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Seven things you only know if you are a tall woman

The results of the largest-ever study of global height were published this week. The Netherlands have the tallest men, standing at 5 ft 11.8 inches on average, and Latvia have the tallest women, whose height average is 5 ft 6.9.

At present, Britain comes in much lower, with men at 31st tallest on the list and women standing at 38th – but we are standing significantly taller than the last time we were surveyed when we came in shuffling at 57.

So, it’s official. We are standing head and shoulders above our forbears. In the past century, we’ve shot up by a whopping 11 centimetres. Our 5ft 8in Prime Minister is setting the pace too, often towering over her significant others in Europe. Of course, this is seen as a good sign – as they get taller, the assumption is that they are nations of  increasing health and broadening shoulders; great strapping, powerful creatures rising up in strength and into the clouds. We’re lucky to be getting taller! Right?

Average and below average people will cross streets, bars, parties and even mountains to inform you that you’re tall

Well. Maybe not. I speak from experience, you see.  At six feet tall, I nearly always come in at number one as the tallest in a group. I am over five inches taller than the average woman in Britain and although it means I always get the best view at gigs, it comes with a plethora of inconvenient, unexpected downsides.

If we’re a nation on the rise, there are a few things I feel I should warn you about; things you only know if you’re a tall woman.

Trousers are a nuisance

See too maxi skirts (they become midi skirts); jeans (they become capri pants) and flares (they become culottes). When you’ve got long legs, its impossible to find fabric long enough to house them. Tights are a particular nuisance and most winters I can remember have been overshadowed by the memory of anxiously, inelegantly hoiking the waistband up while waddling along the pavement to stop the gusset dropping so low that its visible below my hemline.

People will tell you you’re tall, all the time

Average and below average people will cross streets, bars, parties and even mountains to inform you that you’re tall. “Christ you’re tall!”, “what’s your exact height?”, “I can’t believe how much taller you are than me!” they’ll squawk before - the most humiliating ritual of being six foot - they make you stand back to back and then make onlookers gawp at the gap between your heads.

But there are ways of localising the humiliation: only wearing heels around people who aren’t going to be drinking heavily, for example (the “tall tellers” as I like to call them only usually find their voice about three pints down). You also learn to arm yourself with correct responses - “AM I??!!” is a current favourite of mine, said in a frantic, shocked voice before I run to a mirror or window to check my reflection.

You weigh a tonne

It takes all of a tall woman’s teens and the majority of her twenties to stop lying about how much she weighs. An average woman’s fat weight is a tall woman’s skinny weight. For some, a size 16 to 18 jacket may be a sign that they need to cut down on puddings; for a tall woman it’s the only thing that will stretch across her shelving unit shoulders.

A big, healthy physique comes with a big, healthy weight. Only a long-limbed woman of five foot ten or more knows the sense of dread that occurs when a boyfriend tries to give her a fireman’s lift or jokingly pick her up on the dance floor and his subsequent red-faced wheezing while he splutters: “no, no light as a feather”. And he’ll finally know that, although despite having a 29 inch waist, his partner is in the same heavyweight league as The Incredible Hulk.

You’re a constant inconvenience

Whether it’s the huffing, puffing, tutting of a short middle-aged man who needs a booster seat behind you at the theatre or the spitting hisses of: “she’s kicking the back of my chair” from the Ryanair passenger in the row in front of you; being a six-foot blonde feels nothing like being Claudia Schiffer and entirely like being a great big bollard that no one knows how to rid of.  

And, by the way everyone, we’re not kicking anything - what you may be feeling on the back of your seat are our locked knee caps jammed into the minimal space of a budget airline, while our legs have to fold back underneath our own chair.

You may not get the guy

The “tall blonde” template for definitive beauty is a total myth from Nordic warrior princess folklore. Trust me - I’ve been single for most of my life and the height thing has never been on my side. “Striking” and “amazonian” may well do women well in stories and song lyrics or when you’ve got the face and proportions of a supermodel, but in reality, it intimidates and emasculates men.

Here are the words that serve you well on the dating scene: “petite” and “pretty”. I think the typical dream woman qualifications in this country are the following: brunette, pear-shaped, five foot five or under. Men, on the whole, want the girl next door. Not the girl three floors up.

You always get the passenger seat of the car

A fantastic upside of being so tall is that when you travel in groups, people will always give you the front seat of the car for “the legroom” (you never tell them it makes next to no difference).

You make new friends

We find each other at parties; we lend each other our size eight shoes. We reverently smile at each other in the street. We are veterans of a long-fought battle; from the first moment we felt those twinges of growing pains in our knees, tall women look out for each other.