COMMENT: Being 6ft confines you to endlessly justifying your height

Remember the last time you put someone on the spot and asked them to justify their appearance? Yeah, me neither.

But having reached just over six foot at the age of 16, I’ve spent a lot of my adult life quite literally accounting for my height.

“My dad’s quite tall…six two. My mam? Five eight, I think. Yeah, I do. An older brother. Oh, how tall? Em, six two I think.”

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked to list my extended family’s vital statistics so that the person I’m talking to might understand exactly how I came to be.
(“I burst forth from the other world, Moira. And how about you?”)

The thing is – on these occasions – I know there isn’t a hint of malice in the comments…until there is.

“Me and my mates have a bet on how tall you are. Seven foot?” was the first comment that greeted me on a recent night out with my friends.

“In fairness, you’re the perfect height for any bird,” said another as he stared pointedly at my chest before raising his eyes and silently daring me to contradict a comment that only someone who had seen it delivered would recognise it as the insult it was intended.

Crouching down in photos, agonising over the height of a heel and being asked on the regular whether my boyfriend is taller than me is handy in comparison to remarks random men have made about my height since I grabbed my first Smirnoff Ice and stumbled around a dance floor to Blu Cantrell’s Breathe.

Over the last decade I’ve been reminded that it’s often shorter lads who feel the need to stand beside me and make offensive gestures and I’ve been assured that it’s only drunk eejits who are trying to get my attention on a night out, but so what?

Suggesting that lads are either jealous of my height or simply fudged a chat-up line is insulting not only to me, but to them.

The lads – many of whom I’m sure have sisters and female friends if not wives and girlfriends – are not a bunch of morons who think schoolyard hair-pulling is the way to a woman’s heart, so why should any woman let them off the hook?

On a recent night out, after a bloke repeatedly drew attention to my height in a tiny, overcrowded pub, I patted him on the head before calling him a short fat b*stard.

And all hell broke loose.

Stunned that I would have the audacity to comment on his appearance, he stood reeling until a number of my friends – and believe me, it took a few – reminded him that he’d been doing the same to me all night.

“But it’s her height! I didn’t say ANYTHING about her weight, for f*cks sake.”

And therein lies the problem.

There’s something about height above so many other physical features that people feel they can comment on without looking bad.

I’m sure countless people have felt compelled to remark on my flat arse – the flattest thing you’ve ever seen – or my scaldy hair that I can’t style for love nor money, but it’s always my proximity to the ceiling they openly remark on.

Oh, and believe me, I know it works both ways. As the proud BFF of a gal just under five foot – comedy gold, right? – we’ve spent more nights than I’d care to remember comparing notes over the smart-arse comments men have made at our expense.

And we're officially done.

How long should we have to smile and shrug off sarky remarks while waiting to pay for a drink simply because we don’t want to be seen as uptight with zero bants?

How many times should I pretend I haven’t heard an oul lad tell his wife to ‘look at the jaysusin’ height of her’ before I’m allowed to provide her with a log-in for Plenty of Fish?

At what point can I simply tell them to f*ck off without being told ‘Relax, I was only giving you a compliment.”

Hats off to women with more patience and longer fuses than me, you ladies are the real MVPs.

Niamh McClelland