For years, I’ve been plagued by a fear of heights. Specifically, my own height. I was in eighth grade when I started to notice that I was different from everyone else. I grew from 5’4″ to 5’9″ in a single school year and my subsequent awkwardness was obvious. I towered over my date to the dance that year – and several more dates after that. The one place I fit in well is family gatherings. I’m 5’11” now, but I am actually the shortest person in my immediate family. I always tell people that if they think I’m tall, they should meet the rest of my relatives.
The worst part about being tall wasn’t being teased for wearing high waters or being sent to the principal’s office for wearing “short shorts” when other girls could get away with wearing the exact same style without discipline. Having “the jolly green giant lives here!” scrawled across my locker stung, but it was nothing compared to the discomfort I felt in my own skin. My height was an unavoidable reminder that I was different, and being different isn’t cool or fun when you’re a teenager who wants to fit in – or simply shop for pants that fit.
Even after I finished college, I still felt relatively uncomfortable my height. It’s hard not to be self-conscious when you walk into a bar in heels and most guys are eye level with your chest instead of your face – or won’t look your way at all because you’re too tall for them. If guys aren’t interested in me because of my height, then that is their choice, just like it’s my choice not to take an interest in guys with no job or a criminal record. We all have our preferences. I love to admire high heels, but I am so, so terrible at walking in them. I tried to make them work for me, but as a city dweller they only cramp my style (and my lower calves), so I own a wide variety of flats instead. I mean, women wear heels to look taller, and I am already tall, so instead of mourning the inability to participate in the traditionally feminine experience of wearing heels, I just accept that that’s a good thing.
Ultimately, I felt that I was faced with a choice. I could either continue to hate being tall or I could embrace it, and hating it just seemed like a waste of time. There are aspects of our appearances we can change and there are those we cannot. Little by little, I started to see the perks of my awkward, difficult-to-shop-for self. I can reach whatever I want in a store, whether it’s a can of soup at Gristedes or a pair of shorts on the tippy-top shelf at Express – and that’s a stretch, even for me. I can see over most crowds. On most days, I can walk down a crowded city sidewalk during rush hour and get where I’m going without ever being shoved to the side.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to do it in heels.