What’s Height Got to Do With Anything? Alternate Title: The Stigma of Short and Tall

Recently, a group of friends were sitting around idly looking up silly things on the internet, like you do, and the topic ofMr. Shaquille O’Neil’s girlfriend (current? Ex? Not sure)came up. More specifically, her (notable lack of) height. This took us to all sorts of unfortunate places on the internet (Like celebrity news sites. Hisss.) and led to borderline creepy scrutiny of a couple none of us know personally. Such is the burden of celebrity.

Suddenly, my 6-foot girl friend blurted, “I kind of hate when that happens. It just seems like such a waste of a tall guy.”


But before I could even process that, a guy friend chimed in to agree. “Yeah, it’s hard. Because you can’t date someone the same size as you.”

Double what?

“Yeah, your dating pool is fairly small, being six feet tall, huh,” came a third opinion.

Soon, the general consensus was reached that women overwhelmingly prefer much taller guys, and guys prefer much smaller women. Not being one to sit in awkward silence (it’s great to have friends you can disagree with), I responded that I like being almost the same size as my Male Compatriot, we had a brief conversation about personal preferences, and turned to other matters without a fuss. But it stuck with me.

I am 5′ 4 1/2″ and 105-125 lbs, depending on how much I’m working out. No matter what I do, I haven’t strayed from that 20-lb window since middle school. The Male Compatriot is 5’7″ at the tallest, and while he refuses to weigh himself, correctly citing that the scale number doesn’t have an impact on his health, he cheerfully admits that he’s never to his knowledge broken 145. We are very similar in overall size, though of course we carry our weight differently. It’s eerily close; were I male, I speculate I would be exactly his size.

But that isn’t normal. We’ve been dating for over 2 1/2 years so it’s easy to forget, but there’s stigma against short men. And tall women, for that matter. As a completely average height woman, that hasn’t affect me personally, but I’ve definitely been witness to the trials of the short male.

Even my mom always told me “never ever date a short man. Whether it’s genetics or society I don’t know, but they’re just angry people.”

Granted, she was briefly married to a short man with a violent temper. All of her male relatives are tall and my dad is tall, and I suspect she hasn’t really known a lot of short guys. But that kind of generalization is mostly frowned upon in our society these days. Seems like height (and weight, but that’s another topic) are still OK to make these kinds of assumptions about? Why is that?

Full disclosure: the first boyfriend I had was short-ish (though he was like 5’10,” which is apparently average) and very briefly started down that angry road. But I’ve dated a tall guy and two shorter guys since then, and never experienced that again. Even my mom has come around to liking the Compatriot, but then again, he’s unreasonably awesome.

Side note: does it ever just hit you how little size variation makes a huge difference? The difference between tall and short is just a few inches. Compare that to some other animals! Humans are obsessed with differences. Dogs don’t care, they’re hot to trot with someone more than twice their size. Not that we should be taking dating advice from a domesticated animal, but still, it’s kind of ridiculous to take someone out of the dating pool over like three inches of bone and skin and muscle.

There’s all sorts of theories of genetics to explain these preferences. Even the renowned infotainer Malcolm Gladwell mentions it in the book “Blink.” But there have always been theories of genetics to explain every unpleasant stereotype, even before genetics as a science was around. And, of course, there’s eugenics, to which, let’s face it, stigmatizing height strays uncomfortably close.

So why are we as a society still doing this? My Compatriot is one of the smartest people I know. His company has contracts with banks and the Oscars and Square and he’s been known to do contract work for Google when he feels like it — they’ve sent him Christmas gifts two of the last three years. Smart guy, making smart moves. (He’s cute, too, though I suspect his company doesn’t care about that.) And, coincidence or not, the internet masks height in quite a tidy manner. Would the fact that he’s shorter than average have blocked him from advancing in the past? What kind of world is that?

It’s far past time to get over this height stigma. It’s sad when you decide to pass on someone who is smart, charming, witty, honest, kind and good looking just because they can’t look down at you or you can’t look down at them. (Then again, maybe the world should keep its stigmas, and let smart people take all the awesome dating at either end of the height scale!)

I’ve had great times dating tall guys. And I’ve had great times dating short guys. I can honestly say — and I’m shocked that there are people who can’t say this — that size really, truly doesn’t matter. There’s pros and cons to both. Minor ones that have no influence on the outcome of the relationship.

In honor of proudly dating a shorter guy, here’s some definite PROS for the shorter guy camp.

  • Carrying each other (may not be a plus for some, but I really enjoy it, it’s super romantic either way)
  • If you’re into acro yoga, you can base each other
  • You both get to feel powerful when kissing
  • The shower head doesn’t need adjusting ever
  • Easily sharing an umbrella
  • Getting mistaken from behind for a lesbian couple (not really a plus, but it’s hilarious when it happens)
  • Sharing clothes — socks especially
  • Bike seats don’t always need adjusting (plus, while riding, you can lean over and kiss mid-ride)

In conclusion, I get that people still think it’s OK to discriminate based on height. If you’re one of those people, you aren’t bad. You probably haven’t even thought about it. Just, you know, kindly take your head out of your ass and look around. I think you’ll like the view.


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