serve as a little inspiration for all you vertically blessed beauties out there... it's not nearly as bad as you might think!
Fewer men tend to approach tall women for dates
Many of my tall friends (myself included) are very open to dating shorter men — the problem is often that they steer clear of us, thinking that we're "too tall" given the expectation that guys must loom over their dates. Patricia Barba, 34, of Greenwich, CT, who's just shy of six feet, had a male coworker spell out to her why she's so often left on the sidelines. "We were at our holiday party, and a coworker who's around my height asked if I'd like to dance. I said yes and mentioned that not many men ask me to dance, and he said it's because men must find my height imposing. That was hard to hear!" Other times, men aren't so straightforward and their preferences come across in the form of a subtler snub. "When I'm out on weekends, I'm the one who talks to all the guys and gets the conversation going," says Richelle, 27, who's six feet tall and from Boston. "But usually at the end of the evening, the guy I've been talking to will say, 'Who's your friend?' And inevitably the girl he's interested in is one of my shorter pals."
The men who do hit on us tend to be great catches
While being overlooked as dating material due to our height can be frustrating, there is a benefit to this situation as well. Because, you see, the shorter men who do hit on us are definitely worth their salt. "I recently dated a guy who is an inch shorter than me, but his personality and confidence made him seem taller," says Patricia. "He seemed really self-assured, which put me at ease and made our height difference seem like a non-issue. I think generally that guys who go for taller women are pretty dynamic individuals." In other words, look at your height as a gatekeeper that only allows the truly worthy shorter men into your inner circle. Mary, 27, from Woodbridge, NJ, is 5'8" and has dated a handful of shorter men, including her current boyfriend. "Since they don't have the height that a lot of girls look for, these guys develop other, more meaningful qualities, such as kindness, humor, and consideration," she says... which ultimately makes for a better boyfriend. "While a shorter man might not be my first choice, if he's much more interested in me and attentive to my needs, who can say no to that?" Mary asks.
Few men meet our own preferred height requirements
While many tall women are perfectly happy to date shorter guys, some of us, I admit, aren't always so thrilled about it. And as a result, we often limit our own prospects and have no one to blame but ourselves for long dry spells between dates. "I would go out all the time and find only one or two guys that I considered to be good prospects because of my 'height restriction,'" says Sarah, 5'10", of Reading, MA. "I was only looking for guys 6'1" and over, because it just seems more natural for the man to be taller than the woman." Of course, we know we should give shorter guys a chance, but it's tough to change your own perception (let alone society's) that the guy should tower over his gal. "You grow up with this notion that the man should be bigger than the woman so he can protect her," explains Erin, 26, 6'2", of Richmond, VA.
Tall women eventually learn to recognize what really makes a relationship work
While tastes and attraction are hard to change, sooner or later, many tall women are forced to accept a valuable truth that often eludes other daters: that they should jettison the more superficial traits on their "wish list" for a partner — whether that's being 6'2", having a full head of hair or possessing six-pack abs. "While I used to believe that a man needed to be taller than me for me to feel safe, I know now that isn't true," says Erin, who ultimately fell for a man three inches shorter. "When I first met my now-husband, I thought he was cute, but I never thought we'd end up together due to the height difference. But we had a real connection and I know now that's what counts."
Once you're dating a partner who is shorter than you are, there's a whole new host of problems to deal with
OK, so you've gotten over your own "He's got to be taller than me" hangups and have hit it off with a guy who's largely fine with the fact that you've got some inches over him. But even then, you're not in the clear. For starters, try walking into a room together; you're bound to get some odd looks. "I once dated someone shorter. He said it didn't matter to him, but people couldn't help but comment on it and make some pretty embarrassing jokes," says Richelle. "Once we were asked if he stood on the curb to kiss me!" To keep the wisecracks to a minimum, many women abandon their heels in favor of flats. But even then, the undue attention can sometimes be unbearable.
Eventually, you learn to stop caring what other people think
Know that phrase, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" That also applies in this scenario: sooner or later, most tall women who date shorter men develop a Teflon coating. They stop caring if people point at them walking down the street together or if friends and family members make height jokes. They learn that all that really matters is whether you like the guy and whether he likes you. Six-foot-tall Ciana Clarke, 40, of Tallahassee, FL, may have felt awkward when she first began dating her shorter husband, but that soon changed. "His family and friends would tease him about his height rather than mine and say that he was lucky to land me, but he never let their cracks bother him," she recalls. "He made me feel like a treasure and celebrated my difference more than anything else. I was proud of my height before we met, but his love and acceptance have made me feel more comfortable with our four-inch height difference." And there's no reason to relegate your high heels to the back of the closet when you have a self-confident guy in your corner. "My husband is really the one that made me start to embrace my height," says Erin. "Before I met him, I don't think I owned one pair of heels — now I can't get enough of them. My man loves me for all that I am, height included!"
Elizabeth Roehrig has written for Redbook and other publications.