Back in the day when yours truly was just getting comfortable in my own skin circa the mid-90s, I realized something which would soon exasperate me to no end, but which I found pretty cool at the time: I was taller than every other girl in my class and as tall or taller than some of the boys.
I thought it would keep boys from picking on me, but instead some of them (the runts) were intimidated by me. All the girls secretly envied me, telling me wistfully that I could be a runway model, given my height and (stick) figure.
WHAT THEY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT WAS THE TEARFUL FRUSTRATION OF A TEENAGE GIRL WHO WANTED TO LOOK CUTE IN CLOTHES THAT WERE ALWAYS TOO SHORT EVERYWHERE—SLEEVES, LEGS—OR HUNG LIKE A TENT WHEN GOING UP A SIZE.
What they didn’t know about was the tearful frustration of a teenage girl who wanted to look cute in clothes that were always too short everywhere—sleeves, legs—or hung like a tent when going up a size. It was incorrectly assumed that I must be an expert at basketball and volleyball, but when the cat was out of the bag, I would hang my head in shame.
In school plays and dance recitals, I was always in the back “so the others can be seen.” Strangers meeting me for the first time would glance quickly down at my feet before returning their gaze to my face, convinced for a second I must have been wearing skanky stilettos or the chunkiest of platforms.
It’s even worse when I take trips to India to visit relatives, and I’m taller than the average Indian male, who is around 5’6″. I’m taller than both of my parents, all of my girlfriends, and most of their husbands.
I’M TALLER THAN BOTH OF MY PARENTS, ALL OF MY GIRLFRIENDS, AND MOST OF THEIR HUSBANDS.
So you can see why I’m feeling frustrated all over again for my elder daughter Pumpkin, who is almost 3 years old. She has inherited her tall height from me and her few-inches-taller-than-me father, and people who see her automatically assume she’s much older than she actually is, which doesn’t seem like a big deal–except she’s not “caught up” developmentally.
At the park:
(Talking to another mom while Pumpkin plays with a random little boy who is only two-thirds her height but about 2 years old)
“Your daughter doesn’t even climb yet?”
“Uh, no, she’s only 18 months.”
“Wow,” she says. “Wow.”
Storytime at the library:
“We have a kindergartner here today!”
(Me looking behind my back) “Uh, what?”
“She’s in kindergarten, right?”
“First grade? Second..?” She sees the skepticism on my face and falters.
“She’s two-and-a-half,” I say, looking her straight in the eye.
The librarian stunned, asks, “Really? Two-and-a-half?” She shakes her head. “What are you feeding her?”
And the most annoying one of all:
“Why doesn’t she talk in full sentences yet?”
(Tearing out fistfuls of hair) “Because she’s not as old as she looks, dammit!”
Pumpkin’s pediatrician warned us at her 2-year checkup to ignore the other parents who would mistake her for a child a year or two older. At the time we laughed and shrugged it off. We were so young and foolish. Not only is it annoying, but at times truly hurtful when others think my child is “slow”, when honestly, she is so bright it makes me want to burst with pride.
I guess she has a few more years of this, and then pretty soon she’ll be intimidating the boys like her mama!
(Or playing the tree in the school play. Ugh.)
*The title of this post is adapted from the song title, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by The Hollies
This article has also appeared in Women’s Web. To read it, click here.