Elle Gordon asks if it's time we took our head out of the clouds and looked, er, down...
On my first day in boarding school as a gangly 13-year old, I rocked in the door all set for luuuurve. After a somewhat quiet sojourn in my local primary school in Cavan, now was my time to shine. A mixed boarding school with boys — everywhere! Mine would be a ‘Mallory Towers-esque’ existence with an edgier vibe to it; circa ‘The Hills’, Season 1. Right? Wrong.
As I shimmied through those doors in my platform Skechers and slinky tee from Japan — not actual Japan, but that shop that we now all remember with the fondness that comes with safe distance — a realisation of my towering stature hit me. I would be lucky if the top of these future husbands’ heads reach the crook of my arm; let alone high enough to gaze into my eyes and tell them me loved me.
And so my lanky–girl life, just a ’looking for love, continued. By necessity, my shoes got lower; a sliver of a sole was enough to make me squirm. The smiley teen in photos standing proudly was cast away. Instead, I opted for a sort of low-key hunch, in the hope that somehow I would blend in with my petite and lovely 5 ft 4 counterparts.
It was only when I got to University that I realised what a bonus being tall could be.
One, supermodels are tall. People love to tell you this and it gives your ego an oul boost even if you look nothing like a supermodel. Secondly, you never have to ask for help when getting something from the top shelf in the supermarket, and can instead execute the role of ‘kindly-tall stranger-who-reaches-things-for-others’ and flits away Florence Nightingale-esque. Last, you will always, without fail, have an excellent view at music festivals.
But even with a new love of my 5 foot 10 frame, old habits die hard. I continued to look above when looking for love. If a guy shorter than me showed interest, my response would chime, almost on auto-pilot, ‘you seem like such a nice guy, but just at the moment I’m focusing on… ‘insert excuse here’. But it struck me recently – since when have I become such a heightist?! I’ve dated the
six-footers and fawned over the burly ones and yet I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone close to The One. Maybe I need to shake it up and look beyond my usual type of human tower.
It is far from a new concept. Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Jason Statham; Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Tina Fey and her hubby Jeff Richmond; all coupled up with, apparently, not a thought to who’s towering over who.
I spoke to dating expert Rena Maycock, director and co-founder of Intro Matchmaking, to try and suss out if my #tallgirlproblems are something that she has come across in the Irish dating scene. Do I need to shorten my criteria when it comes to meeting Mr Right?
Rena says: “Without a doubt, women are obsessed with height. I think women have this real draw to the man they are with being physically larger. I know myself, as a woman who is 5 ft 10 and stopped growing at the age of 12, I would go to the local discos and all the boys were much smaller than me. It made me feel very androgynous and I carried that perception through to my adult life.”
Rena, who set up her matchmaking company in 2011, tells me that over the years height has been a real issue, even a deal-breaker, for many of her clients. “Women who are five foot would call us and demand a man that’s over six foot and I’d kind of sit there and say, what’s out there for the women my height?” Rena cites how people narrow their chances of meeting someone if height is a deal-breaker. “In Ireland the average man is 5 ft 7 and the average woman is 5ft 5. At intro.ie, we find it reasonable to guarantee a date with a match who is two to two-and-a-half inches taller.” Rena says. “Just don’t call the next day to say the man was shorter than you, if you are going to insist on wearing your five-inch heels!”
Rena isn’t just your average Cupid. She has her first-hand experience of letting go of her perceived ideas of cosying up to a lanky Prince Charming. “I had this ritual on a night out. I would walk into a bar and look at the guys that were a head above everybody else because I would know that they were the only guys for me. I would then make all sorts of accommodations if they weren’t really the type of personality I would go for. If tall enough, I would pretty much sacrifice all of the other things that I wanted, just to get the height.”
And then one day, Rena says, things changed. “I started going out with Fearghal and he is shorter than me. It did take me some time to adjust to the fact that he didn’t conform to the idea that I had set up for myself. I had to give myself a good old talking to and say, ‘maybe it’s time you gave this guy a chance despite the fact that he doesn’t tick the box that you’ve been obsessed with your whole life.’”
So what happened? Well, Rena and Fearghal are business partners having founded intro.ie and dating site arealkeeper.ie together. Oh, and they’re happily married with two kids. “There an awful lot of people who place barriers in their own way — I know because I was one,” she says. “I have learned it’s about having a person who you love and who loves you as you are. It’s been easy to forget about that one thing. I see only the important things Fearghal brings to my life.”
After speaking with Rena it seems to me that my own worst enemy is: me. A singleton married to her notions. I think the time is ripe for a change. The next time I re-install Tinder on my phone — tell me you do the same? Delete, splurge, purge — I’m going to remove my height from my bio where it sits, a talisman for tallies, thwarting all the shorties. It’s time to test the waters of this new dating pool. Finding Mr Right could involve looking down.
This article first appeared in the January issue of Stellar Magazine. Our February issue is on shelves now.
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