Deciding not to put up with the height shite any longer has been inneresting. 18 months’ Northern Europe offered a break, I suppose, from the constant commentary that has been part of my life uninvited since I was 11 or 12 and now I see it so sharply and can’t stand it anymore. It’s not so cruel I think as the more dangerous kinds of discrimination and prejudice people encounter, for example on the basis of race. But its essence is the same. You are different to me; what I am is the norm; that gives me the right to comment uninvited and pass judgement on your qualities that are not behavioural, are simply genetic, that exclude you and you can do nothing about.
“How’s the weather up there?” reminds me that to some it’s surprising to realise we are both living in the same shared world. “You are both too tall!” as the girl at the fruit shop blurted this afternoon invites only one answer, “Too tall for what?” and it’s simply not convincing when she smiles encouragingly, comfortingly, and assures me, “Good! I meant it’s good!” No, you didn’t. Any more than the oft-repeated “Jeez, you’re a big girl! How tall are you?” is persuasive when followed with, “No, no, it’s a compliment!” I get that great height brings with it presumptions of power and influence, particularly for people who are still responding, in their hearts, every time they look up at someone, the same way they felt when they were tiny and everyone taller than them was a teacher or parent or adult and thus had mysterious power and authority over them. But the compliment, if there is one, is something like, “You are enjoying an unearned advantage, you have a natural wealth that I don’t share in, I am envious, your life must be somehow easier and more pleasurable because of it and I imagine you coasting into things I have to work for….”… “You are different from me, I resent that.”
I can’t imagine tackling some stranger with their back turned to me on the bus with a question like, “Jeez, you’re a big girl, I’m not sure I’ve really ever seen a girl as big as you…. How much DO you weigh?” And then persisting when they say they’d rather not say, with “Oh, no – it’s a compliment.” I learn a little something about our rudeness to each other every week of adulthood. And strangely I have no regrets about not getting to know the very short, very bald guy who came up to me on the dance floor when I was all lissom and loose and had forgotten my height, weight, age, address, ambitions, and day job and only the sweat held me down beneath the floating plastic ceiling of the music and smiled greasily and said, like he was making me an offer, “I’d like to climb you.”