“When you’re six feet tall in a 5’6” world, there’s no hiding place for you—you’re a FREAK… Longing in vain to be loved but always rejected because you’re TOO TALL TO LOVE.”
I’m glad I didn’t come upon this comic strip when it first appeared in 1972. A freak? Different in a way no girl should be? That was me—on the verge of starting middle school and just barely under six feet tall.
My elementary school graduation still haunts me as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. My classmates marched up to the stage in boy-girl pairs according to height. The procession began with a diminutive couple who nearly pranced their way through the auditorium. And so it went, adorable pair by pair, until all my classmates found their places on the stage.
Except me. At 5’11 (and three-quarters), I walked from the back of the auditorium to the stage steps alone. I’ve never forgotten that experience. As I took my place among the graduating sixth graders, I couldn’t help but realize that I lived above the throng, in rarified air—but not in the good way.
In other words, a freak.
In the years since then, my height has (forgive the pun) grown on me. In my 20s, living in Manhattan, I learned to use my vertical advantage whenever I could: to flag a taxi during rush hour… as a straphanger on a subway or bus… and best of all, to enjoy free concerts on Central Park’s lawn without pushing my way to the front.
Flash forward 30+ years. This summer I let my 14-year-old son attend a standing-room-only concert at a local outdoor venue. A big deal for a kid—and for his helicopter mom. Our agreement was that he’d enjoy the show from up front near the stage, while I lurked far enough back not to embarrass him. For 90 minutes, I watched the back of his head rhythmically bopping to the beat of a rapper who seemed inordinately fond of Starbucks’ frapuccino, among other beverages. And for 90 minutes, I reminded myself how wonderful it was to be tall, and to have a son tall enough to stand head-and-shoulders above the crowd, so that his mother could pick him out easily.
By Donna Giachetti
What physical traits made you stand out was a kid? What role did they play in forming the person you’ve become? We’d love to hear your thoughts.