Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Uses of Tall

I am six feet tall and have never played basketball. It's not that no one believes me when I tell them this, they just don't understand. They look at me as if I've just told them that I have 25 billion dollars in savings that I've never spent.

"But why?" they ask, looking bewildered.

"Because I don't like basketball. I play softball, I like that."

"Why would you play softball when you could be so good at basketball?"

"Because," I say slowly. "I do not like it."

And most of them say, "So?"

This gets me every time because I thought I'd just put this discussion to rest. So I say, "So...I don't like the game. Why would I play a game I don't like?"

"Because you're tall!"

"Ooooooh," I say, as if this is something I've never noticed.

I also have never understood why people think that being tall would automatically make me good at basketball. Have these people ever stood next to a goal? And if they have do they not notice how MUCH taller it is than them? These people talk to me as if I can take the ball, step over other players like ants and then drop the ball through the hoop. Because my skill is that I am enormous. No, no. I have to aim and shoot, which is hard to do when half a dozen short, stealthy people who are all angry that I'm taller than them are trying to make me fail. I suppose that aiming, shooting, and trampling short people are things I could improve on, I just don't want to. I prefer softball because I like to hit things with sticks and run.

The other thing I haven't done with my height which disappoints the general public is modeling. I don't know if tall men get the modeling comment, but I've gotten that one since the first grade. Because I have been tall since I was a fetus. If there had been ultrasounds in 1975, the obstetrician would have taken one look at my fetal legs and said to my mother, "Mrs. Rheams, it's a model."

"A model?" she would have said.

He would have shrugged. "Or a basketball player. I'm not sexist."

A relative whose name I don't remember was the first one to insist on my modeling career. I don't feel guilty about forgetting her name because she never got mine right. She thought my name was Jennifer and to make matters worse she pronounced it with a Y'at accent, so even though my name is Genevieve, she called me "Jennifa."

"Jennifa, ya so TALL!" she cried. Then to my mother, "Jennifa's gotta be a model! Look how tall!"

"I don't want to be a model," I said.

She smiled preciously. "Ya will when ya get olda. So tall, ya just gotta be a model!"

Maybe it was because she'd failed to phrase it glamorously enough, but I never did want to become a model. Eventually I fell under the pressure of it, thinking maybe people knew something I didn't, maybe their insistence that I become a model meant that they knew something about the course of my life, maybe I REALLY WAS failing to use a talent, a gift from God. I didn't think I was particularly beautiful but modeling, it seemed, like basketball, didn't need pure natural talent - just height. I was tall and thin enough and all other imperfections could be hidden with makeup and just the right lighting.

So I enrolled in modeling school when I was 18. And flunked out. I don't remember exactly why, but I do remember getting points taken off for wearing jeans to class, and I remember being bored out of my mind because all they did at that school was talk about looks.

"Jesus!" I thought one day, listening to some guy who'd come to talk to us about our hair. "This guy is going on and on about HAIR? How can someone talk about hair for 45 minutes? And look at these girls. They're listening! All these people do is talk about makeup and hair! Hasn't anybody read anything lately? And why do we ALWAYS have to talk about our fucking clothes?.....oh. This is modeling school. Well, I'm out."

I've never been one to fuss over hair and makeup in real life so it made no sense to me to do it professionally. I can't tell you how many women I've disappointed with this news.

"Have you ever been a model?" they ask now. Now that I'm over 20 and considered too old for pose for pictures. Honestly, trying to start out at 18 was pushing it.



"I hate fashion."


This especially disappoints short, fashionable women who tell me that they used to dream of being a model. In fact, the shorter they are the dirtier of a look I get. Though they don't say it, this look communicates something to the effect of, "You unappreciative motherfucker." Then they call me Jennifa just to spite me.

"So what do you do?" they ask.

"I'm a writer."

And that just seems to piss them off more. There is no height requirement for writing. Two foot tall apes have been known to type, so it really hacks them off that I take these long legs and cram them under a desk.

"Well, I jog. So I run with them," I try to explain. "Oh! And I reach things!"

This is where the listener begins to accept that maybe my legs aren't completely superfluous if I can reach things in high places for short people in need. Then I double as a step ladder.

I'm perfectly willing to do this, by the way. Reach things up high, and stretch my arms behind furniture to reach something that's fallen. Really, by focusing on the things I haven't done with my height to make money, you could focus on the little things I do every day for free for the good of the world. Like dust fan blades. On second thought, scratch that, I don't clean either.

Ok so maybe instead of focusing on me, I can point out some of your gifts. I don't know if you've ever noticed, Short People of the World, but you're fast. You're fast and you're dodgy and that makes it difficult for me to catch you with a ball. Having my head a half a foot closer to the goal than you has not made a difference in my ability to make it from one side of the court to the other.

Short Women of the World Who Have Dreamed of Modeling - models are ugly. They're too thin. Whatever beauty is in their faces and their bodies is washed out by makeup and bone. A lot of them have no breasts because they have no fat. Women are curvy, they are round in places and flat in others with a delicate complexity. To flatten yourself everywhere is to flatline your beauty. Some of the most gorgeous women I've seen have been under 5'3" with no makeup on. Some of these women love basketball. I am happy to reach things on high shelves for them.

In honor of short, pretty women I offer you Lily Allen who is singing of something along these lines. Her lyrics would be perfect to go with this blogpost if they also included aspirations of tall organized sports, but she won't answer the phone and has ignored my voicemails where I offer suggestions of alternate lyrics. She must be jealous of my height.

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