Monday, May 12, 2014

body shaming: tall girl edition

"tall girls don't look good in skirts."

a certain staff member at my high school told me that one day my freshman year when i wore a skirt to school. i won't mention any names but if you knew me back then i am sure your guess is correct.

the high school i went to had a pretty strict dress code. skirts were to come down to your longest finger tip and tank top straps had to be at least 3 inches wide. not the craziest rules but definitely a bit of a shock coming fresh out of public school. i didn't mind so much because i didn't own any "inappropriate" clothing.

at least none that i considered inappropriate. until that fateful spring day when i wore a skirt to school. i had zero hesitations that morning when putting it on. it not only met the dress code requirements but exceeded it. it went an inch below my longest finger tip.

but there i was, sitting outside with my friends eating lunch when that certain employee pulled me aside and of all the ways he could have addressed his concern he decided to lie.

"beth, tall girls don't look good in skirts. and i don't want you wearing that to school again."

and the sad part was, i believed him. all 5'10" inches of me believed him. in a split second he completely changed how i saw myself. that sounds dramatic - it didn't make me hate my body or anything and i still liked being tall but i assumed he had superior knowledge on what did and didn't look good and was the only one with the guts to say it.

 my whole life i dealt with people making fun of my height. i was taller than every kid in my kindergarten class and by 4th grade i was as tall as my teachers. and by 6th grade...well, it's one thing to be taller than boys in kindergarten but once you hit middle school it's a new kind of hell to be taller than them. middle school dances were the most hellacious events and probably thought up by short girls and their not quite as short boyfriends.

there was no insult i hadn't heard. no crude remark that hadn't been directed toward me. finding jeans long enough was a search i had long given up on. getting asked out was so inconceivable i didn't even feel bad for myself any more.

but self-doubt and feeling insecure seem to be a rite of passage for every middle schooler. i don't think anyone gets through those 3 years unscathed. once i got to high school i was still tall and getting taller but had accepted it and maybe even kind of liked it.

i had a great group of friends, the boys finally started to grow in not only height but also maturity, and after 14 years of my family telling me how beautiful i was i finally started to feel it. i no longer felt the need to hunch, i proudly wore heels, and being the tall girl was no longer a burden i carried with me.

but on that spring day he did his best to erase all that. my biggest issue wasn't that i got in trouble, or that he did it in front of all my friends, it wasn't even the fact that i was in the right since i was obeying dress code, to this day the thing that bothers me the most is that i can't believe he lied.

i can't figure out why! what planet have you been living on where tall girls look bad in a skirt? and who do you think you are to tell a young, impressionable girl that she should feel ugly? there were a dozen ways to handle the situation and he decided use the most absurd, unthinkable one.

i didn't wear skirts for a while after that comment. not even outside of school. it was about a year later when i finally realized what he actually meant that day was that tall girls look too good in skirts.

well, mr. YouWhoWillGoUnamed, i wear skirts now. all the time. sometimes maxi skirts, sometimes *gasp* skirts that don't quite come to my fingertips, and you know what? i look great. and not because i have long legs. but because i feel great. if i could go back to that day and have the foresight to know what i do now, i wouldn't tell you that you are wrong, because even you knew you were, i wouldn't defend myself for obeying the dress code, because even you knew i was. if i could go back and be the sassy, confident woman i am today i think i'd just laugh.  it's funny to me now. the absurdity of it is humorous.

it's funny to think back and remember all of those kids who were so hateful. it just so happens they were all short boys. short, jealous napoleonic boys. i wish i could have realized it was jealousy that fueled them and not some flaw that i was convinced i had. instead of cowering away and feeling hurt i wish i would have stood a little taller and lovingly patted their insecure little heads.

body shaming comes in all shapes and sizes. for me it was being the tall girl and being tormented for it for many years. if i have daughters chances are they will have long, gangly legs like i did. chances are they'll get made fun of. but i hope they handle themselves with grace and compassion because at the end of the day, despite the hurtful comments they can, after all, reach the top shelf.

the only picture i could find of the skirt. you be the judge.

1 comment:

  1. I think that teachers (or school personnel) who do such damage to students should be named.


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