Growing Up Tall
by H. Beth Crane
How old were you when they first took you for older than your age?
My, my, such a big baby, and she's only three weeks old. She looks much older than that.
It got worse as you grew older.
Tall kids in the back. No, no, only the little ones get to sit near the school mascot. Get in back. This is a class picture, we want to be able to see everyone.
Or how about:
Aren't you too big to be trick or treating? You're too big to act like that. Do you play basketball? My, my aren't you big (they never said tall -- did they?)
Or your peers:
How's the weather up there? Gosh, you're such a giant. I feel like a midget next to you. Don't you know flood pants are out? It's too bad three-quarter sleeves aren't in, since all your shirts look that way, anyway. How do you get shoes that size? At a boat shop?
Being tall wasn't much fun when I was growing up. You were automatically assumed to be in charge when a group of you got caught misbehaving. You were automatically treated like an adult when you were still a child. And you were told not to slouch, stand up straight, be proud of your height. Get real, only a giraffe would want to stand head and shoulders above everyone else.
Maybe for guys it was different. But tall girls were never chosen for pom-pon or cheerleaders. Tall girls rarely got asked to dance at the high-school dances, and never twice. Tall friends and I spent most of the dances realizing that the only guy taller than us at the dance was dancing with the smallest girl in class. How could we compete? We were awkward (not having gotten use to the size we were blessed with), shy (when people call you a giant you start to feel that way), and young (although it was rare anyone treated us this way). And on top of it all, you just knew everyone was laughing at you behind your back.
Somewhere around my seventeenth year, things began to change. Not overnight, you understand, but change was happening. Then college beckoned on a new horizon, tall had a different meaning.
You're tall enough. They won't card you. Give her the money. She'll buy.
Boys were suddenly closer to my size, and I no longer "towered" over them, even though most of the time, I wore flats to the dances. I acquired more grace (or at least a semblance of it). I began to break out of the shell, and feel like a "normal" size human being. And most importantly, I began to mature (not grow-up, mature).
At some point I realized that the people looking at me weren't secretly snickering at how big I was. Nor thinking I didn't fit in. Sometimes, they weren't even seeing my height at all. They were actually seeing me. How wonderful.
Somewhere around twenty-three I realized that height instead of being a distinct disadvantage was the best advantage there was. Clothes are designed for taller people. Studies showed that taller people are assumed to be more responsible, they tend to earn more and they tend to go farther in a corporation. At twenty-three, this was important. I had to find a job.
Once the job was secured, and I returned home to the same town I grew up in, I found that the high school crowd, still viewed me the same way. Tall, awkward and shy. I didn't fit in anymore. Not that I ever really had, but if they hadn't changed I had, and it was time to move on. The Tall Club seemed like a hell of an opportunity. All Tall people. No preconceptions.
It was a revelation. There were obviously some ex-cheerleaders, and ex-pom-pon girls, but more likely the people I met were like me. They'd grown up in some place, a little too tall, when average was the requirement. A little awkward when grace was needed. A little out-of-place when everything has its place. People like me.
Our cuffs may still be a little short (who wants to pay extra for "tall" clothes all the time?). Our shoes may still be used as boats, planters, fill-in-the-blank when we're not wearing them. One size doesn't fit all. The weather is just fine up here. No, we don't all play basketball. Yes, we are quite tall, aren't we? Yes, we can be intimidating at times, can't we? And yes, leg room in a car is more important than trunk space.
Thank you one and all for showing me, I wasn't the only one.
You do all those things with the Tall Club? How tall do you have to be? Geez, I wish there was a Short Club. You're always telling us about having such a good time. Another dance? Didn't you guys just have one?
© 1992 by H. Beth Crane. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.