I always thought this saying was funny. Not because it was an utterance heard on one of my favorite Prince records, but mainly because for the first half of my life, I was always more ahead in shoe size than my age would allow. Being taller than most of the girls in my class, in a word, sucked. It did not help me in social status for a billion reasons, but the three most important were as follows:
- I stuck out like a taco on spaghetti night.
- Boys were also typically shorter than me.
- My mother could never seem to find girls jeans that reached my ankles.
- My feet seemed to grow faster than the rest of me.
Out of all the other perceived strikes I had against me as a black, introverted, nerdy girl in the 80s, this one was the worst. It gave people a reason to look at me; to point me out and ask me the same questions.
“How tall are you?”
“How’s the weather up there?”
“Can you reach that for me?”
“Do you play basketball, run track, or participate in some such sport dominated by freakishly tall people with long arms and legs?”
Well, I embellished a bit on the last question, but you get what I’m saying. If you’re taller than average, you’ve heard it all. I used to be offended when I heard what I considered “normal-sized” girls say “I wish I were taller”, wondering, how dare they curse themselves like that? I couldn’t help it. There was no getting away from it. My mother was 6 ft tall and my dad, whom I’d only heard of through stories my mother told me, was 6’7. “He’d have to bend down to walk through the front door and not bump his head”, she said.
“Great, I thought, I’m definitely passing this curse down to my future kids. Sorry little Shante or Zelda.”
As the oldest of 5, I’ve always been mature for my age. A young single mother, growing up with you, will do that. She always made it a point to encourage me, because at least, being tall herself, she knew firsthand what I was set to go through. One day we went shoe shopping. It was about a month before the first day of school. She always shopped for my shoes last because I was the oldest, and because my brothers’ feet were still small, she could buy them little cartoon character shoes dirt cheap. Don’t get it twisted, I never owned a pair of Nike’s it was Pro-Wings and the best canvas tennis shoes for this girl. I hated the canvas shoes because they gave no room to disguise the length of my feet. I was 9 years old and already at this goofy, awkward stage where my two front teeth were rabbit sized, my hair was at an in between stage of length, and my head looked like a globe on top of the broom stick that was my body. I was the quintessential stick figure with Bozo the Clown feet. My white canvas shoes rarely stayed fresh for long. I was always scuffing them from tripping and falling on the playground.
“One day the rest of you will catch up with your feet. You’re tall. They are supposed to be long, for support,” She said.
Mama, not a lot has changed.
- Now I’m like champagne at an AA meeting.
- I’ve been told that height doesn’t matter when you lie down.
- I can afford to shop at stores that carry pants sizes with an ‘L’ or ‘T’ after them.
- I thought my feet finally stopped at 11, but they gave it that old college try and reached the whole ruler.
I am not yet older than my European shoe size though, so I have license to behave a little badly. 🙂