what not to say… to a tall person

I’m tall. Well, not freakishly tall. But 5’8″ is somewhat tall for a woman. (Two inches more and I could’ve gotten a scholarship.) You can imagine how tall I am when I wear heels. And my height didn’t come suddenly from a growth spurt in high school. I was the tallest one in my kindergarten class. I was taller than my mom by middle school. I’ve always been taller than most of my peers.

And while many people (read: short people) think being tall is a great advantage (sometimes it’s useful), it also comes with more than its share of annoying comments. Like . . .

“What’s the weather like up there?” Yeah, that ceased to be funny after the first time we heard it. Honestly. We get it. We’re so tall, we’re in a different atmosphere. Ha. Ha. We don’t go up to short people and say “hey, what’s the ground look like?” Of course not. Because that’s dumb. Just as dumb as . . . now you get it.

“It must be so nice to be tall.” Right. As compared to my other life when I was short. How would I know? I’ve never been short. But from what I’ve seen, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Yes, we can reach things on the top shelf. But tell us it’s time for a group picture and we know exactly where we belong: in the back, as one of the floating heads in the background. Tall people don’t get to be in the front of pictures unless we’re seated, and sometimes not even then. Not to mention, our height invites all kinds of stupid comments.

“Do you play basketball?” I’m not kidding; people have seriously asked me this. As if being tall somehow infuses me with the need to bounce an orange ball. Yes, I know most of the women who play basketball are tall. So? A lot of the men who play professional basketball are black. Do you ask every black man you meet if he plays basketball? Probably not. Because that would be racist and inappropriate. So take your assumptions out of the picture. Please.

“Whoa, you’re tall.” Brilliant observation. What gave it away? There’s just no good response to a statement like that. It’s the same as saying “hey, you have brown hair” or “you have brown eyes.” Yes, and? Because I’m not one of the tallest talls, this one doesn’t bother me that much. But a woman who’s a few inches taller than me hears it all the time. You can imagine how annoying that is!

So resist the urge to narrate what you see. The individual in front of you is well aware of the fact that she is tall. By commenting on it, you’ve reduced her to a height. She’s no longer the charming teacher or the hard-working mom; she’s “that tall woman.” Nobody wants to be put in a box like that.

“Are your parents tall?” Unless you’re a doctor or a geneticist, you don’t need to know our family history. Maybe you’re just trying to make polite conversation, but it’s possible you have misunderstood the word “polite.” Again, you’ve taken a human being and reduced them to a height. What do you think we’re going to say — “no, actually my parents are both barely five feet”? If we’re tall, someone in our family line is tall. That’s common sense. We’re not freaks of nature.

There you have it. Five things not to say to those of us who can see over a crowd. Treat tall people, and everyone else, with respect. It’s really not that hard.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t call us giraffes, lest we stomp on you with our hooves.

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