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Stop Telling Me To Love Being Tall

Although I’m 24 and have lived in New York for over two years now, I still have a Florida Driver’s License with a photo from 2009. I was 16 then, and my hobbies included things like writing poetry at Starbucks while waiting for my mom to come pick me up and complaining that I would die alone. I had side-swept bangs, didn’t know how to use makeup, and was 6 feet tall — as I have been since I was about 14. I didn’t like being tall. I hated it. And, frankly, the idea of being being beyond the 5-foot range was truly problematic to me. Impossible, even. Unacceptable. All this is to say: If you look at my Florida license these days, it still says 5’11 under height.

To my credit, I’m not that far off from 5’11 in reality. The last time I got an official measurement, the doctor said I was 5’11 and three-quarters. Obviously, at 16, I chose to interpret this stat as an opportunity to stay 5’11 forever. “I mean, he didn’t even mention 6 feet,” I thought to myself, triumphant.

The thing about being me and being tall is that it’s not just that I shot up one summer (do people actually do that? why is that an expression?). I’ve always been tall. In my mind, I basically came out of the womb 6-feet tall. Thankfully for my mom, this was not actually the case. But it may as well have been in my mind. Tallest one in my class, taller than all the boys. “Do you play basketball, volleyball, do you row?”  “You know, models are tall.” And the one phrase that I was told about being tall year after year by friends and family and random grocery store cashiers: “You’ll love it one day.” 

Of course, as any teenager is, I was skeptical of most things adults had to tell me, but especially comments about my height. Whenever people would remark about just how tall I was, I would shrink back. I wanted to flatten myself and blend into the wall, turn to jelly and disappear into the carpet. I’m sure most people would sense this, so they would inevitably follow it up with the, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll love it one day” speech. As if if I didn’t actively adore my height one day, I had somehow lost. Of course, the concept of loving something one day that I saw as such a never-ending, life-altering annoyance seemed like a massive stretch. But something in me held onto the promise, anyway. If so many people were telling me, it had to be true, right? I needed it to be true.  

As I got older, I stopped writing poetry at Starbucks. I traveled and met new people and wrote more. I got a job. I got busy. I built a life that had nothing at all to do with me being tall. Suddenly and not so suddenly at all, my height just didn’t seem as important as it once had — isn’t that how most teenage insecurities work? But the less I cared about how tall I was, the more I realized that that thing I was told all my life never actually happened. I’m 24, still about 6 feet tall, and I don’t think about my height that much at all anymore. But that doesn’t mean I love it. 

The thing is that despite what I told myself growing up, being tall means nothing at all about anything. It doesn’t mean I’m an all-star basketball player, or that I want to play beach volleyball with you (literally never ask me this, I beg of you). It doesn’t mean I’m a model. All the qualifiers that adults gave me over the years to get me to like being tall — well-intentioned as they were — were pointless. People always seemed to feel compelled to find something tangible and good to attach my height to, as if it wasn’t good enough for me to just exist as is. No one ever told me, “It’s just not that important,” when the truth is that it isn’t now, and wasn’t then. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to be a model, or an all-star athlete when I was growing up, I always thought I had a shot at loving this frustrating, awkward aspect of myself — and that, to me, seemed like a weird sort of success. 

I now realize that this feeling — the loving of this physical part of myself I once hated — is because, for women, there is this strange conflated pressure in loving yourself, perfecting yourself, and also perfectly loving yourself. But if every day I have to navigate both “perfecting” myself, per societal standards, but also perfectly “loving” that which I can’t perfect per those same absurd standards, then I will always fail. There is no winning in that at all. 

All of this is not to say I hate or even dislike being tall — because I don’t, not anymore. But I don’t love it in the way I love being able to make people laugh, or being able to write something that someone can relate to. It just is. I’m tall. But if that’s the most remarkable thing about me, or something I need to qualify with any sort of achievement or success — even if that success is weird, performative self-love — then I’m doing something wrong. And if my height is still the very first thing you feel the need to comment on when you meet me, well, then you’re doing something wrong, too. 

  1. Kelley santiago

    July 25th, 2017 at 2:49 am

    This is fabulous!!! As if the first thing one comments on is your looks. I am on the opposite end of 6 feet barely 5… The you are so cute . Little . How tall ARE you.. one day you will like it because you will look young for your age!
    Well written it just is. Like the color of your eyes your hair. It is not the you inside .

    This made me smile! Thanks for sharing; and writing . And I will never ask you to play volleyball!!!

  2. Megan Podwysocki

    July 25th, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Well, it’s been a fairly long time since I’ve enjoyed reading a blog post (or rather since I’ve actually read one through and through…). You do have a gift to write relatable posts, plus one can’t help but smile and feel better when reading you. Thank you Olivia ! I’ve been following you on Instagram for quite a while now, your Stories are my favorite – and your blog doesn’t disappoint !

    Lots of love from Paris, from a girl who dearly misses not-so-magical-New-York
    xxx

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    October 31st, 2017 at 6:11 am

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  4. Paula Clark

    June 27th, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    At 13 i was 5ft, at 14 I was 6ft, as you say it was not easy! But I eventually stopped at 6ft 2in. And now at the age of 55 with 2 sons of 6’5 and 6’6 i am ok with my height!
    Be proud of who you are and don’t let your height define who you are.

  5. Sarah

    June 27th, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    I love your conclusion. (And the whole text of course)

  6. Linda

    June 28th, 2018 at 4:21 am

    I’m 56 years old and reached 6’ tall at age 13. I can honestly say that I never have, and never will like being tall, but it is who I am an I can’t change it. You hit the nail in the head, especially your last sentence. It’s their problem, not ours. Thanks you.

  7. Olivia Muenter

    June 28th, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Thank you so much! I’m glad you can relate 🙂 Also, do you mind sharing where you found my article? I am now noticing it got a lot of traffic last night and I’m not sure where it’s coming from!!

  8. Hannah

    June 28th, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    Long tall Sally have shared your post on FB

  9. Olivia Muenter

    June 28th, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Ahhhh. Thank you so much 🙂

  10. Anna

    June 28th, 2018 at 4:38 am

    This is literally as though I sat down and wrote it. Same thing, 11 3/4 and would never consider myself near 6 ft as teen. Now 26 and do not care nor do I love it. No modeling and zero hand eye coordination. Thank you for a wonderful post. Made me feel less alone.

  11. Olivia Muenter

    June 28th, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    Thank you so much for this kind comment! Do you mind me asking how you found this essay? I am now noticing it got a lot of traffic last night and I’m not sure where it’s coming from!!

  12. Charlotte

    June 28th, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Love this. Im 25 and I’m 6’3 living in England. Grew up with people always feeling that they could comment on my height! Strangers is the store and on the streets would come up and always say "gosh you are tall for a girl". Thanks!! Like I don’t know that already. I’ve learned to accept that people will always comment no matter where I go. But like you. I don’t love my height. I accept it!

  13. Olivia johnston

    June 29th, 2018 at 10:35 am

    From a 48 yr old exactly the same height as you and also called Olivia (!) I relate to this soooo much .

  14. Julie

    June 29th, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    Thank you for this. I’m 5’11 and never played sports, I’m terrible at volleyball and spent my youth wearing pants that were too short. When the first long length pants came out I was beside myself. Today, I do like being tall, or I guess I’m just used to it now. I feel useful when someone needs something off the top shelf. 🙂

  15. Michelle

    June 29th, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Beautifully said 💕 I am 48 years old and 5’11.5” 😊 I never liked being tall, but as I grew up and into my own – and found clothing that fit! – I just am me. I get caught off guard sometimes when someone comments on my height now days. It’s just not an issue, even to my dear husband of nearly 26 years who is a couple inches shorter than me.

  16. Dominique Dowd

    October 25th, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Came across this wonderful blog and since as a tall woman 6’2” recently getting a position with
    a large public relations firm and yes no other woman comes close my height and in fact maybe a few guys are equal in height, but for the most part barely come to my shoulders and I have resigned myself to wearing flats which I hate with a passion. The first thing I do when I leave the office is slip on my heels. My boyfriend is
    6’1” and embraces me wearing heels and has no
    problem with what goes along with being with a
    taller woman.

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