I wanted to be short when I was younger. No, seriously. I wanted to be the 4’6”, missing-growth-spurt 7th grader who walked down the middle school halls in her size 3 Converse, maybe wearing jeans from the Macy’s kids section. It had always been a dream of mine, I even asked Santa Claus to stop me from growing one year.
Now don’t get me wrong, Younger Me knew being tall was cool. I was the designated projector-starter, ceiling fan initiator, and box-carrier of the classroom. I could always be seen regardless of where I was standing and called on first when my hand was two feet above everybody else’s during science class. I could reach all the way across the table for scissors and could kick that pencil that rolled off your desk even if it was in the next aisle. You could say I was talented.
It got even more exciting outside of school: I was the only one that could hit the sign hanging from the mall ceiling and was in charge of buying my friends’ PG-13 movie tickets. One time in 7th grade someone asked if I was in high school, could you believe it?
But as people’s growth spurts began to wind down, and the annual shopping trips were bringing home fewer and fewer clothes, I was still growing. Eventually high school started and I was 5’10”, while my closest friends were far below me in the 5-foot lands. This is when being tall wasn’t too much fun anymore, and the only thing that grew short was my patience. I was still taping posters without using a chair and grabbing boxes off the top shelf, but now my height was an object of criticism.
“Too tall, get in the back.”
“Heels really aren’t the best choice for you tonight.”
“Tall girls like you should be playing basketball or volleyball, not dancing.”
That is when I learned that being tall wasn’t exactly a remarkable aspect of my personality anymore. I slipped into a state of shrinking into myself whenever a projector screen needed to be pulled down or hiding in the back of the group during PE because – even though I was tall – I wasn’t really that good at basketball. I dreaded the regular general admission concert in New York City, as all I could expect was the all-too-familiar shoulder tap. I was intimidatingly lanky, and people strayed from such a drastic height difference, never considering that maybe I wasn’t the standoffish giant they expected me to be. Everything went from “Perks of Being a Tall Person” to “Cons of Being Labeled.” I was the tall kid, certainly not the ambitious kid; I was the quiet kid, not ever the witty kid. I was classified and put aside because of something out of my control and left completely up to genetics. But being tall was so much more than the absence of a step stool.
I was that tall girl you knew in high school, the one with the slightly intimidating height you were always hesitant to talk to. Turns out I wasn’t really that intimidating. In reality I would go out after school to babysit little kids. I’d entertain for hours and hours with the soul of a child, and squeeze into pillow forts meant for 3-year-olds. I may have come off passive or even yielding, but I was just using the same patience as when I taught those after-school preschool dance classes. I was probably completely different than the small personality the school had conditioned me to have, but trust me – I had a personality bigger than the BFG’s. While Younger Me slouched in class and wished vainly that reverse-growing was a possibility, I see the truth in what my height really is: a part of my identity.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.