How I grew to love being a tall woman
Published 15/03/2006 | 00:11
Princess Diana may have been a spoiled, nutty, attention-seeking drama-queen, but nonetheless I owe her a huge debt of gratitude. For without the rangy royal, I would still be shuffling about with my feet unhappily encased in height-denying Birkenstocks.
For Diana was the first of the modern-day glamazons, a lean and leggy bird who towered over her bloke, but who refused to stoop to conquer. Tall and proud, she stepped out in dainty, pretty shoes which had kitten-heels or - shock, horror - no heels at all.
Suddenly, the high-street shoe stores were awash with chic shoe-wear for tall girls, and lofty lassies everywhere gave fervent thanks. For B.D. (Before Diana), the only flat shoes available to us were designed for women whose romantic expectations had fallen lower than their arches.
And deliciously, the night that Prince Charles went on telly to admit he had been canoodling with Camilla during their marriage, Diana pointedly (in every sense of the word) stepped out in the spindliest pair of f**k-you stilettos she could find. The message was clear: Charles may be heir to the throne, but it's tall girls who rule.
For a teenage six-footer like me, this was heady stuff indeed. I stopped growing at some ridiculously early age, ensuring that my adolescent years impersonating a beanpole were even more arduous than usual. Boys, of course, were useless, as the vast majority of them only came halfway up to my non-existent chest.
Week after week, the same scene would unfold at whatever hop my gaggle of petite girlfriends and I attended. We would be sitting slumped in chairs against the wall, when some brave soul would break away from his gang and shuffle over.
Him: Emm...wouldya like to dance? Me: Look, let me just stand up first... Him (craning upwards in appalled silence): Oh. Wouldya mind if I asked yer pal instead? Pal: Thanks, I'd love to. Emm, Lise, mind my handbag, will ya?
Needless to say, I minded a hell of a lot of handbags every Saturday night. I also wore hideous, low-heeled shoes and too-short jeans, and tried to not karate-chop every Wildean wit that passed me on the street and felt moved to quip, "How's the weather up there, ha ha?"
But to make a tall story short, eventually boys grew upwards, I grew outwards, and everyone lived happily ever after. Diana solved the shoe dilemma, and I learned how to silence a short-arsed smart-arse by examining the top of his head and asking when had he started losing his hair. (Or, if he was already bald, when had that funny rash had broken out).
I even tried my hand at a spot of modelling, and was dispatched off to a highly-regarded fashion photographer who took a pile of Polaroids and walked thoughtfully around me in circles as if I had just been pickled by Damien Hirst. "Hmmm. Great height. Face is OK," she mused. "But you'll have to lose a couple of stone, at least."
But having just acquired a few curves, I was damned if I was going to relinquish them just to ponce down catwalks while dressed like an escapee from a home for the bewildered. I could do tall, but I wouldn't do thin.
Over the years, I've learned to appreciate the enormous advantages to being six feet tall: most clothes look better on lanky frames; you can pile on a few stealth pounds without anyone noticing; you can find anyone in a crowded room; you can be seriously scary without much effort; you're ignored by all but the most megalomaniac short blokes.
Of course, there are disadvantages too: you look ridiculous in vertical stripes; you can't sneak into any crowded room without being noticed; aul' wans are always asking you to get tins off the high shelves in supermarkets; and, most significantly, most blokes are shorter than you anyway. And anyway, the tall ones prefer short women.
This last statement is part-observation, part-scientific fact. On more than one occasion, I've eyed up a tall, handsome chap, only to drop my eyes two feet and find a munchkin determinedly clamped to his waist like a barnacle on a yacht.
And British scientists have backed me up: in 2002, a study of 10,000 adults found that tall men are more sexually attractive, and are likely to end up with short women who are regarded as being more fertile. The survey revealed that women were most likely to be married and have children if they were below the average height of 5ft 3in.
"It seems that tall men and petite women are favoured in evolutionary terms, even in a modern population," said Dr Daniel Nettle of the Open University, who conducted the study.
However, what one study taketh away, another study giveth, and it also appears that tall women care less about travelling the marriage/kids route than their less statuesque sisterhood.
Recently, a study by two psychologists concluded that the taller a female is, the less maternal her personality and the less broody she feels about having children.
Scottish shrinks Dr Denis Deady from Stirling University and Dr Miriam Law Smith of St Andrew's University rejected the traditional explanation that the relative childlessness of taller women is because they find it harder to attract a partner.
"We think that tall women may have higher levels of testosterone which may cause them to have more 'masculine' personalities," said Dr Deady.
And Dr Law Smith added: "We're not saying that all tall women are ambitious and all short women just want to have babies. But our research definitely suggests an effect in this direction. Taller women seem to be more dominant, assertive and career-minded," she said.
And some short men don't seem to mind this alarming description at all. Much ado was made of the sight of 5ft 8in Mick Jagger strutting down the red carpet of the Oscars, clinging to the elbow of his 6ft 4in girlfriend L'Wren Scott.
Not that Jagger is any stranger to looking up to his partner; his ex-wife Jerry Hall is a six-footer. In an interview, former model Hall once explained, "Aged 12, I was the tallest in the school, which I didn't like, but I soon learnt that tall is, in fact, an asset: no matter what I put on, it looked good".
Likewise, Jagger's buddy 5ft 7in Rod Stewart is currently playing happy families with his big bird, the 6ft 1in Penny Lancaster. And the leggy blonde is quick to stand by (or over) her man.
"I'm fed up with pictures which make me look like a giant and Rod look a dwarf," she grumped in one interview. "He's actually 5ft 11in, whereas I'm over 6ft and always wear very high heels." Rod 5ft 11in? A tall tale indeed...
But famous men do like lofty women. At 5ft 8in, Ronan Keating is about two inches shorter than his missus, Yvonne; actor Tony Curtis is 5ft 7in, while wife number six, Jill is 5ft 11in, and writer Salman Rushdie is four inches shorter than his willowy wife, the 5ft 11in Padma Lakshmi. And at a mere 5ft 9in, Hollywood's leading mini-man, Tom Cruise, is overshadowed by both his ex, the 5ft 11in Nicole Kidman, and by his baby-mama, 5ft 10in Katie Holmes.
But overall, men still seem to be equally divided over whether a tall woman is scary or sexy. As the 5ft 8in babe Julia Roberts once remarked, "I'm too tall to be a girl. I'm between a chick and a broad".
Personally, I like men who think scary is sexy. All I can do is advise the less brave-hearted males to mull over the words of wisdom dispensed by TS Eliot: "If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?"