Towering's infernal

What's the weather like up there? Ever play basketball? Tall guys get used to answering stupid questions, complains Martin McNamara
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Tall people have a certain reticence about discussing height or even knowing how tall they are. This means that when people ask me my height - and, yes, they do quite often, thank you - I will tell them anywhere from 6ft 3in to 6ft 6in, depending on how I feel.

Boxers have floating weights, so we have floating heights. This built- in vagueness extends to other people's heights. My girlfriend read an earlier draft of this article and found herself described as being 5ft 8in. "I'm 5ft 4in," she shouted suspiciously. I was genuinely shocked. "No you're not. I'm not going out with a midget." There then followed a long, heated discussion during which I had to a) convince her that I wasn't seeing some other, taller woman, b) try unsuccessfully to persuade her that she was in fact 5ft 8in, and c) apologise for calling her a midget. Anyway it's my article and I've decided she's 5ft 6in.

The thing is, I really did think she had those extra inches. And now I know how short she really is it has called our whole relationship into question. But then, most of my past girlfriends have fallen into the short category. I think perhaps some short women go for taller blokes because they're looking for someone big and strong to protect them. With me this could be a bit of a mistake.

I ring an old ex, Linda, and ask her whether she went out with me because I was someone big and strong who could protect her. "No, I went out with you because if you go out with tall men they can't see your double chin. That's why women go out with tall men. We're more beautiful when viewed from a higher angle. Don't you know anything?"

Sex, at least, should be a great height equaliser. People are pretty much the same height when lying down, right? Apparently not, according to Linda. "There are certain things I couldn't do in bed with you." Like what? "Like nibble your ears when we were making love. I suppose I could have nibbled your belly button but it's not the same."

The only time it bothers me going out with small women is when they insist on holding hands in public. For 18 months I lived in near-perfect harmony with a beautiful French woman who was so short that I never dared ask her height. She was wonderful in every way except that when we were out walking she would always want to take my hand. I felt vaguely like a father holding onto a small daughter for fear she would run out in traffic.

I did date a tall woman once. Suzanne was 6ft in her stockings and more when she wore her heels, which she did often. In fact, she was one of the few women I went out with who didn't need to wear heels but always did, which proves there is no God. We would saunter into bars like a pair of visiting Amazons to the astonished gaze of those around us. Although I did think they were probably staring more at her fabulously long legs than at me.

But that was the difference between us. Suzanne was extrovert-tall, I am introvert-tall. She was of the "If you've got it, flaunt it" school. If people were going to stare at her for being tall, then she would give them something to stare at. I, on the other hand, am a wallflower. I've had so many years of people informing me that I am tall - people coming up to me and telling me that I am tall, like I don't know this already - that I like to keep quiet about it. So, there we were, in the eyes of most people perfectly suited to each other, when in truth we were total opposites.

Occasionally, you get the flirtatious woman who looks up at you and coyly asks whether the "rest of you" is in proportion. The correct answer to this is to say no it is not and that if it were in proportion then I'd be 8ft tall. Sadly, I haven't got the chutzpah to pull off a line like that.

In fact, I don't have any decent, well prepared put-downs for witty questions like "What's the weather like up there?", which is a shame because I've been hearing that stunningly original line for, oh, at least 20 years. Another favourite is to ask if I play basketball. For the record, I do not. They were always asking me to join the team when I was at school, but, with a logic that I still cannot fully explain, I refused because I thought they were only asking me because of my height. Although I did hear a refreshing new variation on the basketball theme recently. One of the little black kids on my estate recently came up and asked me if I was Michael Jordan. That completely stumped me, especially as I'm several degrees whiter than him.

But I was totally lost for words when, standing in a shop one day, this tiny old lady shuffled up and tugged at my arm. I stooped down to her 4ft 11in frame and she said, "I wish I had six inches of you," before shuffling off. She was talking about my height. At least, I hope she was talking about my height.

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