Picture the scene: I’m 15 years old and standing in the school assembly hall, waiting to be sorted into height order for our annual class picture. Since the previous year, I have shot up in height. I mean, really shot up – to almost six feet, to be exact, a whopping seven inches taller than the average UK woman.
I am painfully aware that I have never kissed a boy at a disco (they all come up to my shoulder; no one wants to slow-dance with the Incredible Hulk). The Topshop mini-kilt I long for is, on me, nothing short of a belt. And to make matters worse, a girl in my form has recently stood on a desk at lunch break to proclaim that, thanks to my fast-growing frame, I am ‘probably a man’. Of course, my worst fear is confirmed: I am placed at the end of the line, the tallest person in my year.
For as long as I can remember, I have been taller than average. As I come from a family in which nearly everyone is six-foot-plus, I never thought that my height was unusual until I was a teenager – when friends came over to our house and I realised they were too short to reach the microwave. I spent my school years tugging down my skirt instead of rolling it up, bending as much as I could in Facebook photographs and leaning artfully against the wall at parties, hoping to shave a few inches off my height.
Recently, Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, famously lanky at six foot three, was cast to play Princess Diana in the final two seasons of The Crown. The news swept Twitter, with comments like ‘yes, tall girls’ domination’, ‘we stan our tall queen’ and ‘thank you Elizabeth Debicki for being tall!’ peppering my timeline. Debicki is a great actress, and I’m thrilled that someone statuesque will be playing Diana who, at five foot ten, was not short herself. But every headline that day focused on Debicki’s height. When you’re a tall, it’s often the only thing for which you’re noticed.
Being six foot has its advantages: I can see over people’s heads at gigs, I can change lightbulbs without a ladder, I’m not so easily intimidated by men at work and I can reach the top shelf in Tesco. But it’s not all a (long-legged) walk in the park. People feel universally at liberty to comment on, mock and question my height, even crossing pubs to tell me – newsflash – that I am ‘like, really big’. I doubt they’d do this to tell me that I am, say, brunette.
I can’t buy skinny jeans on the high street and nearly all miniskirts are out of the question – unless I want more cars beeping at me than when I try to reverse park. It’s a myth that you get upgraded on planes (you don’t) and that your friends will give you the front seat in the car (they won’t). And don’t get me started on dating. In my experience, most men would rather take out a girl who is petite and looks good in heels than one who can borrow their trousers.
It’s taken me years to finally make peace with my height.These days, I’ll even wear platform shoes to the pub – if towering over the bar (and everyone else) invites conversation, so be it. While I still wish my height wasn’t the first thing that people notice about me (and I’d be prepared to bet my Topshop mini-kilt that Elizabeth Debicki does, too) I’m not too fussed. And hey, if you ever need a lightbulb changed, you know who to call.