Thursday, December 12, 2013

How's the Weather Up There?

I wrote this piece about being tall in college and then reworked it nine years ago. While I have linked to it on my Blog in the past, I realized that the link was no longer active. So, I have decided to repost it. I wrote this 9 years ago! Enjoy!

In 7th grade I was about 5'7" but by the end of 8th grade, when this picture was taken with my awesome childhood friend Kelly, I was 6'2" and never really grew again.

Let me begin with the basics:  I am a six-foot-three-inch female.  Go ahead, pick up your jaw. You are shocked.  I am sure.  But wait.  Before you start up with all the questions just begging to be unleashed from the depths of your innermost soul, let me see if I can answer them for you.  Yes, I played basketball, as I am sure that was the next question preparing to fall from your lips.  The weather, by the way, is fine up here.  Oh, and I wear a size twelve shoe.  Let’s see . . . what else?  Well, my mother is five-eleven; my dad is six-eight; my brother a whopping six-ten.  (He wears a size fifteen shoe if you were interested.)  Yes, I actually found a man my height.  He is six-three as well, but he only wears a size ten shoe.  I do wear clothes so I obviously, in answer to the all too frequent question of, “How in the world do you find clothes big enough?” find clothes.  I shop and enjoy it tremendously.

I am not offended when people ask me questions about my height.  I used to be.  In junior high, and already at my maximum height of 6’3”, it got so bad, I tried to avoid going anywhere with my dad and brother.  If I got the stares, you can only imagine how much worse it could be when they tagged along. 

I have always towered over my friends as shown here with my under 5'5" friend Michelle. I learned to stick out a hip to bring myself down to their level for pictures.
But at twenty-seven, married, and officially a “grown-up”, I can honestly say that I have come to terms with my height and completely accept who I am as a person.  I have also come to realize that part of who I am is my height.  Instead of slouching my shoulders or avoiding public places, I walk tall and proud.  Walking hunched over will not change the fact that I am six-three.  While people can change their looks, their weight, their hair, and even now, with new bone-stretching technology, how short they are, there is currently no way, barring chopping off your legs below the knee, to make yourself any shorter.  I will never, no matter how much I slouch, be five-nine.  So what is the point in even thinking about it?  I understand all this now, and it is for that reason that when I am approached with a bombardment of “tall” questions, I do not get offended or upset. 

Being tall is what I am and what I am used to.  My father’s five brothers range in height from six-four to six-ten.  My cousins are tall.  My aunts are tall.  Everyone in my family is tall.  We’re Dutch (and as a side note of trivia, the Dutch are currently the tallest ethnic group alive today.)  It was not like the day I was born everyone was like, “Would you look at how tall she is?!”  They expected it, and I have never known anything but tall. 

I can still remember my preschool graduation.  After receiving their diploma, each child was picked up by our four teachers to take a picture – except me.  The teachers all knelt beside their tallest student.  I remember hearing my father squeal in pain every time he caught the top of his head on a light fixture or moving ceiling fan.  Needless to say we were always at someone else’s house when this happened.  My father would not think of placing “low flying objects,” in our own home.  I can also remember my mother and father arguing for years over a puke-green colored couch in our living room.  She wanted it thrown away because it was so ugly and worn.  My father wanted to keep it because it was seven-foot long and the only couch he had could take a nap on without having to prop his feet up on the arm rest.  Then there was the time my brother got accused of playing “hooky.”  My mother was dropping off some lunch for my father at the elementary school he worked at and had left my brother to play on the swings.  When she returned, a janitor stopped her and said, “Don’t you think he should be in school?”  She did not know how to tell him that her big boy was only three-years-old.

One of my littlest high school friends, Stephanie, took to a chair for this photo.

So as I said, I am used to being tall and being surrounded by tall.  It is not like I woke up one morning and discovered I was taller than all my other friends.  It has always been that way and it always will be.

But despite the fact that I have come to terms with my height, I still do not understand why I must face a firing squad every time I go into the grocery store or the mall or anywhere else.   Would someone even consider asking an overweight person how much they weigh?  Heaven forbid a big-busted woman be approached with inquiries as to her bra size.  Would anyone even think about asking a midget how short they are?  And yet, I, all too frequently, am approached with comments and questions concerning my height.

But I must pause here in order to make sure I am not misunderstood.  The point I want to leave with my audience is not that I have some deep emotional problems concerning tallness that I need to get to a counselor and discuss.  I do not want people I know to be afraid to ask me questions either.  If you know me, you know I love to talk, and that I do not mind talking to people I know about anything, even my height. 

What I want to get across instead is that we, as responsible individuals and people who are or will be attempting to raise responsible children one day, need to understand that there are polite ways to handle things, as well as not so polite ways. It is called tact.

I was in a museum one day and a little boy approached my husband and said, “I don’t mean to be rude or anything.  I was just curious as to how tall she is?”  My husband told him and then carried on a conversation for a few more minutes.  That child was raised by good parents who taught him how to  be polite.  But when a child says, “Oh my gosh that girl is huge!”  And the parents smile and nod, they are not raising their children correctly.  I encourage you to be a responsible individual and raise your children to be responsible as well.

A good example of the rudeness I have encountered occurred a few weeks ago as I waited in line at a restaurant.  A couple and their two little girls were waiting in front of me.  As I walked in the door, they not only stole a glance at me (as most people do) but decided to turn all the way around and face me as I waited to place my order.  The mother then, to my amazement, began talking to her daughter about me as if I was not there.  She said, “Do you see how tall that girl is?  She’s taller than your daddy.  Do you think you would want to be that tall when you are grown up?  I betcha she plays basketball because she is so tall.”  I was beyond words as I was forced to stand there and watch their conversation take place.  I tried to avoid eye contact, but she was talking at me.  What could I say?  Where could I go?

Our State Championship Runner-Up Basketball team in high school (1994). I was always back middle!

When I hear a child, say,  “Oh, my gosh Mommy.  Do you see that big girl?”  I unrealistically expect their comments to be followed with a polite apology from the parents and a whisper to the child that you do not say those things in front of others.  I do not think I should have to hear, “Well, yes she is tall, isn’t she Johnny?  I betcha she plays basketball.”  This is usually followed by the adult stopping to ask if I do play basketball or how the weather is or how in the world I find shoes.  I politely answer all of their questions and then find they often feel the need to tell me about their little niece who plays basketball for some school somewhere and who is really good and a little on the tall side too. 

Maybe I am too nice.  Maybe that is the problem.  Maybe when they ask me how the weather is I should smile, look down upon the top of their head, spit, and say, “Wet.”  Maybe when they ask me if I play basketball I need to say, “No.  Actually I’m a gymnast.”  Or “No.  Actually, I’m a horse jockey.”  Maybe that would get my point across.

But I do not do that.  Instead I stop and talk to the kids and tell them my life story and my family history and answer all of the questions that the adults pose.  All the while I do just as my dad used to do, and still does, showing them the utmost of respect and courtesy (at least to their face).  I have learned over the years that these people are not trying to be rude.  They do not see being tall as a bad thing.  And for that reason they do not see it as rude to approach with me a slew of questions. 

But when you get right down to it, who wants to talk to a complete stranger about their personal life?  I have no problem when someone I have recently met, work with, go to class with, or see every day in the cafeteria, asks me about my height.  They know me.  But if you are never going to see me again, is it really that pressing that you have to get your inquiries off your chest as I am checking out my groceries?

I want to tell the world, on behalf of all the tall people, to ask away; ask whatever is on your mind.  But please, be nice to us.  We have feelings.  We are real people despite how tall we are, and your stares and rudeness do, occasionally, hurt our feelings.

Because if the world was responsible and polite, I would not have had to give my dad a t-shirt for his birthday last year that said, “I’m 6'8".  Yes, I play basketball.  And the weather is fine up here.” And my brother would not have to wear a hat that says, “six-ten.” 


crazystegmamaof4 said...

(just wrote this on fb but thought it'd be better said on the blog :)) Love this post! It will be a great piece for your daughters to read as they grow tall (mine is almost my height now and she wants to be taller--wears heals whenever she can). Tall is the new cool...though I always thought it was cool growing up. Way to be proud about it and educate people!

Anonymous said...

This is good -i think tall has always been the "cool" and that's why people felt they could ask...where they wouldn't ask about other not-so-cool things! I could never figure out why tiny girls wanted to be taller!

Janet Wolford said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. This was great! Thanks for sticking up for tall girls everywhere. Loved it!

Julie said...

Well said, Wendi. Trust me, my short family can relate in an opposite sort of way. And yes, my daughters did gymnastics.