People will set you up. And sometimes the master manipulator is none other than the countenance saying, “Hey, boo” to you in the mirror. I have set myself up in many ways during my twenty-three years.
I used to play basketball. Between ages eight and ten I attended overnight basketball camps at a state university. We did dribbling drills, ate pizza and guzzled Gatorade. I met collegiate hoopers, some of whom went onto the WNBA. I learned about dedication, perseverance, collaborative efforts and packed-to-capacity pep talks.
At first it was cool. I enjoyed the liberation of sleeping on a hard mattress in an icy dorm (away from my parents!), eating monstrous bowls of cereal and candy (college cafeterias are soooo cool!) and meeting girls whose passions about basketball rivaled mine—about writing and reading.
I wasn’t the worst. Necessarily. Defense was my offense. I also played for the YMCA. One season, I scored a groundbreaking two points. I pulled my weight in other ways.
With the leggy, arm-y form of a soon-to-be-6-footer, I waived limbs in front of faces, palmed basketballs away from backboards and took countless elbow jabs from overzealous dwarves.
No offense to short people. Referees just never seemed to see these occurrences. Yet, if and when I used my length for revenge, I got a foul call, called to the side of the court and some time to think about if I really wanted this. Even in a Christian league, dirty play and being punked made me want to level the playing field.
Camps ended. Seasons ended. Most Improved Player… Imari Jackson. They spelled a sista’s name wrong, but it’s the thought. I earned a little shine. It added a little time. I switched camps. The players switched ethos.
After grumpy coaches, relentless drills and competing against girls who graduated from elbow swordsmanship to jabs plus face scratches and hair pulling, I drew the curtains on that show.
Initially I was drawn to basketball because of my height. There was also people’s constant reminders about it. I was tall. Tree branches and cabinets reminded me. Pant legs and class portraits reminded me. Boys in the mall, who loomed larger than life from four store windows away, reminded me.
It was easier to be tall because my mother is tall. She could sympathize and, more importantly, she empathized.
Even with familial support, it took several years to settle into the height I’d always had. While my confidence improved drastically in high school after I began performing poetry, in college I finally left the crazy chrysalis of short-envy.
If anything, now height seems symbolic. I don’t see a lot of distractions. If I duly focus on what’s in front of me, I’m always fine.
I hope the same for Elisany da Cruz Silva, the world’s tallest teen girl. At 6’8” she is not only a stunning, statuesque Brasilian young woman, but she also appears graceful and at peace with her height. That is truly beautiful.
By no means am I implying that I understand height experiences in equal magnitude to hers; however, as a tall woman, I stand in solidarity with her. As with most things, it’s about the principles.
People don’t always understand the issues that women, especially tall women, experience. People are ok telling us who they think we can and can’t date.
America’s Worst Comic will ask what the weather’s like. Napoleons will mutter offers to climb you. If you’re longer than you are wide, some might allude to eating disorders. People will offer your swine-free self a plate of ribs.
In 10th grade I went to a teacher’s desk to ask a question. Before addressing my inquiry, she told me that I was a giant.
She said that I reminded her of another teacher, who is also black, female and tall. We, giant black women, looked alike. Also, this teacher, who still wasn’t answering my question, said that my legs were soooo long that they were past her boobs.
Note to self: You don’t have boobs. Second note to self: Gravity and her boobs’ gangsta lean are independent of your height. She mouthed something resembling a response to my question. I sat back down.
The saga continues. If I wear wedges or heels, I mentally prepare for the foolishness to which I might be subjected. It’s tall guys who opine most frequently. Eye contact or telling them that something is on the top of their heads is scary. Men who don’t see over all women’s heads are eunuchs. Or something.
In the spirit of a sista whose folksy wisdom went viral, ain’t nobody got time for that.
It is about what I think. About transforming thoughts into beliefs. About carrying around rechargeable patience and swag. Even for those of us who keep the stratosphere company, life is still about growth.
P.S. Once upon a time my little bro, sis and I made a video about being giants. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaFuia1x_bA