Afterthoughts: Tall People Problems
It’s lonely at the top.
Iwas renewing my license at the DMV on fort Street Mall when a man motioned for me to take a seat on the bench near him.
“How tall are you?” he asked. Just under 6 feet, I said, still a little sad I never crossed that threshold. He was at least 5 inches shorter than me and seemed impressed, as if this is something I should be proud of, that I worked hard for and deserve to celebrate.
It’s not on purpose, of course, though my friends in elementary school used to ask me how to get taller, or how to run faster, my only athletic attribute. We’d spend recess sprinting across the field as I coached them on taking longer strides and pumping their arms, you know, like they mean it.
In Hawai‘i, I’m an anomaly, at times heads taller than my friends. It makes dating rough, especially around this time of year when everyone seems to be in a relationship. Many women prefer guys who are taller than them, but that pool gets a lot smaller when you’re approaching 6 feet yourself. According to the CDC, Hawai‘i has the shortest men (and women) in the nation. I’m 9 inches taller than the average Hawai‘i woman and 3 inches taller than the average Hawai‘i man, and that’s according to self-reported data, which is most likely exaggerated. Plus, there are so many other qualities I’d want in a partner, the odds of finding someone who meets them all and can change the ceiling light are pretty slim, unless I move to Alabama or Iowa (average male height: 5 feet, 11 inches).
illustration: kim sielbeck
It’s unfortunate when I see really cute Fighting Eel dresses that look great on the petite crowd but turn into HR infractions on me. Long bus or plane rides where I can’t stretch out are torture, and the stall doors of the Republik bathroom barely come up to my chest when I’m standing. I literally have to duck to avoid hitting my head in the Waterfront Plaza parking garage, while my friends don’t have to think twice about it.
My height is the first thing people notice about me, even though I stand out in other ways here, sometimes as the only white person in the room, the only person with hazel eyes, the only one with naturally blond strands of hair. I’m a lefty who puts butter on my rice and can’t hold chopsticks properly. Aside from the few years I was most known for wearing fluorescent orange high-top sneakers every day, I’ll always be described as “the tall girl” no matter where I go.
But being tall can be great. I’m easy to spot in crowds, I can see over everyone at concerts, no one mistakenly walks off with my size 10 slippers at house parties, I can grab things that fall behind the couch without having to move it. It’s fun meeting other tall people and trading stories of the lowest shower heads we’ve had to crouch under or the shortest guys we’ve ever dated.
It can be discombobulating running into anyone over 5 feet, 8 inches. The tallest women in the country are in South Dakota, and they only average 5 feet, 5 inches, which is maybe around my chin. I stick out everywhere. But that doesn’t mean I’m taking off my heels.