From Tall “Sir” to Fashion Editor: A Story For Young Women

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Over the years, I’ve gotten a fair number of letters and emails from tall teens and preteens wrestling with issues of body image and self esteem. These notes are some of my favorites to respond to, in that I get to reply with the kind of encouragement I wished for when I was young. They are also some of the most difficult to respond to—certainly without veering into platitudes, or making promises that end up ringing hollow.

For most of us, growing up is hard. It is more so in bodies that look—and behave—far differently than those of other kids; other girls. I remember being fed multiple versions of the “struggle makes you stronger” pep talk throughout my teenage years. I also remember that the story was much more complicated as I was living it.

I’m ready to admit that my relationship with my tall frame has not always been easy—in fact, for the first two decades of my life, it was really not. So for the first time in my Internet history, I am unveiling the sequence—and photographic evidence—that got me to the age of 30, the height of 6’4”, and body acceptance.

My hope is that for any present and future young readers, it will exist as proof positive that it can—and will—get better.

Kacy_Signature

 

 

 


 

From Tall “Sir” to Fashion Editor: A Story for Young Women

Part 1/2

 

Why, thank you, sir.

-April 1994, Mr. Hubbard, to me, at the hallway and double doors between the girl’s bathroom and the music room

Bethel Elementary School, Bethel, Vermont

 

Being mistaken for a boy at age 10 was nowhere near the last time that I’d be mistaken for a boy (to this day, I can’t tell whether it was a compliment or a blow to my femininity to be mistaken for an ugly boy, which happened several times too). In any case, here I am, over 20 years later, reliving the anniversary of my first “sir”. Comfortingly, that event is one I can finally laugh about today—only because most wouldn’t misperceive me as male, even if my neck is covered (formerly, I caught people examining it on lookout for an Adam’s apple. Not kidding.)

Still, whenever I read the wrong kind of appraising glance, or someone slips and calls me “broad shouldered”, “strong”, or “big”—I feel an uncomfortable churn below the surface. I’m reminded that that first “sir” marked the beginning of a body struggle—and dysmorphia—that far outlasted my teens.

Me (left) with my little brother, at age 10

By 1994, I was already a cerebral kid. Philosophically, I believed—as I still do—that physical bodies become trivial when racked against their inner contents. But as precocious as I was, my philosophy didn’t protect me from feeling disenfranchised when I looked in the mirror. How I looked at 10 was virtually how I looked at 13 and how I looked at 15, with a few minor updates: moon-faced with a bowl cut and a large-boned frame that stretched upward over 6’0” tall, paired with a high body weight that flip-flopped between baby fat and muscle. At times, one set of limbs would grow too quickly, leaving me looking and feeling distended, trying to navigate in a shell that was neither reliable nor recognizably female. In classic chicken-or-egg scenario, I picked boy’s clothes that only emphasized my spot in liminal body land. The lack of sartorial options for tall teenage girls in the 90s was only in part to blame.

Age 13

Age 13

My physical uncertainty was palpable to kids with noses for vulnerability. With an imposing stature matched to reserve and a gallant streak more gentlemanly than ladylike, I was an easy target. I thought I was thriving while throwing my attentions into activity, whether schoolwork or sports. But I soaked up the whispers, the taunts, the threats, the trips, the traps, the punches, the pinches, and replayed them to myself as confirmation of my unworthiness. I avoided boys—even though I was interested in them—because attacks against my sexuality made me wonder if I was transgender or homosexual and just didn’t know it yet.

At right, age 15

At right, age 15

I survived my adolescent years by compartmentalizing and internalizing—thinking I could hide my body issues in a composed box that otherwise looked confident, acted confidently, and performed as well on the court and on the field as in the classroom.

The strangest bit to me at the time was this: even when the bullying subsided in my late teens, I kept nicking away at my own self-esteem as a compulsive habit.

Body loathing was, and would continue to be, an inhibitor—presenting itself in myriad, insidious ways.

Until the day I decided it wouldn’t be…

 


 

Please stay tuned for Part II of the story.
And comment below: what’s your story of growing up tall and female?

 



'From Tall “Sir” to Fashion Editor: A Story For Young Women' have 5 comments

  1. April 8, 2015 @ 9:31 am Beth @LongLeggy.com

    Kacy – Thanks so much for your vulnerability and willingness to share your experiences. I’m happy to hear that, over time, you’ve been able to process and be at peace with your childhood/adolescence experiences. I think your story will bring hope for tall ladies of any age who are currently struggling to embrace their height or other aspects of their bodies. I’m looking forward to reading more of your journey in Part 2.

    As for my experience, I was teased for my height in elementary and middle school. I was my full height of 6’2 at the age of 13 which made me the second tallest person in middle school, second only to a 6’4 boy who was always trying to get me to go out with him. Hah! Although I received frequent comments on my height, I do not ever remember being full-on bullied for which I am really thankful. My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced bullying…it’s so awful and I wish the world were a kinder, gentler place.

    I agree that the 90s were a rough fashion period for tall teens. I had NO clue what to wear so I mostly wore men’s jeans and baggy men’s shirts until I was around 16 or so. I wasn’t completely comfortable with my height and I think my reasoning was that the baggy clothes might help distract from how tall I was. At some point around the age of 17, I started wearing heels because I wanted to be able to wear cute shoes like everyone else. Of course, I got flack from people telling me I didn’t need to be any taller and shouldn’t wear heels, but I tuned them out and did what I wanted. Around 17-18, I also started to like (most of) the attention that my height brought. It made me feel unique. That’s not to say that I was completely confident with my height back then like I am now, but I would say around the age of 17 or 18 is when I really started the journey of embracing my height.

    You are an inspiration to the tall community Kacy! Keep up the good work.

    xo Beth – LongLeggy.com

    Reply

    • April 9, 2015 @ 1:44 am katteeva James

      I struggled the same way. I remember one time, I was a new student in the 5th grade and when I went to the office to get my schedule they assumed I was the new 7th grader. It wasnt until I asked to.be in a certain homeroom, that the administration said but that is a 5th grade class. That was just.one of the many embarrassing moments of my adolescence. Outside of never having a boyfriend or always being the girl who would be a great girlfriend “if”.

      Reply

  2. April 8, 2015 @ 12:44 pm Tatum H.

    Thank you for this article! As a fellow female over 6′ who survived very much the same struggles growing up, it is always inspiring to hear others with similar stories. I agree that the self-esteem issues tend to hang on well after any teasing or bullying ends. It is still sometimes hard to see past the descriptions that used to plague me (i.e. “Huge” or “big”)…

    Reply

  3. April 9, 2015 @ 4:48 am Alex

    Beautifully expressed and written, Kacy.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Reply

  4. April 10, 2015 @ 5:33 pm Margie

    Thank you for sharing your story! I was also a tall teen (now 6’0″) and due to an unfortunate hair cut and overall lack of style, was frequently teased, told I looked like a boy, and in general felt very ashamed about my height. It wasn’t until the last few years of highschool, thanks to track and field and some great friends, that I started to accept my height and even start embracing it. Now, at the age of 35, I am a professional in public relations and frequently find myself in situations my 14 year old self could never have imagined. I still occasionally wish I was shorter – but in general, I’ve come a very very long way. Now I’m raising a tall daughter and hope to have the compassion and insight to help her on her own journey to self love and acceptance.

    Reply


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