Thursday, 2 September 2010

Tips for Tall Girls... FAIL!

I came across this article in my lunch break today, and it is the biggest load of bollocks I have ever come across. I don’t quite know what I expected, but it wasn’t that. No advice was offered (except that you can snog older guys if you're a tall girl because you seem older – WTF???) and nothing was cleared up at all. I feel very sorry for any insecure tall teenage girls who read it, hoping for an answer.

What disappointed me even further were the comments at the bottom from tall girls who are clearly not happy with their height and did nothing but whinge about finding clothes to fit. This baffles me. I LOVE being tall, and there is SO much more to it than having trouble finding clothes to fit. I even loved being tall during my awkward teen years (it was the being overweight part that made me unhappy, but because I was tall too, in my head I was somehow able to label myself as “big” not as “fat”), as a kid, and even now I love it, even when the jerk in front of me on a flight to London decides to have their seat reclined the entiiiiiiiire way (note that, in BA Cattle Class, the pitch of the seat (i.e. the distance from the part your back sits against to the pointy piece of metal on the back of the seat in front of you) is exactly one millimetre shorter than from my bottom to the front of my kneecap. Fabulous). 

Mum recently told me that when I was in kinder, a well-meaning mother of a friend suggested that they put me on growth inhibitors so that I didn’t end up too tall. I will be forever grateful that this did nothing but anger my mother (she still won’t tell me who it was, which makes me think it was someone closer, which is sad), and maybe even prompt her to hammer home that being tall was a great thing, and that I was beautiful the way I was (the former stuck; the latter took far longer to sink in). Maybe it’s got something to do with one’s upbringing, but my height has always been a mark of pride for me. I could always reach the biscuit tin (hmm… maybe there’s a correlation with the weight thing there…). I could be better than everyone else, particularly the boys, at something – being tall! And it’s a great conversation starter - I have never minded people saying “gosh, you’re tall!” (or equivalent - sometimes small South Americans will laugh in disbelief; try, in a combination of Spanish and halting English, to express how amazing they think your height is; or tilt their head up as they look at you and say “whoahhhhhh…”). It’s not an insult, it’s an observation, and eight out of ten times it's delivered as a compliment, too. It doesn’t really get boring, either, because you can mix it up a bit and say smugly “yeah, and you’re not” and then wait for a reaction. It’s great fun! I don’t even mind if strangers ask me if I play basketball, because it gives me an opportunity to bond with them – there’s nothing like a mildly self-deprecating joke (e.g. “Nope, I’m too unco”) to break the ice. Incidentally, that’s pretty much how my first conversation with Grant went!

Being tall is fabulous, and at 186cm (6’1.75”) I’m hardly a circus freak. Yes, I draw attention wherever I go, and yes, that takes a bit of getting used to, but I’ve had 28 years to do that (and one could argue that, because I hit six foot at the tender age of fourteen, I’ve been used to it for half a lifetime). I remember walking through Adelaide Central Markets with Grant in the early days of our relationship, Grant in a hi-vis shirt and workboots, and me in something a bit nicer, holding hands. This bloke stared at us, and Grant got a little bit defensive about it, perhaps as he assumed that the guy was somehow judging us, until I pointed out that most likely the guy was staring at me, not at us. It happens to me constantly. Every time I go shopping, at least three people will stare. The good thing about this is it prompts me to make a bit more effort and not go shopping in tracksuit pants, because yes, as the article says, you do become more visible. And you know what? Two out of the three will smile when I catch them staring. It’s nice and it makes me feel good.

Bizarrely, though, other tall women freak me out. I see them, and think “get out of my air space!!! This is MY zone!!!” I guess that’s testimony to how much I love being fairly unique. Being tall is awesome.

So here’s MY survival tips for tall teenage girls:

Look after your body – exercise and eat right, and don’t smoke, or drink too much. No amount of strangers stopping me at the shops to tell me I ought to be a model will help me to shift that last five kilos and tone my thighs and stomach – that’s up to me. The healthier you are, the better you feel about yourself and the more you enjoy life. Healthy doesn’t mean thin, it means feeling good, and I have personally found that the better I eat and the more I exercise, the more energetic I feel. Yes, it often coincides with weight loss, but the good feelings are because you feel more alive, stronger, fitter, and confident because you’ve achieved something for your own wellbeing.

Take heart - the boys will catch up one day, and when they do, the taller ones will make a beeline for you. But don’t discount men who are shorter than you, because you’re unnecessarily cutting out a large number of wonderful, lovely guys, like my man, who is a couple of inches shorter than me. It turns out that it’s not relative height of your partner that makes you feel comfortable with yourself as a woman – feminine, if you will - but, rather, how masculine he is. And in the long run, you will have a distinct advantage over the other girls, because in the first place you WILL be noticed, and in the second place, you are more likely to attract more confident men. Be patient and don't settle for second best.

Finding clothes to fit is more difficult for tall women than for some other (but not all) women, but it’s not the end of the world, and I haven’t spent a single day (involuntarily) n@ked as a result of it. Clothes come in standard sizes and fit very few people perfectly. Tall girls struggle, but so do larger girls, short girls, athletic girls, girls with generous mammary Gifts from God, fat ankles, no ankles, no necks, skinny legs, no b00bs. Suck it up. It’s your body. It’s part of you, like it or not, and you’re not the only one who struggles with it. So don’t struggle against it – make it work for you.

You just have to learn which brands and styles work for you, and in some cases, alterations that work for you. Always, always dress to your shape, not to the fashion of the day, even if it means shopping at stores targeted at older women. I, for one, discovered that JAG Jeans almost always stock a style with a large hem on it which can be taken down and give you an extra 2-3 inches. If you find a pair you love, go back and buy a couple more pairs because it’ll save the trauma of hunting for new jeans for another year or two. If you’re a bit shorter on money, Jeans West makes extra-long jeans, and Target makes their pants in three lengths, and the long ones are more than long enough.

I have the most trouble with tops, and, traumatically, spent my overweight teens years in the late nineties when T-shirts that exposed the belly were the clothing du jour. But eventually I realised that you can buy a long singlet from Cotton On for $5 and put it under shorter shirts in the name of abdominal modesty and self-preservation. Done. You may also have trouble finding dresses with waists to fit, but the secret there is either to wear a separate skirt and top, or to buy slightly looser dresses with a sash around the waist which you can tie at whatever height you want. As far as skirts go, aim for knee-length ones. If you go for long ones they will invariably sit mid-calf and make your legs look fat, and, unless you have deliciously toned pins, ¾ pants will do the same thing for you (as a side-note, I have a deep-rooted dislike for ¾ pants, possibly founded on a childhood spent in trousers that were too short).

I offer no consolation for tall girls who also have large feet – I’m an 8 ½ - 9, which is quite small for my height – but don’t be afraid to wear high heels. Just make sure you wear ones that are comfortable, because with extra height comes extra weight on the ball of your foot. Novo shoes makes pretty strappy sandals with low, wide heels that are relatively cheap. There are plenty of flat boots out there. Even “old lady” brands like Easy Steps and Hush Puppies make surprisingly fashionable footwear these days, and who the hell cares if your friends think it’s funny – you’ll be walking easy at the end of the day, and they’ll be soaking their feet and buffing their corns, and at the end of your working life, you’ll still be able to get about easily while their deformed feet will more or less have crippled them. And ballet flats have come back in during the last five years, and can be very, very pretty, classy, cheap and comfortable. (They can also be the reverse if you buy a pair that require breaking in (like my awesome purple patent leather Steve Madden ones, with leopard print lining), but once they’re broken in they are soooo comfortable.
Look after your mind. It's probably more important than looking after your body, because it gives you the strength to do what you want with your body. Your best friend is yourself, and having a happy and healthy relationship with yourself will make you feel less awkward about being tall when people stare. Don't berate yourself for being different; embrace the difference that makes you special. Read heaps - it's fun, it's cheap, it's educational and it lets your imagination take over. Don't let anyone tell you that it's nerdy or uncool, either. One of the coolest people I know has a lot of dorky hobbies - he's a whiz with computers, he plays with model trains, and he grows old-fashioned facial hair and styles it using moustache wax - but because he doesn't care what other people think of his hobbies, it makes it cool and gives him a sort of charisma.

My advice is simple, and applies to not just tall girls – your confidence comes from who you are, not what you look like. Step one is to believe in yourself. Yes, the clothes you wear can influence how you feel about yourself, so wear clothes that suit you, not what suits your friends. Develop your own sense of style. Dress to your shape, whatever it is. Look after your body – you only get one - as well as your mind. And be prepared to spend $120 on a pair of black pants that fit you really well and are long enough, instead of $200 on four pairs of black pants that don’t quite fit properly. Levi’s are onto it

1 comment:

  1. Love your rants, N!

    And yes, being tall is awesome. I know being tall is less difficult for guys than it is for girls, but the *only* time I ever feel it is worse being tall is on planes. That's it. And even then, you can get around it sometimes (see: exit row seats).


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