After sitting at a registration table for the entire duration of my work event last night, I finally stood up to say goodbye to our guests. As I walked into the rotunda where we were hosting a reception, an older gentleman approached me. I assumed he wanted to share kind words about the event. However, instead of expressing thanks, he simply told me that I was way taller than he expected. “Are you Jewish?” he asked me skeptically, with a hint of judgment in his voice. I wish I could say that I have never heard that one before.
Yes, I’m a Jewish girl. Yes, I’m 5 feet 11 inches tall. (Fun fact: My birthday is also 5/11.) Yes, these things don’t often go together and combined sound like the title of a “True Life” episode.
Ever since I was young, people have approached me about my height. I always wonder what people hope to gain when they tell someone that they are “so tall,” as if a tall person would have no idea that this was the case. Although people would rarely tell someone that their nose is huge or that they are a bit on the chubby side, for some reason, when it comes to height, the majority of people seem to have no filter. It’s as if they just discovered something extraordinary and they just have to announce it right then and there.
When I was in middle school, I was close to the height of an average-sized Jewish 20-something, which was rare amongst my peers. Still, was it really necessary for people to act as though I would fit right in to the lineup of the Chicago Bulls? Not even a little bit, yet people did.
A large portion of people I have come into contact with also love to poke fun at my height. My campers, friends, and even my mother have told me that my doppelganger is the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man. There is some validity in their comparison; my arms flail like crazy. Even so, I have been called a tree, a giant and Yao (as in Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6-inch Chinese basketball player).
A few years ago, when I was visiting Epcot, I was walking around minding my own business when Donald Duck dressed in a festive sombrero motioned to me that I was of above average height, as if I needed to be ridiculed by a guy in a duck suit (a great one though, no disrespect to the most magical place on Earth). Couldn’t he just take a picture with me like everyone else? (Please ignore the fact that I was 20 at the time. Thanks!)
Seeing that I vocalize that my spirit animal is a giraffe, I don’t necessarily consider these comparisons and gestures a bad thing. Sometimes, everything is in good fun. However, the line between harmless teasing and taking things too far can often be a slippery slope.
I haven’t always been okay with being tall. It is understandable, as it does have its disadvantages. Everyone asks me what sport I play, which usually yields an answer of some combination of laughter and awkward hesitation. Although I’ve attempted to play almost every sport imaginable, my asthma and awkwardly long limbs have proven to be a not-so-athletic combination. With that being said, I still somehow walk faster than almost everyone I know. The struggle continues.
I’ve also hit my head in my fair share of weird places, such as American Eagle airplanes (they are just so small!), Israeli tunnels (I seriously almost gave myself a concussion in the City of David), and even chandeliers at restaurants (so, so embarrassing and still one of my favorite stories). Beyond that, I struggle to hear my friends in bars. It’s not my fault that I am higher up than the rest of the group. I could create a whole collage of pictures in which my head has been severed off yet everyone else’s remains unharmed. Anytime I am stuck in the middle seat of a cab, it looks something like this.
Everything from dresses, shorts, and pants run a bit short. Although I really do like heels, I barely wear them because I am self-conscious of making myself even taller. Don’t even get me started on the horrors of shoe shopping and accomplishing the ever so difficult task of finding myself a suitable, future Jewish husband over six feet tall. A girl can dream.
When the Buzzfeed article 17 Struggles of Being a Tall Girl was posted a few weeks ago, at least 10 people sent it to me. I nodded and laughed because it was ridiculously accurate, except I have no idea what “Long Tall Sally” is and I am so grateful that this is the case.
This post is not simply a list of grievances. When it comes to the jokes, the little struggles, and the bigger challenges, I have learned – over a great deal of time – to laugh and embrace it. Although I probably will never rock five-inch heels, escape the quips, and fit comfortably in an airplane seat that isn’t the bulkhead or exit row, I do try my best to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Being tall, and coming from a religion of people where this seems to be a rarity, has taught me an important lesson. Although there are many things that people can improve upon there are some things that you cannot change. Height is one of those things. Because of this, I can either choose to hate being tall and suffer or I can accept what I was I was born with. Although this might sound like the ending to a Disney Channel Original Movie (which would really be an honor, if anything I wrote was as good as any Disney movie), I have learned to at least try to be confident about my height.
It does have its advantages: I can always see at concerts, my roommates love that they never need to buy step stools because I can reach the high shelves, and although shopping has its struggles, I never have to get my pants shortened. And as for the things that aren’t the best? I’ve perfected the “sorority squat” whenever a camera is near, I have found a new appreciation for maxi dresses (and mine never get dirty from hitting the ground) and I just need to tell myself daily that if my dad was 6 feet 4 inches, I can still marry a Jewish guy that is taller than me, right?