It’s been about 24 hours since I first heard about this upcoming Netflix film. Whilst it’s not streaming until September 13th – I have thoughts. I’m starting writing this with no idea where it will end up but I’m doing it in hope of organising my thoughts. Hopefully some people will read this, maybe even identifying with it on some level – but that will just be an unexpected bonus.
My name is Charlotte and I am 5ft 11.5in tall (which roughly works out as 181cm). I’m just shy of 6ft, which is why I feel the need to be so speciific – like a form of aural self flagellation… The average height of a woman in the UK is 5ft 3in (161cm). The average height of a man in the UK is 5ft 9in (175cm). This makes me above average, which in this instance is a far more loaded statement than it might appear.
I don’t remember being particularly tall as a child. I just remember that one July I finished the school year as a reasonably averagely height-ed person. I returned back in September as not just the tallest girl in my year but, for an extended period of time until the boys in my year started growing, the tallest people in my year group.
I literally stood out, head and shoulders amongst the rest. Add in what can only be described as a mane of red hair – I remain to this day extremely ‘noticeable’, ‘recognisable’ or ‘distinctive’. Some cracking use of euphemism there…
As someone who decidedly meets the criteria of an introverted extrovert, it feels like I’m physically forced to stand out – even and especially when I don’t want to. I still find that really hard now (more on this later…), but I can’t describe the levels of innate mortification it provided me with as a teen. It resulted in countless excruciating memories that still like to haunt me over a decade on. Such as:
- A group of friends I used to hang out with at breaks and lunch would stand around in a group near a bench. Multiple times they insisted that I sit on the bench as I made them feel awkward standing next to them.
- Thankfully improvements are now being made in the range of trouser lengths. Suffice to say, my trousers fell into the category of ankle swingers. This would be discussed at length or pointed out to me by people passing by in the corridor – as if I was not all-too aware of the ankle display currently occurring.
- Same applies to shoes. Size 8 in shoes is now so easy to get hold of, with such an incredible range of styles and colours. The range of size 8 shoes in black suitable for schools was limited to say the least – this of course was a point raised in peer assessment that was less than encouraging.
So there’s my self worth and attitude towards my appearance getting impacted. Then you chuck in romance and it gets even more painful, complicated and ultimately rather scaring…
- The friend of a friend who followed me to a nightclub, latched himself onto my group of friends and utilised the chat-up line of ‘I’m the perfect height for thooooosssse [accompanied with hand gestures indicating my breasts].
- After months of mild infatuation, on the last night out at uni with the mindset of ‘it’s now or never’ I approached the guy I liked. Only to be told – and I quote – that ‘I was too tall’ for him and that it ‘would never work’ as a result.
- Courtesy of online dating, I’ve had countless messages about my height and how the sender feels about it. In fact, I’d say that 2 out of 3 ‘icebreakers’ I’m sent involve me height. Rarely are these messages anything near what could be described as, you know, nice.
- My worst date of all time, which lasted the grand total of 27 minutes (I may write about this another time because it is *such* a story) involved the guy requesting I wear a short skirt to ‘show off those fine legs’, greeting me by asking ‘how the weather was up there’ (he would have been about 5 inches shorter) and asking if the reason I wanted to visit Sweden was to ‘be with my people. Tall people like myself where I could fit in better.’
Those seven anecdotes are only a sample from the Rolodex of height analysis that have occurred and have had a profound impact on all manner of aspects of my life. First and foremost, I feel like I take up too much room. There’s just so much of me and I constantly feel like I have to apologise for it. I feel self-conscious when sat in front of anyone at an event, in case I’m blocking their view and become hyper-aware of any tutting or commentary that validates this concern.
It’s also something that actual strangers feel like they’re allowed to comment on. From shop assistants to passersby to people shouting out of cars to fellow TFL passengers – it’s as if they think I could ever forget how I’m further away from the ground than many. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to help you get something down from the top shelf – but please don’t follow that up with ‘Gosh you are a tall one. Good luck with that!’ (Victoria station Marks and Spencer, 3 years ago)
The fact that I’m tall doesn’t make me skinny. I’m far more 50’s hourglasses than long, lean and lithe. It made the thought of shopping on the high street akin into going into war. Finding Collectif was the best possible thing that could have happened – and I’m eternally thankful to have their beautiful range to choose from.
The prospect of online dating remains utterly nauseating, as I know it is for many people. There’s the men who mention their height on their bios, then accompany it with a follow up parentheses along the lines of ‘(If that really matters!)’. Then there’s the men who don’t mention their height, but announce it in their first message asking, when they’re shorter ‘If that will be a problem?’ And let’s not get started on the fetishists who seem to find my being taller than them some sort of alluring trait.
All of these things have become interwoven within what is arguably the most important relationship in my life – my relationship with myself. RuPaul says, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?’ What concerns me about the trailer for TALL GIRL is that Jodi, the 16 year old protagonist of the show and the eponymous tall girl, is being offered a makeover and a love interest as a means for ‘fixing’ her relationship with herself and her height.
Aged 16 I thought those were the things that would ‘fix’ everything. 11 years on and I’m only just starting to appreciate that not only is this not the case, it’s such a damaging concept. Regular self-reflections resulted in my thinking ‘If only I was x height or x weight then it will all be fine. Then I can have x or do x.’
It’s such a horrendously toxic mindset and I am truly trying to step away from it. Why do I default to self-critique rather than praise? Why am I unable to process compliments in any other fashion than rejecting them? Why do I speak to myself in way I would never dream of speaking to a friend, or anyone at all for that matter?
My life experiences may have moulded me to view myself in a certain way and resulted in certain behaviours but that doesn’t mean that’s a permanent state. Yes, I’m a lot taller than most women. Whilst I may not have necessarily chosen to have been, the dice of the genetic pool landed on it (and a whole host of other traits I definitely wouldn’t have chosen) and I’m pretty sure (science fiction exempted) that there’s nothing I can do about it.
What I can do something about is how I view it and (from way up here!) maybe it isn’t all that bad.