In middle school, I would tie ankle weights around my feet, and hang my feet off my bed while I slept.
The idea is that over the course of the night, gravity would do its thing and stretch my legs out and make me an NBA player.
I also convinced my mom to buy me an inversion table.
She probably agreed because we all bought in on the story that taller is better.
I never grew past 5’8”.
Growing up, I was surrounded by the message that taller is better.
My relatives in Asia would point out the kids’ heights, and celebrate the ones who were growing taller.
Not that I ever seriously considered modelling, but there’s a general height requirement to be a runway model.
I mean, heck, the words tall and handsome go together in a package. How often do you hear short and handsome used the same way?
Maybe that’s why people still love Skee-lo’s “I Wish” song years later.
I wish I was a little bit taller
I wish I was a baller
I wish I had a girl who looked good, I would call her
I was like six-foot-nine
So I can get with Leoshi
'Cause she don't know me but yo she's really fine
For half my life, I operated under the assumption that height was a function of attractiveness. And if I wasn’t tall, then I wasn’t attractive.
Dating while not tall
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized that I would probably stay 5’8” forever. That’s 172cm* for you rationale non-Americans out there.
When I started online dating, I noticed that a lot of women would put 6’0 or higher as their height requirement. Apparently, this is such a common experience for guys short and tall that it’s become a meme.
It stung. But I’m proud to have never misrepresented my height, because – let’s face it – dishonesty in dating is a losing game.
It would be inauthentic to say that I and other short men aren’t disadvantaged in the dating market.
This wasn’t something I could change about myself (spare my ankles), so I allowed height to serve as a natural filter.
If a woman wasn’t interested in me based on my height, then I wasn’t going to convince her otherwise.
And to be honest – I don’t blame women for this. I have preferences for what I find attractive in a partner, and those attributes might seem just as arbitrary to someone else.
A little bit of validation goes a long way
I wish I didn’t need external validation to integrate this, but dating women taller women helped me get over my height.
In college, my girlfriend was an inch taller than me and even more so wearing heels. She looked great, and never made me feel less than.
A few years ago, I dated someone who put on her online dating profile: “I don’t care how tall you are.” That was refreshing.
Feeling how little my height mattered to them, how it was a non-issue, non-factor, not even something that came up when they thought of me…that was freeing.
The fact that height didn’t matter to them, mattered a lot to me.
At the end of the day, all we remember is how others made us feel.
Seeing my shorter friends succeed in life and dating was also gave me real life data points I couldn’t ignore.
In my experiment doing lots of travel, I realized that the physical world was built for me.
- When I slept in hostels, I could crash on tiny beds.
- Airplane seats, car seats, and public seating generally fit me.
- I never have a problem finding clothes that fit.
Now that I write this, I realize how much of a privilege this is. I’m almost ashamed of how much shame I use to have about my height.
I’ve since largely forgotten about my height, in life and dating.
I feel settled in my skin.
Oddly enough, the taller someone was, the taller they would think I am. The shorter someone was, the shorter they thought I was.
- 6’0 people thought I was 5’10.
- 5’4” people thought I was 5’6.
I also observed that amongst my female friends and those I’ve dated before, the shorter the woman, the taller she’d want her man. I’m talking about 4’11 friends who want a 6’0 guy, compared to 5’6” friends who were fine with 5’8” guys. Maybe it’s the polarity?
Someone should conduct an experiment on this.
Heightism is very real. One doesn’t need to look much further than how little people are treated in media.
To treat someone a certain way because they’re short is to literally belittle them. It is literally a low blow.
If you’re short and you act like an asshole, then you have a Napoleon complex. If you’re tall and act like an asshole, then you’re just an asshole. Oooh, are you overcompensating?