I always hated being tall. For me, it stems from Junior High – I shot up ahead of most other girls, just at the time when I was being picked on and bullied. I wanted to disappear, but nature forced me head and shoulders above. There’s probably a lesson in that, but whatever. Not my point.
I hunched and wore flats for years and years. Mom tried to get me to stand up straight. I wanted so badly to be petite and cute, like so many other girls I knew. Even my older sister was shorter and more petite than I was.
Then I went to Peace Corps. I showed up in the Dominican Republic with a suitcase of hiking boots and Birkenstocks, khakis and t-shirts. I had been a field archaeologist – I knew what was up when it came to roughing it in the third world. Another girl in my group, Kristi, showed up with a far different suitcase. Hers was full of cocktail dresses and heels, lacy underwear, dressy shirts, makeup. My first thought was that she didn’t have a clue.
Here’s the thing – when you go out at night in a city or even a small town in the Dominican Republic, you’re going out to dance. And you dress up. A LOT. Suddenly, I was the one without a clue. Kristi saved me. We were the exact same size, height, even had the same hair. She dressed me up, did my makeup, and got me ready to go. When she grabbed a pair of heels for me, I started to draw the line. No WAY. I didn’t wear heels in the states, much less in the DR, where most of the population is easily a head shorter than me! Kristi shook her head and thrust the heels at me as I complained about my height. “Own it. Love it. It’s who you are.”
Wise words indeed. That night Kristi and I headed out like the twin towers, cocktail dresses and heels and all. There was no way to ignore us – we were the tallest people on the street, not to mention the whitest. The attention was uncomfortable for me, but with Kristi by my side, head tall and completely comfortable with herself, I was able to relax. And across those 2 years we spent many a night out dancing together and each time, I felt more and more at ease. Plus, it’s actually easier to dance in heels than flats. Who knew?
So I left the Peace Corps with the first pair of heels I had ever owned, several cocktail dresses, and straighter shoulders, all because of a sweet girl from Georgia with a penchant for dressing up.
Thanks, Kristi. I owe you one.