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RTD food columnist took a break from topic to take up fashion debate with popular syndicated columnist Erma Bombeck in 1976

Nicole Kappatos

Erma Bombeck was a columnist who wrote about suburban home life from the mid-1960s to the 1990s. Bombeck authored thousands of newspaper columns, often with a sense of humor, chronicling the life of an ordinary suburban housewife. She had millions of readers in the U.S. and Canada.

In September 1976, Times-Dispatch food columnist Nancy Finch received a newspaper clipping in the mail from her mother who lived in Lakeland, Florida. The clip was an Erma Bombeck column about the problems short women faced buying clothes. Bombeck closed the column saying “I am well aware…that tall girls have their problems…but if they want to complain, they’re going to have to get their own column.”

Finch, a tall woman, was up for the challenge. She used her column space, normally focused on discussing food, to challenge Bombeck on the equally frustrating fashion issues faced by tall women.
 
Here is what Finch had to say:

Dear Erma,

I am 5 feet, 10 inches tall and I have my own column, thank you—even if it is supposed to be about food. But I can’t let your challenge go by. So hemlines have dropped and all five feet two of you is tripping over them. I’m not the least bit sympathetic.

I’ve been going around looking like a majorette for the past 10 years or since whenever the mini struck. While you’re just now having to start taking them up—I’ve been letting them down, forever.

It all started back when I was a junior bridesmaid at age 12 and I was taller than the bride, the bridegroom and all the ushers.

While everyone else wears long sleeves, I’ve been wearing “bracelet length.” Salesladies have been assuring me it was the “latest” for 25 years.

Mrs. Bombeck, you have tangled with the wrong tall tiger.

Have you ever tried wearing panty hose with the waistband around your knees? Did you ever have a date tell you he just loved dancing “cheek to chest” with you?

Did you know that clothing manufacturers think there is no such thing as a tall pregnant woman? Can you imagine wearing a sheet for nine months with armholes and a headhole cut in it?

While you can’t find your feet, the hems have finally hit my knees and I am doomed forever to looking like something out of a vintage Sears catalog.

Have you ever looked at a 21-inch baby daughter and wondered what hath you and your 6 feet 4 husband wrought?

I won’t even go into the rest. Undoubtedly you wear a size 5 shoe and couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to be directed to the men’s department when you ask a shoe salesman if he carried size 11 ½.

You are quite right there is an existing population on this earth that is short. And it is the majority.

It has us bumping our heads on car doors, because hunch-back from bending over to chop onions and brush our teeth, scrunching up in bathtubs made for pygmies and generally suffering all sorts of abuse and indignities.

Now that we have finished with women, senior citizens and children’s lib, I have one hope, TALL LIBERATION.

Nancy Kissinger, stop standing there towering over Henry. We need you!

NOTE: Nancy Kissinger was the wife of then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. She was about six feet tall and Henry was 5 feet 4 inches.


Bombeck never responded to Finch’s column. Finch recently shared that in response to her column she had an outpouring of gratitude from fellow tall women in the Richmond area.

The Virginia Repertory Theater will debut “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” at the Hanover Tavern, a comedic one-woman show about the well known columnist. The show will run from March 2-April 8, 2018.

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