I Pay Rapt Attention

Notes from the Weekend (a follow-up on Tall thoughts)

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on July 13, 2009

Not that I want this blog to only ruminate on the issue of my height, but I’ve got a little more to say:

Inspired by my musings on being a Tall Woman last friday, I did a little experiment this weekend, and I’m back to report on the super-unscientific-but-interesting results. Essentially, I got a haircut Saturday morning, and decided to try dressing up for once- just to see if there was any difference in the reaction I received from random strangers on the street.

Typically, regardless of what I look like, I attract some level of attention just by virtue of being 6’2 and female. At most, that usually means some stares (usually from toddlers) and the occasional inquiry about my athletic prowess (in case you were wondering, I’m the most uncoordinated human being of all time, so that ‘potential’ is entirely wasted on me. Sorry.)

Well, it would seem that my ideas about the importance of attractiveness/confidence and its effect on how a tall woman is perceived were not wholly unfounded: on two separate occasions, I was approached by complete strangers who said, respectively that I was “awesome” for my height, and that I “received compliments for my height” and “carried it well.” What’s funny is that the only thing that changed between that day of shopping and the last time I’d been out (during which I wasn’t approached at all!) was my haircut and the fit of my jeans- my heels were the same height, and my posture was identical (I was paying attention.) I find it interesting that an objective change in my hair led to comments on my height, which clearly hadn’t changed at all. To me, this implies that tall women who “carry it well” are rare enough that looking polished while tall is worthy of comment. That’s a sad conclusion, if you ask me. After all, would you walk up to someone who’s 5 feet tall and tell them they handled their height well? I should hope not. There are plenty of people of all heights who slouch and dress badly- do strangers comment when they don’t? (I’m under the impression that no, but I could be totally wrong.)

Look, I recognize that those comments were clearly intended to be complimentary, and I’m not going to pretend that being told I was awesome by a stranger wasn’t a great ego boost; it was. It’s just interesting that being tall as a female is automatically seen as something to be struggled with, or overcome. It’s relatively universally acknowledged that for a man, being tall is a good thing- an unfair advantage, even- but for a woman, it’s always about the difficulty of finding pants or a boyfriend or “owning” your height when everyone is against you. And I’m not a fan of the victim narrative pattern, personally, so it’s hard to take those kind words without a grain of salt. If I’m successful in business in the future, will my success be framed by the fact of my height and gender? I certainly hope not- I’d like my personal story to be about more than overcoming some physical fact of life, learning to “own” myself, or whether or not my height makes me more successful because it makes me more masculine.

In other news: This week I’m going on my very first business trip. I’m inordinately excited, although I’ve been told that they’re not nearly as exciting as I currently imagine them to be. That’s ok; free lunches still excite me, whether or not they’re in the Bay Area or LA.


2 Responses

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  1. Chuck Egner said, on July 14, 2009 at 3:45 am

    Take names, kick ass, and treat everyone as you would want to be treated. If you do that, it will all work out. Just never forget the part about treat everyone as you would want to be treated. May not work in the short run, but in the long haul it seems to work pretty well. The art of the deal is kicking ass without making the kickee feeling bad.

  2. […] in peoples’ perceptions of me as was kind of posited in a recent book on being tall [spoiler: it wasn't.]) I’m going to try out this recommendation. Admittedly, I’m not a graduate yet, and I […]

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