I am a tall lady. Absolutely massive. When I was wee and my Mum read me Bill Peet’s Huge Harold she would point at the rabbit who grew so enormous he had to leave town and sleep in a barn, his ears poking out the windows and his feet hanging out the doors and she would say: “Look! It’s you!” I am Huge Harold and I’m going to tell you what it’s like for those of us on the verge of hanging half out of a barn.
As a tall lady you stand there in any given room all gangly and huge, jeans about an inch too short, the length discrepancy and resultant ankle nakidity hidden by boots worn over the jeans. Sleeves bunched or rolled up because long sleeves become ¾ length and ¾ lengths become weird T-shirts. Or maybe you’re wearing no sleeves whatsoever, just letting those mile-long tubes of bendy flesh protrude from the edges of some manly broad shoulders, afraid to take up swimming lest they get bigger. Awkward and built like Xena and probably about to knock something over. At 6’1 this is me. And I am lumping every female over 5’10 in this with me because solidarity and sisterhood and something.
Things are hard for my people. Those of average height should check their privilege when sailing through a doorway with ease and little head trauma. At 6’1, many doorways in the UK (and colonial listed buildings in Australia ie. all those ones I worked in) do not give adequate clearance for a head so far off the ground. Add shoes to this and you are banging your eyebrow/s into shop awnings all around town.
The shoes available to us in our freakish above-average sizes are always hideous. Even if the design is passable, nothing stretched to canoe-like proportions will ever be anything other than terrible. Nice lady shoes for big units like me are like shoes in front of a funhouse mirror. 60% of my mid-teens were spent crying on the floors of shoe shops because the only shoes available were a selection from the men’s side of the shop or those beige lounge shoes that old ladies have grafted to their feet at 75. Many of my people give up and live a life in Dr Martens. We get them in various colours to suit the occasion.
(If it’s an especially dressy occasion there are always those shops in Soho where the drag queens go although these occasions need to be strictly evening-only because outside of RuPaul’s Drag Race sequins in the daytime are probably a faux pas although I’ll have to check with Willem.)
All of which is to say that once we get into the room in which we are going to stand around being awkwardly dressed elephants among men, the following comments are neither welcome nor new to us – my people, my homies, who we will for the time being imagine to look uniformly like so:
These things are said either immediately or blurted out just at the end after everybody’s silently congratulated themselves for not saying anything to the tall girl who knocked over the lamp with her butt or accidentally mocking the person with the speech impediment or asking the person with the weird scar on their face how they got the weird scar on their face:
1. “You’re tall!”
Am I? The most common Pokemon of all the things said to tall girls seems to imply that the tall person doesn’t realise they’re tall, that they must have just assumed shopping for jeans was as painful and fruitless for everyone else in the world.
A note on jeans:
Aside from a brief period in 2006 when Urban Outfitters – the place that takes current trends and exaggerates them so comically you have a breakdown in the changeroom while hanging mostly outside of an item of clothing you don’t even know the name for, like a barn, like my Mum was right – there seemed to be a thing for rolled-up cuffs. Generally, as jeans sizes go up they get wider, not longer, because according to jeans manufacturers everybody is 5’2 and the only variant is the width of ass. Anyway, all this cuff thing meant to me and my 37” legs is that I could have jeans that were, to me, “slightly too long” which really just meant that actually they grazed my ankles for the first time in my 6’1 life and were probably the right length, although I still hid them in my boots because I didn’t have any other shoes (see above).
But the point was that I knew.
A note on jeans specifically for tall girls:
No. Don’t even talk to me about Long Tall Sally. I do not know why they are designing their products to fill the “dowdy transvestite” niche because even the transvestites I know are not dowdy. I don’t want to look like Mrs Doubtfire and neither do my legs.
2. “What’s the weather like up there? Ha ha.”
Ha ha. I can see your bald spot from here.
At a book launch some years ago across a sea of actual bald heads I saw one blonde lady with some crazy glasses on. Sarah McIntyre and I waded towards each other, two sized-up-in-Photoshop heads bobbing above a crowd, and now we’re pals because that’s what happens when you stick two tall women in a room for some reason. Even passing a tall stranger in the street, I will eye her up and check her feet for heels and if she’s wearing flats we nod at each other. (No one ever said we had to do this but we do. Do tiny people do this? I have no idea.) In a party situation this extends to i. inquiring where she buys her jeans, ii. upon noticing she is wearing tights, not jeans, inquiring as to the state of the “thigh webbing” and asking where she got those tights, and iii. Are her feet encased in something other than Dr Martens? Where did she get those shoes? And so on and so forth. All we want to do is find things big enough to put ourselves in.
At Sarah’s own book launch years later I was the only non-children’s-book-industry fraud on the guest list. When asked what I was doing there I replied, quite truthfully, that it was my job to make Sarah look human-sized in photographs.
The italics on this one are audible and always said by what turns out to be the biggest asshole at the party. All they are saying is: YOU ARE COLOSSAL. LIKE EVERYTHING IN THE GREEK BIT OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM. HUGE AND COLD AND PROBABLY PACKING A TINY PENIS.
Which brings me to my next point.
For two (very) brief periods in 1999 when Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo was in the cinema and then again in 2000 when it was new on DVD, people used to shout out car windows a la “that scene in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” (pictured below) “THASSA HUGE BITCH”.
That’s not a nice thing to say to a lady who lies awake at 3am thinking: “Iggy Pop wears a dress better than I wear a dress.” But nobody remembers your movie anymore, Rob Schneider. No one remembers that guy having to pick up cigar ash with his anus. No one remembers every line to your stupid movie but me.
But it’s not all terrible.
I have won arguments simply by standing up.
At gigs I can always see better than everybody else providing nobody sticks their skanky girlfriend on their shoulders (although there was that one time I was so nice I let enough short girls go in front of me that I backed myself into the fire escape and fell ass-backwards out of the venue).
And you get to meet a lot of tiny old ladies in Sainsburys which means you learn new expressions. “Excuse me dear, could you give me a fist of garlic? I want a nice big fist.”
And you learn other things, too. You learn that will never find a fist big enough to please an old lady.