Dating a shorter man

Being a tall woman is like being a regular person with a built-in platform. You’re recognizable. You’re memorable. You don’t get lost in the crowd. I imagine it’s like being a celebrity. You can’t turn off “tall”. So when you date a short person, you are the center of attention. People stare. People talk. You can either feel like a supermodel or a linebacker. Or, both.

I met my boyfriend while I was seated at a bar. I was sitting because I had recently fractured my shin, but that is perhaps, another story. My boyfriend is 5’9’’ and I am 6’0’’.

When I stood up, walking cast and all, I assume he was surprised at my height. Actually, I’ll ask him. He’s sitting right next to me.

Me: “Kyle, what did you think of my height when we first met?”
Kyle thinks for a moment. “You’re the first tall person I’ve dated.”
Me: “Okay, how does that feel different?”
Kyle: “I don’t know. I was just intrigued.”
Me: “What do you think is difficult about dating a tall woman?”
Kyle: “Traveling on an airplane with you is hard. I have to give you the aisle seat.”
Me: “What about how we look in photos?”
Kyle: “You look taller. But I shoot fashion, so I’m used to being around tall people.”
Me: “What are the positives about dating a tall woman?”
Kyle: “People think I’m dating a model. (Aw.) It is also easier to spot you when we’re traveling on the subway.”
Me: “Do you feel less manly dating a tall woman?”
Kyle hesitates before replying. “Sometimes.”

I’m grateful for his answers because they are honest. But I also think that feeling unmanly or unfeminine is a feeling that can manifest from a number of different circumstances, just like feeling fat. Sometimes we feel fat, sometimes we don’t. Only when this nagging feeling spirals out of control must we examine it. In the meantime, allow us to feel unfeminine and move on.

If you perform a quick Google search, you’ll find that the average U.S. man is 5’10”. That means at least half of the male population is shorter than me. If we must date tall men, this drastically limits our chances to find a compatible partner.
I have definitely forgiven bad behavior in relationships by saying to myself, “Well, at least he’s tall.” Do you know how crazy that sounds? Do you?

There’s another theory I’d like to postulate about why we tall women are reluctant to date shorter men: curation. We’ve reached peak curation, you guys. Let me explain.
The lot of us has become obsessed with curating our lives, making capsules out of our wardrobe until we all have the same 10 outfits from Madewell. A perfect white tee. A chambray button-down shirt. A brown leather tote. Black skinny jeans.
I’d like to curate my life so that everything is black, white, and grey, so that my skin is uniformly muted, so that my dwelling is one big airy Bedouin yurt filled with succulents. In short: a photo you’d find in Kinfolk magazine.
This isn’t a new idea; we’ve been curating for centuries. We organize, we categorize, and we classify to make sense of our world.

If you take no risks and have a basic, tailored style, you can sit with the popular girls in high school. If you are a good dancer but can blend in, you’re able to perform behind a pop star.

Kyle Blair and Katie Henner in Brooklyn, NYC.
Kyle Blair and Katie Henner in Brooklyn, NYC.

I remember a musician friend being kicked out of an indie band because his arms were deemed too muscular. The lead singer simply told him that he didn’t fit the aesthetic–the spindly, tight girl jean, asymmetrical black hair aesthetic. Try not forming muscles when you play the drums every day.

I wonder if friends curate me. “Katie, please come to this event. You’ll look nice next to the man wearing the lampshade.” Or, “Katie, we’ll invite you next time. You’re channeling a corn-fed vibe and we’re looking for petite Parisian.”

When we start curating our relationships based on aesthetic, it can be dangerous. Or, at least, less fulfilling. Do I wish all of my friends were as tall as me so that I won’t have to stoop down to talk to them? Yes. Do I wish that my boyfriend was taller than me? Well. I thought so. I really did. I want to be picked up and twirled around like the rest of the tall dames who stand, sadly planted with both feet on the floor. I want to be asked to dance at a flamenco club without worrying whether a partner will rest his chin on my breasts.

But I like feeling memorable.

Do you pick your friends based on how they look in your Instagram photos? Probably not. Then why are we curating our boyfriends?

I want a fellow artist who embraces my mercurial spirit, who enjoys going on adventures, even if it takes place in our own neighborhood. I want someone who treats their family in a respectful manner. I’d like someone that, even after many years, still looks at me with those loving eyes and thinks, “Wow, I can’t believe she’s with me.”

After this photoshoot for The Tall Society, Kyle asked me to marry him. I said yes.

Kyle Blair and Katie Henner in Brooklyn, NYC.


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