I asked her to write about her experience being tall, and about raising a tall daughter. I’m forever amazed that she got me through the teenage miseries, and even more amazed that she survived far worse herself.
Mum got mad at sales assistants on my behalf, spent far more money than the other Mums on clothes that (mostly) fit me, yelled at me when I slouched, scoured Australia for large shoes and long jeans, despaired with me when teenage boys called me freak, and told me everything was going to be OK very soon.
And she was right.
Thanks Mum. Over to you.
“Growing up tall in the fifties on a tiny country community was a challenge. I was six feet tall at eleven. My Mum was five feet three, my older sister stopped at five feet two and my younger sister was considered tall at five feet six. My Dad was five feet eleven. When my Mum was young she had a thyroid operation and was told not to get pregnant for two years. She got pregnant in four weeks and when I started sprouting, their worst fears were realised. So this was freak territory.
“My Mum, though, to her credit, did her best. If she was going to have a tall daughter she was going to have a fabulous tall daughter. When I started slouching she shouted and when I kept slouching she got old stockings and every meal time she tied my shoulders to the chair.
“When our local doctor suggested an operation to remove bone from my legs she reacted with almost as much anger as I did humiliation.
“She found pictures – they were always appearing – of tall women. One model, Veruschka – look her up – Mum found her in the Women’s Weekly and then went looking for more. Tall and fabulous, I glued her picture onto my bedroom wall and she stayed there through my adolescence.
“Bringing up a tall daughter… my Anne’s an inch taller than me… I kept my Mum’s edicts in place. First pride. No matter that Mum and Dad were boggled by my height, they were intensely proud of me. They might not have a clue what to do with me – Mum’s attempts to dress me cute with my sisters were, seen in past family pictures – weird to say the least, but no matter what the outside world thought and said, my Mum and Dad thought I was beautiful. I carried that with me as I raised my own daughter. If you’re raised with that belief, even with the bullying and ghastliness of adolescence, if you’re raised with a core belief that you’re special it stays with you. Adolescence is always going to be hard for a tall girl and solid self belief is the only tool you can arm your daughter with.
“For me the hardest thing about having a tall daughter was knowing she’d have to go through that adolescent crap. The time when all the boys are a foot shorter, when all the girls are positioning themselves as the cutest, its a jungle and a cruel one at that. Knowing there’s another side doesn’t help. I kept saying high schools’s hardest but almost as soon as you end high school friends start being real friends, but Anne never believed and how could I make her believe when kids are so cruel? If I could have willed my daughter hand eye co-ordination so she could play basketball and thus have peers of the same height – that’d be my wish but no matter how many people approached me and asked me to train for their various basketball teams, the skills weren’t there for me and they weren’t there for Anne.
“As we lived in a much bigger community – and women are getting taller – there were more tall girls around for Anne, but she never did find her own Veruschka. I think she has now, with you guys. Her online blog has given her a Veruschka community of awesome women.
“Another issue is of course clothes. I remember for Anne’s high school graduation her Dad and I walking Chapel Street, thinking we’ll pay what it takes to find something to make her feel awesome. We found the dress – yayyyyy! – but in all of Chapel Street, the premier clothes and shoe strip in Melbourne, there wasn’t one single pair of shoes she could even try on. Her dad wanted to kill someone. In the end I think Anne’s and my distress was tempered by trying to calm Dave – when we walked in and a cute little sales assistant said `we’d have nothing That Big!’ he wanted to shove her shoes down her throat and it got almost funny. Dave’s not all that big for a bloke – it took that day to make him really see what Anne was facing.
“But now… She’s made it, my Anne. She’s an awesome woman, proud and tall, surrounded by people who love her for what she is and I couldn’t be prouder.
“So.. Advice for growing up tall?
“It can make you stand out. You’ll hate that at thirteen but at twenty if you have that knowledge it can be awesome.
“If you’re in the middle of adolescent angst, get a puppy. Dogs understand like no one else can.
“Find your own Veruschka.
“And one day just imagine, miracles can happen. In my family I’m now the short arse. How amazing’s that????