|I am tall. Some say very tall – others, too tall. By my twelfth birthday I had grown to a height of 5’11” My friends’ aunts were sure I would never find a husband. I was always the last girl to be asked to dance. On the street, I was the first to be noticed—and stared at.
Until 11 years ago, my height of 6’2”, with all its benefits and drawbacks, always seemed just part of my personal biography, which began in the 1970s in a provincial German town. Then my daughter was born. From the beginning on she was taller than the other babies. On the playgrounds of our central Berlin neighborhood she was taken to be older than she was, and other parents were quick to appeal to her sense of reason or talk about her with a mixture of respect and pity. Through her I have become aware that my story is not mine alone, but rather a collective experience.
I began researching on the internet. Why do just a few inches set us apart from the rest? We may be despised, desired, stared at… but are seldom seen simply as girls or women. Statistically, tall women earn more money and are less likely to marry than shorter ones. It shocked me to learn that many girls in the Western world still undergo high-dosage hormone treatment to slow or stop their growth. I discovered a strange sub-universe in which clinic addresses are secretly exchanged and men create websites to indulge their passions for the feet and hands of especially tall women.
Ironically perhaps, tall women as a group have been conspicuously quiet. I wondered: are we slightly ashamed?
I decided to meet other tall girls and women out there to find out what this universe of tall is all about. I realized quickly: life above 6’ really is different. Other rules apply up here. Tiiu and Michelle are successful models, but too tall for their jobs. Arianne’s mother doesn’t like her daughter’s height. Sarah is undergoing surgery to prevent her from becoming an estimated 6’3“. Lea is taking hormones which are prohibited for children to stop her from growing. Lisa is 16 and 6’6“ and could become a professional basketball player if she tried hard enough, but she would rather be a proper girl.
Through my encounters with many tall girls and women, it became increasingly clear to me that the core issue is self-determination, which we, especially, have to struggle with, since we are confronted so early with so many expectations. As a mother I needed to know: would my daughter have to go through the same struggles? How could I guide her in the right direction?
“TALL GIRLS – A Story Of Giants” chronicles my journey into the heart of tall.