Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Tall story


Most of my adult life I have endured being stared at. It’s unnerving. People really have a good look at me in public. I am so used to it now I barely notice, but when I was a teenager it was a constant source of anxiety. It made me feel like a freak.

When travelling with Ellen doing our show Women Like Us, she observed the phenomenon with some shock: ‘Are you aware how much people stare at you?’ It was freaking her out a bit, but I guess I am kind of used to it. Worn down by years of people having a good look. I try to not notice people noticing me. It’s the tall thing. It still shocks people if you are a tall woman. They like to get an extra long look because I don’t blend in very well. I pretend people look at me because I’m gorgeous, but I know it’s because they think I’m a bit freaky. Or I look a lot like Elle McPherson. Which I do inside my mind photographs that I keep of myself to boost my self-esteem. I sometimes wonder if these pervy strangers think I’m a super model who’s let herself go and they’re staring hard to work out which one. ‘Claudia?’ ‘Definitely not Twiggy’. It happened again the other day. I was queuing at the airport waiting to get through my gate when a businessman walked past. I saw him have a good hard look at me. I don’t make eye contact because that will just invite him in. I put up the wall. I know he’s looking because he does that thing people do when they forget to hide that they are looking: he stops right in front of me and actually looks me up and down, raises his eyebrows, nods his head and then walks past me. Fucking Weirdo. And it’s a really bad suit. Like something he’s been wearing since the 80s.

Then he comes back. I think Oh No he’s going to talk to me. Bad-for-business suit parks himself bang in front of me and asks ‘How Tall are you?’ Nice opener, mate. Does he also go up to fat people and ask how much they weigh? Ask cripples how disabled they are? It’s a really stupid question. It’s not worth talking about.

Especially to a strange man in a bad suit. I want to say 5 foot 2 but that might mean he talks to me for longer. So I say ‘6 foot’. He’s impressed. It’s like I’m a fish. A really really big fish. Then he says, ‘I know this Chinese girl who is 6 foot 3’. What am I supposed to do with that random bit of information? I say ‘Oh. That’s tall’. Does he think I might know her? That tall girls meet up at a secret club once a month and measure each other? That we drink champagne and tell tall stories? (Mainly about stupid short men who ask dumb questions.) I see nothing interesting whatsoever in a person’s height.

Especially about what a freak I am in comparison to ‘normally’ sized women. They would say they don’t mean that, but it happens so much, people are so shocked, so interested, so obliged to stop and remark a fact I have known since I was 13 that I can only come to the conclusion that they find my height aberrant and not in line with what women are supposed to be. I am tall. It’s just one very small detail about who I am. I didn’t go on a diet to get tall. I didn’t decide. It’s my DNA. It just happened. It is not a conversation. I still don’t understand why so much unsolicited chat has to revolve around something so inconsequential and so absolutely out of my control.

My being tall is about as interesting as my going up to someone and saying ‘you have brown eyes’. I have secretly marvelled at the size of a person’s rotund arse but never for a minute considered going up and sparking up a conversation with ‘how big is your arse exactly?’ ‘Hmm, wow, I know someone with an arse twice as big as yours!’ Why do they always want to tell you they have a tall friend? Is that like a homophobe saying they have a gay friend or a white supremacist saying they have a black one? Does it make their height-based transgression permissible?

Then dickhead asks: ‘How tall is your husband?’ Now he’s assuming I’m married and a heterosexual. I say ‘Three foot five – she’s a dwarf. But she’s got a massive intellect.’

12 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Tall story”

  1. T Gordon says:

    If this is your biggest problem, you are a fortunate human being.

    You might like to try total blindness, quadriplegia or schizophrenia for a few weeks and see how society caters for and reacts to those circumstances.

  2. Suzie Deyris says:

    Tall, gorgeous, blond a champion of women and local worthy causes. Probably the person who creates the most Mirth in Byron Shire. Of course people stare !!

  3. serena ballerina says:

    Haha, love your retort to bad-suit’s question about your husband’s height. Certainly, what a dickhead!

    Your experience made me think of the story last week on the ABC’s Australian Story about a feisty talented actor & dancer Kiruna Stamell, who is in the opposite situation to you….and subject to the same sort of rudeness.
    What a personality. Such fortitude.
    What a carapace she must’ve developed over the course of her life.

    People can be so cruel & unthinking.

    • John T Mitchell says:

      Please Serena, have a look at Orwell, our language when guided can arrive at the same result we inten to dispel. We need say what we mean. Or else our language is robotic and no question mark by a net site can make a difference.

  4. J T Mitchell says:

    Your experience as well intentioned as it may be is a long call from homophobia and racism, words thrown around these days like lollies. What we need today is a distinction like ‘ismism’, whereby all our natural phobias and trends are put to incessant discussion by people obsessed with discrimination. The word ‘discriminating’ used to have a positive meaning, the delighting in quality, alas, another lost nice word. My robot status as yet to be confirmed. In the hands of the Martian Society for Equal Planetary Status.

  5. j says:

    “opposite situation to you”? Does noone mind anymore what Orwell had to say. Our language is couched in rigmarolle passed off as opinion and all it is is fainting fits

  6. robot says:

    I am not a robot.
    I am not a robot.
    I am …. a robot?
    Warning Wil Robinson

  7. j says:

    I am losing interest in such worthless life

  8. Tony Parker says:

    He might have said, some of my best friends are tall. Total acceptance. Very funny Mandy.

  9. Katherine says:

    awesome piece Mandy 😀

  10. Sallee says:

    Love this write up Mandy! As for the “Does he think I might know her? That tall girls meet up at a secret club once a month and measure each other? That we drink champagne and tell tall stories?” That actually happens! It’s a thing and it happens via the #teamtall community at Tall Guides Magazine! It’s not as regular as once a month, no-one has yet measured anyone else and we try to steer clear of tall stories but we do drink champagne, network and wax lyrical at our global team tall gatherings all around the world. You’re more than welcome to stop by sometime and the next time a bad-for-business suit tells you that he knows a girl in China who is 6 foot 3, you can tell him you’ve met her and she told you all about his bad taste in workwear!

  11. Angela says:

    I still get (at the age of 50, I might add) ‘You’re a tall ‘girl’, aren’t you?’ (There’s usually that look of pure wonderment on their face – you know it, tall ladies!!) A favourite response is to answer ‘Oh my God – so I am!! (I look down at my feet as though I can’t believe how far away they are!) Thanks so much for pointing that out – I’d never noticed before!’ Smile and exit! ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Become a supporter of The Echo

A note from the editorial team

Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

The Echo has never underestimated the intelligence and passion of its readers. In a world of corporate banality and predictability, The Echo has worked hard for more than 30 years to help keep Byron and the north coast unique with quality local journalism and creative ideas. We think this area needs more voices, reasoned analysis and ideas than just those provided by News Corp, lifestyle mags, Facebook groups and corporate newsletters.

The Echo is one hundred per cent locally owned and one hundred per cent independent. As you have probably gathered from what is happening in the media industry, it is not cheap to produce a weekly newspaper and a daily online news service of any quality.

We have always relied entirely on advertising to fund our operations, but often loyal readers who value our local, independent journalism have asked how they could help ensure our survival.

Any support you can provide to The Echo will make an enormous difference. You can make a one-off contribution or a monthly one. With your help, we can continue to support a better informed local community and a healthier democracy for another 30 years.”

Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers.