I have come to realize that being tall isn’t as much an asset for a woman as people will have you believe. I have reached this conclusion after spending a good number of years as a tall person. The earliest sightings of why my height wasn’t a huge asset to me were after I turned 13 and my Punjabi aunts made it a point to comment on “What a tall (pronounced taaaal in Punjabi) girl” I was turning out to be. This was said with admiration spiked with mock concern for it would automatically narrow down my choices in the marriage market eventually.
“Oye hoye, don’t worry, buoys like taaall girls,” my nicer aunt would tell my mother who frankly did not give a damn about such things at that time. In fact, given how my eye brows were suddenly reaching out to each other and resembling blow dried caterpillars and given how a hint of a moustache had found its way between my nose and my upper lip, my mother must have realized that I would be left at the altar anyway, irrespective of my vertical growth.
At school I was the obvious backbencher and for some reason it was assumed by my teachers that people who sit at the back like tiny bits of chalks thrown at them just so they feel included. I was apparently a bright student but because the other kids sitting next to me were interested in pursuits other than education, I had to suffer the same fate as them since I was too tall to be sat in the front.
Whenever there was any trouble involving a bunch of girls at school, somehow the others would be forgotten because the eyewitness’s account clearly spoke of ‘one really tall’ girl and ‘some other’ girls. I was the first to be summoned in for questioning by the teachers and if I gave away the names of the other girls who were my partners in crime, I was a traitor and if I did not then my parents would be exclusively informed about my transgression.
Height related mental scarring continued even beyond school as my best friend Hemika’s father fondly called me Bheem. Compared to his petite daughters I was *Bheem indeed. I somehow managed to survive my wonder years in spite of the misfortune of my height. Life turned surprisingly wonderful around the time I turned 18 and I suddenly began to be told how lucky I was to be tall by random people.
My life was made easier by the fact that boys my age had finally become taller than me. It made me feel less macho. But such joys too came at a price. Unclejee types sitting next to me on a flight would use my height as a conversation starter. “Are you into modeling?” “No, I am not.” “Achha, but from your height it looks like you are a model.”
Ya right. All tall girls have only one aspiration in life, to make it as models. So why miss an opportunity to stereotype someone?
Aunties on the plane weren’t as bad for they merely expected me to load and unload their luggage in the overhead cabins.
You would think that after all these years, my tall genes might be finally paying off, but no such luck sir. The husband does not like it when I wear high heels and become taller than him. What kind of a self respecting shoe lover walks through her life in flat shoes? Beautiful shoes are almost always made with high heels that add not only to one’s height but also lend elegance to ones frame.
I keep buying gorgeous shoes and we keep arguing over it each time we step out together. I am accommodating by nature and usually bend my knees a bit while standing next to the husband at a party just so that I don’t look too tall, but any act of such consideration goes unnoticed by him.
Women don’t seem to have a problem with me being tall. But sometimes if I am at a party of mostly short men, I go through an entire evening with my knees slightly bent while speaking to them. This I do out of respect and also out of courtesy to the male ego.
Last month when were in London, a retrospective exhibition on Christian Louboutin’s life and creations was being held at the Design Museum. The husband offered to escort our little girls and me for the exhibit, much to our collective surprise. **
It was like a citadel of stilettos in there with Loub’s red-soled beauties displayed like works of art. We were in the presence of greatness. It would not be an exaggeration to say that those shoes had the same impact on my spirit that the famous daffodils might have had on William Wordsworth’s.
Any person with basic common sense would have realized that day that a good heel is as essential to a beautiful shoe as a roof is to a house. But what do you know? We were arguing about my heels the very same evening. I COULD NOT TAKE IT ANYMORE.
“I don’t do Cocaine. I don’t do pot. I am not a shopaholic. I don’t drink much either,” I told him fighting back my tears. “Can I not be indulged even a bit and allowed to keep my heels?” By now I was feeling terribly sorry for myself, that of all things, I was having to defend my shoes.
I think the point got taken that day.
So here it is, I will bend my knees till they hurt, I will tilt down my neck till it goes into a spasm, I will walk on my knees if required, I will weep till the cows come home but I am not about to stop wearing heels anytime soon. Why should I be sorry just because I am tall?
*Bheem is a famous Pandava from the Mahabharata. He was a giant.
** Famous French shoe designer.