Being Tall Sucks

Don't ask me about it

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 29: Lee Pace attends the Thom Browne Womenswear Spring/Summer 2020 show as...
Pierre Suu/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Nicholas Russell
The Weather Up Here Is Fine

I looked up some quotes for this piece on being tall. Sigourney Weaver once said, “Being tall has a major impact in general. It takes some courage to be as big as you are — to live up to it and not be intimidated by the graceful tiny people.” There’s something quite dignified and comforting about this idea to me, a person who is 6’7”: that being tall is a matter of bravery and not obnoxiousness. Now, all respect to Ms. Weaver, she’s 5’ 10” and half, a tall woman to be sure, but not quite Tall Girl, bullied-in-high-school-but-in-a-cute-Netflix-way tall (6’1” and a half). The three inches make a difference. There is an upper limit, a ceiling if you must, where height goes from being noticeable to being distracting, both for yourself and for everyone around you. It becomes a part of your personality, whether you like it or not, because that’s what people want from you.

We live in a height-obsessed world. It’s true that there are some gods, like Lee Pace (6’5”) or Gwendoline Christie (6’3”), who walk beautifully and ethereally above us. But they’re merely working with what they’ve got, and what they’ve also got is money which makes it much easier to exist as a person generally and as a tall person specifically. No flying in coach for Lee Pace.

Lauren Marino’s book What Would Dolly Do? quotes the legend saying, “I walk tall. I got a tall attitude.” I have no idea what Dolly Parton’s talking about. A tall attitude is knowing you’ll have to duck getting up from a public bathroom stall so your head and shoulders don’t jut above the partition like some kind of embarrassed giraffe. A tall attitude is knowing that no high chair is high enough. Bowling shoes might as well be clown shoes. Guys who are 6’0” cannot resist telling you so. No one has a good joke about being tall and playing basketball. Girls who flirt with you are extremely obsessed with comparing the size of your respective hands. Flying is a very specific and well-known form of torture for tall people, but so is giving yourself a concussion bumping your head on a doorframe.

People ask you to find their friends at parties like you’re a watchtower. Everyone will hate you at concerts for standing in front of them even though you showed up earlier than they did. You and the other tallest person in any given room will weirdly gravitate toward one another after long enough, like you guys can’t help but make things weirder for everyone else. The scene in Elf where towering Buddy showers in a tiny little elf shower, huge laughs from your friends, who all look meaningfully your way. The special, humiliating kind of dance you have to do to find pants or jackets or sweaters that are long enough, forget if they even fit you properly. If the world loves tall people so much, why is my life a constant parade of indignities?

The fact is the world loves tall people up to a point, and that point falls roughly three or four inches below the top of my head. I’m just above the average NBA player height (6’6”). If you ever see me on the street, do not ask me how tall I am. You have this information here, now. It’s 6’7”. If you see a really tall person in public and think to yourself, “I wonder how tall they are?”, assume 6’7”, forever. Please refrain from asking them, as I am asked, what their parents fed them as a baby or if, yes, of course, they play basketball.

Any of these very commonplace occurrences could be considered endearing or soul-crushing, depending on the day I’m having. What is more likely to tip me over the edge is when someone tells me their brother or husband or ex or son is also 6’7”. It’s not even that this information is pointless; pleasant people say meaningless nonsense everyday and often, it’s just because they feel awkward. It’s that there is an expectation of familiarity, almost a desperation to be in on the joke. Like they’ve somehow bucked up the courage to do what no human being has ever done before them, which is to comment on my height. I’m 6’7”, ma’am. I don’t know what else to tell you.

Adam Driver, who is 6’2”, once said, “I wish I could pull shorts off. My wife tells me that I just can't. But that's okay. I'm tall, I can do other things, like change light bulbs.” How I wish I could tell him to live his wonderful half-man, half-horse life and just put the shorts on! We can’t all be Milo Ventimiglia leaving the gym with his sculpted thighs showing. Some of us have to make do with the meat on our stilts and life is, I’m sorry, too short to worry about these things.

And while changing light bulbs is nice, it is a slippery slope to increasingly complicated, seemingly endless height-related tasks. Never forget the Las Vegas Target, circa 2018, when I helped one woman reach a pillow on the top shelf and subsequently helped five other women after her. Which, after the banal but endearing “Fuck you’re tall,” leads to another common remark: “They should hire you here!”

I do want to say, for the record, that being tall rules in other situations. I can see your bald spot before you even know it’s there. I have witnessed some of the juiciest, most dramatic text conversations peering over people’s shoulders on the subway. I have personally looked Michael Shannon (6’3”) in the eye twice because we were the tallest people in the room. And you meet some amazing, hilarious old ladies who hang onto your arm and tell you filthy jokes about their tall dead husband. But the joints start to hurt early, you can’t ever go anywhere without being noticed, and there’s the whole heart condition thing.

There are perks to every height. The further up or down you go, the more you have to carve out a way of existing that works for you specifically. Not in a cutesy self-love way either. The world is not made for people close to or far away from the ground. Apparently, humans are, on average, getting taller. Great. My problems will be your grandchildren’s problems one day.