WHEN I was younger I was really tall. I was always in the back of class photos, people would always comment on my size and I was really aware of being a ‘bigger kid.’ Up until the time my twin and I turned 15 or 16 I was a good few inches taller than her, so much so that no one thought we were the same age.
I was pretty scrawny as well and had the nickname of mommy-longlegs which I actually didn’t mind. I liked being that tall kid who could outrun other kids or do well in gym class. I was proud of it all until the about the age of 11 then I put on a bit of weight. I remember being concerned about it so something must have happened along the way to make me at times have negative associations with my appearance, as it does sadly for so many little girls and boys.
I also remember having to move from the kids section of clothing shops to the adult departments, mainly because my twin was still shopping for kids clothes so it stuck out in my memory.
When we meet new people as adults inevitably you talk about your childhood and what you were like as a kid. One of the things I always say is I was a tall kid which people find hard to believe with me being in my current (long running state) of 5 foot 5. And one of my favourite lines, given to me years ago by my colleague Paul McLoone, is ‘I was a tall child who grew in to a short adult!’
My daughter Joan is exactly the same as I was. She has always been by far one of the tallest kids in her class, there are about three of them all the same height as each other. People do always comment on her height and nearly always think she is about 2-3 years old than she actually is.
Since she was 4 I have had to buy clothes aged 2 years older than she is and recently, although she only turned 8 in May, I have bought leggings aged 11-12 for her and they fit perfectly in length.
At the moment it doesn’t seem to bother her when comments are made or even register when her height comes up in conversation repeatedly. But I wonder long-term what affect it might have on her own image of herself.
I WONDER about this because I know the impact it has had on me as an adult. Like so many people we have distorted images of ourselves and I really think language used to describe us by others when we are children, sticks with us for better or for worse.
That is why I am careful that whenever I am commenting on Joan’s appearance I am using only really strong and positive words. Or if someone makes a remark I attach a positive association to it for her. We talk about her height and how amazing it is and how it makes her so strong and different.
Plus thankfully I think collectively we are all much more aware and inclusive in our language when we feel the need to describe a person. Tall and big, short and small all have their own empowering properties as they should have! Things have changed so much since I was a kid when words like tall and big, when talking about girls, didn’t always have good connotations. Which looking back on it now, seems insane.
I loved being tall as a kid, I thought it made me stand out and quiet frankly am a little disappointed that it didn’t work out for me. It may for Joan and only time will tell but whatever the outcome I want her to always be happy in her skin and proud of who she is.
Catch Alison’s Weekend Breakfast show every Saturday and Sunday, 8am-11am on Today FM