Why Did I Have To Be Different?


world_tallest_woman

Yesterday I saw the news that in November the world’s tallest woman died at the age of 39. Yao Defen, from China, was 7 feet 7 inches. She lived a very sad life for the most part in a country where adult women average 5 feet. By the time she was 15, she was 6 feet 7 inches and of course was playing basketball. Tallness is revered in basketball but not off the court, especially if one is a young girl.

Medically, her height was as a result of a pituitary tumor. Being poor in rural China, she had no recourse to medical evaluation until she was finally noticed as a teenager. She couldn’t understand why she had to be so different.  All she probably ever wanted was to fit in.

 “I am very unhappy. Why am I this tall?” she said from her bed. “If I were not this tall, others would not look at me like this.”
 
I am 5 feet 7 inches. Even though I am in my mid ’60s, I haven’t yet started to shrink. I realize  that my height is not all that unusual, but in a country where the average is 5’4″ for women, I can still look easily above the heads of most of my friends my age. I reached this height in seventh grade. Except for a couple of boys, my friend and I were the two tallest people in seventh grade. My friend developed a knock out body in high school and started dating the basketball players. For me, it was not that easy. Add to that  I was overweight and you have the picture of an excluded girl who was marginalized for most of her school life.I can’t begin to know all the problems Yao Defen had in her life, being confined to her bed for much of it. I do know what it is like to be known as “different”. In the minds of young women, “different” is the last thing one wishes to be. In many cases, those who don’t have strong parental encouragement develop egos that tank in the toilet by the time they reach high school.In high school I was never really “in” one group. I was allowed to float on the edge of three different groups until I finally gave up my senior year and more or less stayed by myself. By that time I had “ballooned” to a tight size 16 while most of the other girls were in their single digit clothes. Most of the boys by that time were either my height or taller but my weight still kept me on the outs.

I have never understood the importance of being “normal”. I’m sure it happens all over the world but here in America being anything but cute and petite at least through high school, is a recipe (at least it was in the 50s and 60s) for loneliness.

With the number of obese girls skyrocketing in America, it is even more prestigious to be in the petite group. Girls are dying of anorexia to maintain their membership in that exclusive club. Those that are proportional but taller don’t have the means to do anything at all about their heights. Americans are still holding their heads in the clouds and maintaining the extreme importance of being “normal” in size.

A friend of mine is 5’9″. We talked about being tall. In her words as she was growing up, “It SUCKED!” Yes, being anything but “normal” does suck.

I’m certain the life of Yao Defen sucked. Although there are no answers, for those that are kept on the  outside for whatever reason, life sucks. It is being an outsider that creates so often the destructive behaviors that are not “normal”. Living on the edge for many hurts.

We are entering the season of “good will to men (and women)”. During this season many people seem to be kinder and more welcoming to everyone. Wouldn’t it be great if the season of good will lasted all year long? Wouldn’t it be great to live where there is no normal, where everyone fits in and there are no exclusive clubs anywhere? It ain’t going to happen, but wouldn’t it be great? Namaste. Attic Annie

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1 Comment

Filed under Casual conversation, general topics, teenagers, Uncategorized

One response to “Why Did I Have To Be Different?

  1. It would be great. There’s a tangible feeling of good will in the air this time of year. And I can feel it evaporate by December 26th. I am sure to suffer the post holiday blues as a result.

    I am 5′ 9″ tall. I was always one of the tallest kids in my class, from the first day I started school. I wasn’t athletic and I didn’t have the body I dreamed of in high school either. I wasn’t cute and I was painfully shy. I was called bean pole and was constantly asked if I played basketball. (I didn’t.) My self esteem took years to blossom as a result.

    It does seem that the younger generations are beginning to embrace being different (to extremes, it seems.) Maybe there’s hope for acceptance of our differences yet.