Posts Tagged ‘Skiing’
‘Oooh, you only look like a model when you stand up…’. So one of my fellow students at Grub Street’s ‘Workshop your website and blog’ class exclaimed as I was leaving last Wednesday night. Ignoring the implication that this meant she thought I had a butt ugly face, I pondered on the comment on my height. In truth, at 6’2″ I’m at the limit of what (and it is ‘what‘) is considered catwalkable. For those of you thinking that this has got to do with finding a 6’2″ model with a pulse who can fit a size 0 being physically impossible, you’re wrong. It’s all too possible. Rather, women start to look more ungainly at 6’2″. Women, from 6’2″, look more like men. What a tragedy eh? Too tall to model!
Another truth is that, on account of my height, I’m often being taken for other people. Mainly, actually, for the other sex. Does this happen to other people? I went through a phase where B&B owners would swear I looked like their first wives. People often assume I’m French. Men often tell me I look like their wives or girlfriends. And I’ve lived my life being mistaken for a basketball player. And for a man. Any man. Roti sellers in India, trinket sellers in Honduras, two doctors in Sri Lanka, all have assumed I’m a man.
Basketball was the major mistaken identity issue in China. When I was in China I was always taken for a famous American basketball player. Random people would insist in posing with me at cultural sites because they were so sure I was a famous basketball player. This made me feel like an impostor and bothered me more than being taken for a man. I was always being asked to demonstrate my non-existent ball skills. Claiming you can’t do something is taken there for modesty of the sincerest variety, so my denials only confirmed my brilliance and when I was eventually forced to play, my fall from grace was the more acute. Netball was the game I spent eleven years playing, a game which I love but which is contrapuntal to basketball in the cruelest ways for someone trying to switch. In Netball you cannot seize the ball from another player, you must intercept it, and you cannot take more than three steps with the ball before you have to pass it. In basketball, that’s crazy.
The States distinguishes itself uniquely in terms of assumptions of my masculinity. Here I have been physically pulled out of lines for the ladies’ restroom by women behind me who have taken me for a man. Women, whom, when they realise their mistake, do not apologise, but accuse me of causing trouble. I was at Wachusett Mountain Ski resort the first time it happened. My ski jacket is a manly green and black and my salopettes (ski pants) are a manly slate grey. I had just cut my hair short. So perhaps it was my fault. I specifically gone skiing to trick people into thinking I was a man. ‘People do silly things’ the woman shouted in my face as I turned to face her. ‘They certainly do,’ I managed to reply. I could see her afterwards, still obsessed by me, pointing me out to her husband in the line for the lifts – ‘Honey, there’s the man who thinks she’s a girl. Look, look, over there!’ The next time it happened was at the newly opened Stoughton IKEA, and then after that at the Frick Collection in NYC. These times I was wearing nothing that might distinguish me as male. It must just have been my height: 6’2″, just inside model height, tall enough to be a man.
It’s not just in the States though that people feel free to comment on my body. An old man walked into a store in Workington (a small town near where my parents still live in the house I was brought up in) a couple of years ago, saw me and said to his wife ‘By eck, she’s tall.’ He did not mean it in a flattering way. And wherever my husband and I go people seem to feel free to comment on the fact I’m married to a man who is shorter than me: a full 7 inches shorter. ‘How do we manage?’ The implication is. ‘Manage what?’ Of course it’s not all bad, many people comment on me being tall by saying they wished they were my height. But it’s still commenting. Do I comment on the fact they’re 5′ 8″?
One other good thing about being tall is that it nurtures a kindred spirit-ship amongst tall people. Our friend Dwane , sadly now moved far from us to Portland Oregon, is taller than me and I *love* talking to him because a) I don’t have to stoop to hear him, making my hips ache and b) I can talk to him and know I’m in an immediate understanding with him. For, inevitably as we stand there together at a party someone will come up to us and demand to know if it’s snowing… . It’s nice to be able to stand there with a true comrade when they do.
It’s almost always women who react kindly to me being tall. Men almost always act universally badly to it. First the man looks me up and down, and then says ‘You can’t be 6’2″, I’m 6′ and you’re not two inches taller than me. You must be 6’1″‘. Actually, I’d have said he was 5’10′, but I’m not the one counting. Or, from a man who’s just shorter – ‘You must be 6’1″, I’m 6’2″. Or, from a group of men the other side of the room one will call out ‘How tall are you?’ ‘I’m 6’2″.’ ‘Nah you’re not. He’s taller than you and he’s 6’2″‘. From the taller men, with the exception of gentlemen like Dwane, I get nothing but a sizing up and then a nod of smug satisfaction. The whole exercise reveals little about anybody’s actual height but a lot of their neuroses.
So how does it make me feel? Something, as I have stopped wearing the black and green jacket. But perhaps that’s more to do with the fact being pulled out of lines is annoying than the fact I feel sexually undermined. I certainly haven’t started wearing only pink. My main reaction to the being dragged out of restroom lines is one of puzzlement. Do American male perverts wait in line? I have to say that if a man was standing in line for the women’s room in the UK, most people would consider him stupid, desperate for a dump, or free to take his turn with everyone else.
Sometimes I could do without the social burden uniqueness being tall brings: I just want to be me. Left alone. Uncommented upon. I wonder what it would be like to be of average height, to be able to be swept off your feet, to be one of those girls guys go for precisely because they can carry them over the threshold. But then I remember that then I wouldn’t be me, and it makes the point moot after all. And in those moments I remember also that everyone has their ‘thing’ after all. No one’s effectively told me I have a butt ugly face before, whilst commenting on my height, but I guess I’ll just add that to the list of ‘things you get to hear when you’re tall…’.