"Excuse me--do you play basketball?"
No. Not again.
I turn around to face yet another curious mind. This is one of the first questions I am always asked.
"No, I don't." Sorry to disappoint you.
"How about volleyball?"
Most asked question No. 2.
Such is life as a tall teenage girl.
It's not easy being 6 feet tall. You have to be able to feel confident about being different. The average 16-year-old girl is a mere 5 feet 3, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That makes makes me above above-average. It's kind of lonely too. According to another health survey, only one in 100 girls younger than 20 is taller than 5 feet 11.
But there's good and bad to everything, so allow me to list the pros of being 16 and gargantuously tall:
* Sight zone. I am able to see over the biggest hair at the movies.
* Independence. I can reach the clothing that is hung high on the racks at the mall. No asking for assistance or the metal pole for me.
* Renown. Everyone knows me as "the tall one."
* Career possibilities. I fit the height requirements for modeling. (Now if only I could fit the teeny dress size requirement . . .)
Now, here come the cons:
* Showering. The shower heads in hotels are always set at midget range, forcing me to do a complete backbend.
* Trying to hide. It never works.
* Low ceilings. I feel like Gulliver, living among the Lilliputians in the land of miniatures.
* Shopping. Floor-length skirts are ankle-length on me, and short skirts are too short to sit in. As for shoes, have you ever seen a pair of size 11 flats and said, "Those are so cute!"? Shoes with any sort of heel make me feel like RuPaul.
* Boys. Most of them are too short, and the few who are tall consort exclusively with girls who can date anyone--shorter girls.
* Prom. Tall girls and dances don't go hand in hand.
Since I have been to dances with boys who are shorter than I am, I've had to worry about my up 'do and strappy shoes adding a few inches. While my friends are picking out adorable shoes with skyscraper heels and piling their hair on top of their heads, I am stuck with flat shoes and flat hair and the prospect of dancing with guys who come up to my chin. (At least this year, the prom was held at a downtown Fullerton mansion with magnificently tall ceilings that made me feel less Godzillian.)
As you can see from my list, the balance is slightly off on the scale of pros and cons. But I'm learning to live with my height and insecurities.
I was born tall. I am proud to claim the title of longest baby--20 inches--in the nursery the day I was born at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. In kindergarten I was a full head taller than my best friend, who was six months older. I grew up being tall, though I don't recall having feelings of abnormality. I was able to skip around the playground like a normal, carefree child. These days I walk apprehensively.
Denial is another trait of tall girls. The average height of the teenage male is 5 feet 8. I was that tall in eighth grade, but I would never admit it. Most people fudge a bit on their weight on a driver's license form--I fudged on my height, and rounded down.
When asked the most-asked question No. 3, "How tall are you, anyway?" I reply without hesitation, "Five-eleven and a half." This will forever be.
Where did I get this gene from, anyway? My father is only 6 feet 1 or so, and my mother is average-to-short. Perhaps I inherited some freaky floating gene from one of my father's tall bachelor uncles.
Wherever it's from, I have it.
I do have some tricks to make me feel less conspicuous::
* Walk around barefoot. Shoes always add inches.
* Stand next to the tallest person at school. I felt minuscule next to Villa Park High School's 7-foot-1 star basketball player. Unfortunately, he graduated last year.
* Relax. I know the only way to be completely comfortable with others is to be comfortable with myself. My height causes me some problems--physically and mentally--but it rounds out my character and is part of what makes me who I am.
While I hope that it's not all I'm known for (I can just see it now--under my picture in my senior yearbook will be the caption, "Tallest Girl"), I know that my height defines me. And I've worked up a snappy answer to use the next time someone asks me Most Asked Question No. 3. I'll just say, "72 inches."