I was six feet tall by the time I was 13. I don’t pretend my experiences are universal to all tall women, but other children teased me, and adults treated me with a strange mixture of pity and compassion. It took a lot of years, but now I can honestly say that I have finally laid the teasing the rest. However, some of the adults’ comments still irritate me because they continue to be repeated, even far into adult years and at the workplace! Here are some comments that are meant to be compliments or expressions of envy that are truly hurtful or rude to tall women and why they are so.
“Models are all tall women!” First of all, never say this to a tall woman if you estimate her weight above 120 pounds or she is not strikingly beautiful. Even as a young child, as I was growing so tall, I was broad, muscular, and plain. Certainly not ugly, but I heard this comment enough to wonder if it wasn’t a sarcastic slight. Do not ever say this to a tall woman who does not look runway-ready. Because I have no interest in being emaciated and silent as models are, known for only their beauty and little else, this is an insulting thing to say. If a woman were very short, would you tell her lots of carnival workers are petite? No! Also, this comment is not even true. Runway models are usually 5’9″ to 5’11”, which is shorter than me, and many catalog models are of average height in order to fit sample sizes. Stock and photography models must be shorter than their average-height male counterparts. Sure, there are models of 6’0″ and beyond, but it isn’t the norm. Just don’t do it. This comment is demeaning, partially untrue, makes you look oblivious and rude, and should be struck from our lexicon.
“How’s the weather up there?” Are you serious? I am a whopping five or six inches taller than you. There are no atmospheric changes of note. To point out the fact that not only is a woman tall, but you consider her to be so gigantic that her world-view is different than yours is sheer ignorance. Tall women are people, too! We see the world and experience it in nearly the exact same way anyone else of similar attitudes and beliefs does. Would you ask a petite person how it smells down there? No! That is so rude! So is the weather question.
“Wow, do you play basketball?” No, do you play miniature golf? I’ve always preferred not to live up to any stereotypes, thank you. Many people do not realize that tall women are sometimes clumsy, especially if we were not involved in sports or dance at a young age. I am woefully clumsy, and I know I am not alone in this among my tall female counterparts. No one ever asks about the Honors classes I took, but everyone wants to know if I played sports where tall women excel: basketball, volleyball, swimming. First of all, if the answer is yes, you will be validated into thinking this is acceptable to ask. Second, if the answer is a curt no or an equally thoughtless comeback, you will feel insulted as well. It’s a no-win conversational gambit. The only time this might be acceptable to ask is if you see a tall woman with a sports lapel pin, ring, team windbreaker, or sports equipment- then it can be a friendly conversational aside. Other than that, stop using it.
“I would Love to be so tall!” This one inspires such rage I am usually unable to respond at all. You’d like to pay 180$ for dress pants specially-ordered with a 37-inch inseam? You would like to spend hours searching for shirts that will accommodate such a long torso and broad shoulders? A woman of average proportions has no idea how much tall women spend on their clothing and how much discomfort we suffer on buses, planes, and in cars. I bruised my knees so badly wedging myself into a plane seat that I was sore for my entire European vacation, and in pain. You would not love to be tall. You would view it as an expensive inconvenience and would soon grow tired of being treated like a freak-show by dimwitted, rude folks such as yourself! Can it.
Lastly, do not ever compliment a tall woman on her legs unless you are dating her. It is perhaps the creepiest of all possible situations, especially in the workplace. Tall women are all too aware that there is a subset of men who are aroused by long legs. I want a man to notice me as a whole, not because I stimulate some fetish he has. I once had a man at work ask me why I never wear skirts and “show off those lovely legs” completely at random. I was sickened. Even if a tall woman looks drop-dead gorgeous, you compliment her hair, earrings, or outfit. Never her legs. Would you compliment a shorter woman on her ample breasts? No! Also, do not leer. I gave up on skirts in my teens for precisely this reason.
In short, the worst thing you can do when talking to a tall woman is to point out that her body is the first thing you noticed and are interested in or curious about. By avoiding these unintentionally creepy, rude, or thoughtless remarks, your taller lady co-workers will all thank you and think much more highly of you. Engage in normal conversation and you are saying you view her as normal and valid herself, and that is all people want, to be treated as an equal and not as something different or unusual.