As a tall woman from a family
of tall women (all 6’0″ or taller), I won’t lie, being tall is pretty
great. You can see over other people in a crowded room, you can reach items on
high shelves, and when you’re a teenager, people always assume you’re older
than you are, so it’s easy to sneak into R-rated movies. But being tall isn’t
all catwalks and game-winning volleyball spikes – there are some unique
challenges that come with a few extra inches. While I would like to suggest
that you walk a mile in a tall woman’s shoes, chances are her shoes wouldn’t
fit. Instead, just read on and commiserate with the struggles common to tall
women everywhere.
and sleeves are never long enough

Shopping is the worst. When
the average American woman is roughly 5’3″, that means the average-sized
clothing at your local mall is designed to fit a woman who is at least six
inches shorter than the shortest woman I talked to for this article. Or, on the
high end, a full foot shorter than my sister, who’s a gorgeous 6’3″ tall.
Even ‘long’ lengths of pants often come with inseams just 34-inches long. Which
sounds like a lot… unless you’re over 5’10”, in which case those ‘long’
pants just amount to slightly longer high-waters.

Granted, things have gotten
better in the last 10 years, with some brands offering clothing specifically
for tall women (GAP and its affiliated stores, for example), and other
specialty stores opening that carry nothing but clothing for tall women (for
instance, Long Tall Sally), but most tall clothing is still limited and has to
be ordered online. This makes shopping a challenge that all too often results
in frustration and poorly-fitting purchases. If you’re an especially tall lady,
check out Nordstrom Rack for cute, reasonably-priced, larger-size shoes (they
carry up to size 14) and The Buckle for jeans with long inseams – they often
have brands with inseams up to 37-inches long.
shorts, and dresses are always too short

The flip side to pants and
sleeves that are never long enough is that shorts, skirts, and dresses are
often obscenely short. Or, as Chauniqua Major, a 5’9″ tall PR rep based in
Florida says, “They fit like underwear!” Of course, you can always
opt to purchase “knee length” apparel that ends up hitting you
mid-thigh, but that cute mini dress you thought would look great for your
office holiday party? Probably not the best bet if you want to keep things even
remotely professional.

are a wedgie nightmare

Being tall doesn’t just mean
your limbs are longer than a chimpanzee’s, it means your entire body is longer,
including your torso, which pretty much means one-piece anythings are out of
the question. Bathing suits, leotards, and rompers all provide a fast track to
the wedgies and camel-toes of your worst possible nightmares.

LaRayne Kayfes, a 6’0″
woman in a family that includes seven women all over 5’10”, shared that
bathing suits, in particular, have been a challenge, “I even resorted to
making mine and my daughter’s in the past. This includes ‘serious suits,’ as I
swim most days.” And Kayfes isn’t alone. Nicole LaBonde, a 5’9″
professional dancer, choreographer, and instructor said, “At 5’9″ I’m
not extremely tall, but still tall, and very thin. Dance clothes, like leotards
and tights are almost impossible to get to fit. I need a small for my waist,
chest, and hips, but if I got a small size it would never fit my length.”
This is kind of a problem when you need to wear these items for a living.
placed at neck-height

When you stand in a shower and
the showerhead is staring you straight in the face, you know you’re about to
have a lame bathing experience. Instead of stretching comfortably under a
stream of hot water, sudsing up your hair like you see in commercials, you end
up bending, squatting, and contorting to fit your head under the stream. It’s
uncomfortable at best and painful at worst, with Amanda Medau, a 6’1″ mother
of four from Houston adding, “I’m always squatting in the shower and even
hitting the shower ceiling sometimes.” Yeah, that’s never fun.

and counters are too low

Whether you’re a man or a
woman, if you’re tall, you’re basically a giant living in a world of
miniatures. The reality is, the average American man is still just 5’10”,
so anyone taller than that is kinda screwed when it comes to the proportions of
standard furniture and construction. Desks, chairs, counters, tables — most of
them are designed to be ergonomically-appropriate for the average person. When
you’re above average, your body has to adapt to fit the average, which is
usually pretty uncomfortable. “My desk at work is terribly uncomfortable.
I’m always cracking my knees on it whenever I try to cross my legs. Adjusting
the chair height doesn’t help because lowering the chair to accommodate my legs
puts crazy strain on my arms and neck to type,” says Medau.

Brie Pierquet, a 5’10”
social worker married to a 6’5″ man concurs, “At restaurants
sometimes I look like I”m sitting at a child’s table. Just the other day I
commented to my husband that the table we were at was not intended for tall
people.” The struggle is real, folks.
inevitable sports-related questions

I’m almost 35 years old. Even
assuming I played sports in college (which I didn’t), it would have been well
over a decade since I last played sports in a competitive league. And yet, two
weeks ago I was stopped in the grocery store by a random dude who asked,
“Do you play volleyball?” Uh, no.

The question isn’t mean or
harmful. It’s fine, even. But if you answer, “No,” or even, “Not
in a long time,” it’s always met with a confused disappointment, or even a
follow-up question like, “Oh, not volleyball… but basketball, right? In
college?” with such a weird hopefulness that almost necessitates some
variety of “yes,” to help confirm whatever stereotypes the person has
about who or what a tall woman should be. I certainly don’t go around asking
short men if they’re gymnasts or jockeys, so it’s bizarre that the opposite
takes place so frequently.
a world of shorter men

Across the board, the women I
talked to for this article all love their height. They’re confident and
self-assured. They sincerely enjoy being the tallest person in most rooms
(especially when wearing heels), but that doesn’t mean the dynamic of being a
tall woman in a world of shorter men isn’t sometimes awkward. Take, for
instance, Alaina Johnson, a 6’0″ business owner from Dallas, who shared,
“I was once at a business meeting where this guy stood on a chair — stood
on a chair — to give me a hug. Granted, he was a shorter man and he was poking
fun at himself, too, but we were at a business meeting.” And at a business
meeting, there’s no good response to such a strange action.

Then there’s my sister, Mary
McCoy, a PhD student and social worker who recounts many semi-combative
conversations with men who think they’re taller than they actually are,
“Inevitably, a guy who’s is maybe 5’11” will round up his height to
6’2″, then find it necessary to spar with me when I insist that no, I
really am 6’3″, and he’s the one with the measuring problems.”
And finally, there are some
cultural expectations that can actually interfere with a chosen career. As a
professional dancer, LaBonde says, “It’s difficult for me to partner in
dance. In heels I’m six feet tall, and most guys who dance, for whatever
reason, are under six foot. Being partnered with someone shorter is difficult and
aesthetically, not pleasing.” But it’s not just partnering that can be a
challenge, “Today a director told me I was too tall for a role. It’s not
the first time I’ve heard that, either.”
of leg room on flights

If you think the leg room on
flights is bad when you’re an averaged-sized person, just think how much worse
it is when you’ve got the long legs of a gazelle. Johnson took a flight to
Europe a few years ago and said, “I rode coach. I swear the airline had us
in there like sardines. I basically had to keep my legs in the aisle the whole
time, and gave the death stare to the person in front of me. That ish was about
to get real if she leaned her seat back.” So yeah, be kind to tall people
on flights. Think about offering your aisle seat to a long-legged passenger
stuck at the window, or simply don’t lean your seat back. We really do need
those extra two or three inches of space.

bun problems

Aside from the fact that messy
buns easily tack a couple extra inches onto a tall woman’s height (not a bad
thing, of course), those extra inches can actually cause some problems. Megan
Semanski, a 5’10” educator in Jefferson, Oregon says, “I can’t wear a
messy bun on the top of my head and drive in my car. My hair smooshes on the
roof of my car and has actually gotten closed in the moonroof a time or
two.” Whoops.

group photo poses

When you’re a full head taller
than some of your friends, group photos becomes a weird experience. Do you
crouch? Half squat? Bend over or lean in? Kneel? The best solution is never
clear, and it always looks awkward. Take this photo of me and two of my
friends, for instance. It’s like the Sesame Street jingle, “Which one of
these is not like the others?” Even crouching and leaning in still has me
towering over my friends.


In polling and research
conducted by tall women’s clothing brand, Long Tall Sally, a full 76-percent of
tall women experience back pain. In my somewhat less-scientific research and
polling, I’d say that number is closer to 100 percent. I’ve literally never met
a tall woman who hasn’t had back pain. Whether that’s because long limbs and
levers lead to more opportunities for muscular imbalances and injuries, or that
tall women are more likely to slouch, sit at non-ergonomic desks, or fail to
exercise their cores sufficiently to help prevent pain, the result is the same:
sometimes debilitating bouts of complete misery. I feel for you, girl, I’ve
been there. And as an exercise physiologist I can also attest that regular
exercise, particularly exercise that targets the core, back, and shoulders, is
particularly important.

unable to escape “the conversation”

It’s not just questions about
sports that arise when you’re tall, it’s questions or comments about height, in
general. Whenever you meet someone new, or you just make small talk with
someone at the store, the subject of height inevitably arises. My
sister-in-law, a 6’2″ psychologist and mother of two relays the challenge,
“I’m very glad I’m tall, and I find myself hoping that my daughters will
be, too. I cannot imagine having had that hope back in middle school. The
primary lingering issue is that my height is such a regular part of
conversations with folks. Most of these conversations aren’t negative. They
just happen so frequently and people seem oblivious to how often I hear
questions, observations, or compliments about my height. Height guessing is the
most annoying, and compliments are the easiest to manage, of course.”

She clarifies that these
conversations have become less challenging over the years, “The license
people give themselves to comment on a child’s body is ridiculous! People seem
to police themselves better when talking to an adult, in general. It’s been
decades since someone has idiotically tried to touch the top of my head. That
was the worst.”
At the end of the day,
conversations are bound to take place. Any woman who stands taller than the
average man is unusual, of course, and height is a part of our identity. That
said, don’t be a moron. Tall women hear about their height from everyone they
meet. Try striking up a conversation about anything else – it’ll set you apart
from all the other people who think our height is the obvious icebreaker.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.