Once my greatest source of discomfort, my height is now my shield, my strength.
In kindergarten I towered over my peers – both boys and girls. My shoe size grew every year, correlating with my age until middle school. Most women will never wear size ten or eleven shoes, let alone many prepubescent girls. By sixth grade I was nearly the height I am today – 5’11”. As a result of my height bracket, I never thought I was cute. My bigness made me feel void of femininity. Now I find great beauty in my stature, but as an adolescent all I wanted was to be smaller. To blend in. To be what boys at that time thought was pretty. It pains me to think of how much time, even as a young girl, I spent worrying about what others thought of me. Feeling too tall, too big, too uncommon.
While I’ve grown to love my height, there are still days when my size feels daunting. Overpowering. Not pretty. Unfeminine. Almost eight years ago I fell in love with a man who is not only shorter, but thinner than me. It’s taken years for me to become comfortable with our size difference, and despite love and confidence and the passing of time, I still struggle with it some days.
When I was younger I naïvely proclaimed to friends that I would only date men who were taller than me. In retrospect, it seems that my insistence was based solely on my fear of feeling unfeminine next to someone smaller. According to Ann Friedman in her 2013 essay for Esquire titled “Why Shorter Men Should Go After Taller Women,” only around 4% of heterosexual couples feature a woman who is taller than her partner. When I was younger I didn’t question social norms to the degree that I do today. Why is it that, as a tall woman, society expects that I only date men who are taller than I am? Because intelligence, humor, kindness, and respect have no height, I chose to disregard the status quo.
I can’t help but feel that heterosexual men who are comfortable with taller partners are more likely to respect women in other ways. My boyfriend – who tells me how beautiful I am each and every day – roots for me in all facets of my life. We are equal partners. My boldness never makes him feel fragile, and his self-assurance empowers me as well. When we first started dating I told him that our height difference made me feel big, almost unattractive. His insistence on the beauty of my stature has fortified my confidence, but ultimately I had to learn to love my height on my own.
If I continued to let superficial norms dictate my life, I wouldn’t be nearly as happy as I am today. I am emboldened by my size. My height is a privilege and I’m grateful to have finally grown into my tallness.