By Zoe Beaty - 23 September 2015
Junior Commissioning Editor/ Senior Features Writer
‘Oh my goodness!’ says the photographer, as he crouches by my feet. I’m sat in probably one of the most compromising positions of my career so far: squeezing (with ungraceful difficulty) both bum cheeks on to a chair more or less the size of one of my size eight – OK, sometimes size nine – shoes. It’s a child’s chair and I, quite obviously, am a rather large adult. Or, as the photographer puts it between bellowing ‘Ha!’ every couple of seconds, ‘You’re enormous!’
He was, of course, joking. And I didn’t mind – besides, it’s not like I haven’t heard it before. I’m six feet tall with a 35-inch leg – which makes me far from small, despite being a size 12. I’m the girl who blocks your view at gigs, who hugs you awkwardly and walks with a subtly bowed head and a slightly self-conscious stoop.
Being a tall woman naturally attracts a lot of attention. As many other ‘outsized’ women will know, people (usually strangers) like to point out height as a ‘surprising’ fact that may have formerly gone unnoticed. To get you up to speed, if you’re of average height or smaller,imagine being told every day – or most days – that you have ears. ‘Oh, yes, I do,’ you’d reply, acting politely enlightened. Then,if you’re like me, you’ll turn around to obscure your face while violently rolling your eyes. Of course, despite annoyances (being asked, ‘How’s the weather up there?’ is rage-inducing), being tall has its perks– even the term ‘above average’ height connotes positivity and being ‘statuesque’ has long been viewed as an attribute of superiority. It’s the reason most women torture their toes in sky-high heels and why men on Tinder blatantly lie about their height. But, despite so many women coveting loftiness, its association with masculinity often means that, practically, it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be.
It might sound like a humblebrag, but having legs too long to fit under a desk –or, on a more uncomfortable level, within the confines of a standard plane seat – is genuinely pretty irritating. In women’s toilets I can rarely look in the mirrorwithout doing an awkward knee bend– something I often whip out in group photos, lest my head gets completely cutoff. Hugging short people means my chest is in perfect alignment with their face and I’ve only ever found one bath that was long enough for me to lie down in. At school I was the ‘lanky’ one, sometimes called names for standing out a little too much and put in detention for my standard-size uniform skirtwhich, simply because I had more to show, revealed more leg than the other girls’ skirts did. And as a young teenager I was disliked by boys who I unwittingly emasculated. It’s hard to put your arm around someone almost a foot taller than you – they tended to prefer the ‘cuter’ girls who could sit daintily on their lap. Later, my height became a more prominent part of my identity – while my friends were defined as ‘the funny one’ or ‘the pretty one’, I was branded ‘the tall one’.
Slowly, as I went out more to pubs and clubs, my body became a kind of public property. Guys would think nothing of walking up to me and prodding my legs as if to prove they were real, and sweaty men pressed their clammy bodies against mine in a ‘height comparison’ game. If they ‘won’, their chests would swell with pride at their newly validated masculinity– if they lost, I’d be not only tall but ‘freakishly’ so, to soothe their bruised egos. Compliments always come off as slightly back-handed: ‘Don’t worry,’ I’m often told, ‘I like tall women!’ as though I should be grateful that someone is finally interested in me, despite my being a small giantess.