An intriguing piece in today’s Sunday Times:
Q. My name is John. I am 58 years old, straight and looking for a relationship. I’ve been single all my life. The problem is that I’m only 5ft 1in tall.
In my late teens and twenties, whenever I asked a woman for a date, all I got were responses along the line of: “I can’t be seen on a date with someone as short as you.” I’m paraphrasing; the real language was far, far nastier.
I understand you are 6ft tall. Would you — have you — dated a male of my height? [J4MB: Dolly Alderton doesn’t answer this question.] Please explain why it is acceptable for a 6ft male to date a lady of my height, but not the other way around. [J4MB: Dolly doesn’t explain, because that would reveal an uncomfortable truth about women.] To me it’s a form of discrimination, and it hurts — it really hurts.
Please don’t say you know short men are in relationships with taller female partners unless you can prove it. From my experience the only such really short men — and I’m in the shortest 2 per cent of UK males — are jockeys, rich or famous. I don’t qualify in any of these categories. I’ll be interested to see if this is published and you can give me a sensible response on how I can find a date. Please don’t comment about hobbies or dating sites; they’ve not worked for me.
A. I am so sorry that you’ve been through this. Being judged and discounted for a physical attribute is, as you say, a form of discrimination and of course it has been hurtful. What makes it particularly upsetting is that there is so little you can do to augment your height — it’s something you have to live with for ever. I know how frustrating it is to carry shame about your own body, the very thing that allows you to exist.
As you mention, I am in the minority height for my gender too. I’ve been 6ft tall since I was a teenager, and I have also been told on a number of occasions that my height is the reason someone isn’t attracted to me. [J4MB: Very doubtful. Men are attracted to tall women.] The reason for our feelings of inadequacy is because our statures go against the perceived ideal of masculinity and femininity. Men are meant to be big and strong, women are meant to be delicate and petite. Our height abnormalities are the opposite, and yet they are sort of the same. [J4MB: They are NOT “sort of the same”.]
So I say this with compassion rather than judgment, with recognition rather than scolding. You sound angry. You sound like rejection has collected and calcified over the years and has lead you to feel resentful not just of women but of love in general. It is understandable why you feel this way — bitterness is the by-product of humiliation. But it’s also something people can pick up on, and I think it might be holding you back. [J4MB: Bottom line – the man is the problem, not women.]
If there is one characteristic that everyone is drawn to — in spite of their preferences for height or otherwise — it’s someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. It is, I believe, the most aspirational personality trait available. Someone who can laugh at themselves; who is relaxed and fun; who knows what situations require gravity and which ones to shrug off. People who don’t take themselves too seriously are extremely attractive — their company is relaxing and you don’t feel like you have to navigate their ego and insecurities when you spend time with them. It is why I long to be friends with Dolly Parton, but I won’t go into all that now.
I think there is a possibility that when you meet a potential partner, you bring an attitude of defensive inevitability, a sense of subtle entitlement. [J4MB: Entitlement?!!!] A feeling that they are representative of all the other people who have disappointed you and you are waiting to be proved right. I have been on the receiving end of this on a date, and I have also been the one perpetuating it. A real “go on then, show me that you’re not like all the rest” energy, as they gingerly sip their pint. Not only is it not very fun, it’s not very fit.
I think you need to find a way of approaching dating with openness and a lighter touch. You don’t need to fake confidence to the extent that it gives you a different personality, but you can use humour to make yourself feel more at ease. Make a joke about your height before anyone else can. Make reference to it casually in conversation because it is a fact of your physicality, rather than a thing that defines you. I’m not suggesting that you put yourself down or internalise the discrimination you’ve faced, but I think you’ll be surprised at how unimportant your height will feel once you make a decision to treat it as a plain fact rather than a symbol of all your anguish.
I’m not going to patronise you by saying that your height can be magically changed with a different mindset. The fact is, there are women who won’t want to be with a very short man. [J4MB: Most women.] Just like there are men who don’t want to be with a very tall woman. [J4MB: Very few men] People aren’t attracted to specifics for all sorts of reasons: they don’t like blondes because they always preferred Posh Spice; facial moles remind them of their mean uncle. What we find hot is often beyond cognisance and reason. But what I can promise you is that there are plenty of women who are unbothered about being with [J4MB: “Being with”? What does that mean? Socialising? Dating?] a man who is shorter than them. I am one. I am friends with some. We’ve never been with shorter men because they were rich or famous or jockeys, we were with them because they were charming and sexy. And, crucially, we had fun with them.
If you fixate on your height, aloud or in your head, other people will fixate on your height. Instead, focus on exhibiting all your other features — your humour, passion and kindness. Show them that there are many unusual and intriguing things that make you who you are. The least interesting one is your height.
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