I had to watch it, even though I knew it would make me cringe. Another American high school movie with the same-old storyline, Tall Girl is a new film from Netflix. The underdog, 16-year old Jodi, feels like a freak and stays in the shadows because she is 6ft1. In a corridor lined with lockers, her feisty friend gives her a pep talk as another student walks pasts sniggering: “How’s the weather up there?” Been there, heard that. I was never a shrinking violet but it still made me think about my experience of growing up tall and made me wonder what dizzy heights my daughters will reach.
Everyone always tells me that I’m lucky to be tall. I bet they’re thinking about the view in a crowd not the legroom on flights. I do like being able to help when I see someone on tiptoes trying to reach the jars on the top shelf in the supermarket. Never assume though that long arms or long legs give you an automatic advantage in sport. I am clumsy and can’t catch; don’t pick me for your netball team.
Mr and Mrs Tall
We are often told our girls are bound to be tall, as if we hadn’t worked that one out for ourselves. My husband smiles politely and replies: “Yes, they won’t be jockeys.” I am 6 foot and he is 6ft7 so our kids are kind of likely to be on the tall side. I didn’t actively go out searching for a man who made me feel petite but when I first stood next to him and looked up, I got butterflies and his height probably played a part. I do enjoy wearing heels without towering over my other half.
As you get to know someone, you find out all the things you have in common and for us that included memories of standing in the back row for every school photo and never being able to find shoes or clothes that fit. To be fair it’s now easier for me than it used to be; shops don’t always stock longer length trousers or Size 9’s but there are more options to order online.
As a teenager all I desperately wanted was to blend in not stand out but that’s tricky when you have to buy your jeans in Topman.
I flicked through frumpy specialist footwear catalogues and my Mum tactfully suggested finding out where drag queens buy their shoes. When clompy loafers were in fashion I chose a chocolate brown leather pair in the River Island men’s department, convinced they looked just the same as the women’s version. I will never forget the mortifying moment I was sitting next to a boy I really fancied and my friend kindly pointed out that we were wearing exactly the same shoes. That is one game of Snap you do not want to win.
It is usually socially unacceptable to pass comment on someone being different in some way. We tell our children in hushed tones not to stare at someone who is obviously obese and we would never dream of asking them how much they weigh. However, these rules don’t seem to apply to us. I have lost count of the number of random strangers who have asked my husband how tall he is.
We have a height chart at home like many families do. It features Mr Tall from the Mr Men and it was a Secret Santa present he got at work. A really sweet gift as we had just become parents but also clear what that colleague thought of first when they pulled his name out of the hat.
This brings me back to our girls and in particular the youngest. She has just turned 4 which is just as well as no-one believed me when I told them she was 3. I always worry that people will expect more of her because they assume she’s older. There was a self-induced pressure to stop using the buggy earlier than I needed to as she looked too big it. If she has a public meltdown I fear that passersby might tut disapprovingly thinking she should have grown out of that behaviour. Everywhere we go, almost every day, she hears comments and conversations about how tall she is for her age. After her first day at preschool, her teacher told me she was very confident and made them all laugh. It was so refreshing. I never want her to be remembered as ‘the tall girl’ when she is memorable for so much more. I hope however tall they become that my daughters always feel happy to hold their heads high.
Tall people aren’t defined by their height and they don’t need to be reminded of it. If you do feel the urge to ask that age-old question: “Do you play basketball?” Be warned. You may just get the ultimate retort: “No, do you play mini golf?”