Height is a funny characteristic: not much in our control, in flux toward the start and end of our lives (with several consistent years in the middle, usually). Yet while plenty of single people are willing to work around other uncontrollable aspects of another person, like dyslexia or shoe size, height isn’t so lucky. Pesky little bugger inspires the following sorts of conversations between 30-somethings at work, even:
Me: Super excited to see “I Wish” on your playlist!
Male coworker: Oh yeah, my friends used to joke that it was my theme song. I was 5’2 until my sophomore year of high school.
MC: Then I had a growth spurt in the spring and grew eight inches. Thank God.
Me: Huh. I was 5’2 starting in seventh grade…and never grew anymore.
MC: I was so relieved. Even now, I feel like girls think short guys are just “cute” and thus are commonly friend-zoned.
As a shortypants myself, I admit that I struggle to identify with MC’s point. Rarely are men shorter than me (I honestly can’t think of the last man who was, which may mean I’m part of the problem). In fact, some of my best dates on the road were with shorter guys: Maine, who was definitely just my height, was even accoladed in my post about him for my being able to look him in the eye. Oregon and Utah deserve honorable mentions there, too (though Utah swears he’s six feet tall, I simply don’t believe him. Neither did Megan). Though to MC’s point, all these guys did wind up in the friend zone…
Okay. So height isn’t much of an issue for me. But I get where MC was coming from. Tall girls I know (and even some I don’t) have voiced their frustration to me about short girls dating tall guys, claiming we “take them all.” And shorter guys well, are prone to lying about their height — in fact, all people are. Check out this blog, backed by stats and powered by OkCupid to see what I mean. Notably, according to OkC, “Almost universally guys like to add a couple inches.” And for women? “A 5’4 woman gets 60 more contacts each year than a six-footer…[but] the data also raises the interesting possibility that these tall women are much more likely to sleep with a man who does approach them.” Which leads me to believe demonstrated interest can trump height.
Height is clearly something we look at when assessing a potential partner. Psychology Today reported on just this topic a few months ago. What I found most interesting from their article was, “The authors conclude their fascinating study by pointing out that much of this height perception and preference is relative. Arguing against the evolutionary interpretation, they point out that height preferences are not universal throughout the world, as has been shown in studies of non-Western sample.” So, height is clearly something Westerners look for when assessing a partner.
Which leads me to two thoughts:
1) Shorter men feel like they’re at a disadvantage because of height. But maybe this is like looking unconventional. In high school, I was not conventionally pretty, and was mostly ignored by members of the opposite sex except for occasional bursts of their being willing to make out with me and never talk to me again. As an adult though, the unique look doesn’t hurt me – in fact, I’d say it helps me stand out (though I’m told if I go to Italy, I really will look like everyone else).
2) My overall thesis about dating includes the fact that most people are too picky when it comes to deciding on who to date. Overcoming personal biases and finding an openness that allows you to say “yes!” to a date outside your typical box is the best way to actually meet someone you hit it off with as a human rather than as a body.
As an unconventional looking person, I’d rather be less physically attractive to the population and date people who were able to see me for me. And I’d hope/assume shorter men felt the same way.
Most of the hetero couples I know do indeed follow the “men are taller” stereotype, but certainly not all of them. One of the weddings I went to this year featured a shorter man. And one of my best friends has been dating someone at least 4 inches under her quite happily for the better part of 12 months. (The gay and bi couples I know don’t seem to have height concerns based entirely on the heights of couples I know, but I’d love to hear thoughts about this from them as well.)
According to Alison DeNisco at the Huffington Post, the man/woman height ration is based entirely on societal norms, at least for the ladies. “‘Women view taller men as more likely to be physically dominant and potential protectors, which provides a feeling of safety,’ Dr. David Frederick, co-author of the study and visiting professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote in an email. ‘For some women, being with a taller partner makes them feel smaller, and it is not surprising that some women prefer this given the pressure on women to be slender.'” Meanwhile, many men seem happy to date taller gals.
While Alison’s article is incredibly interesting, at the end she does admit that she does not want to go out with a short guy, despite understanding that it’s society that has told her not to be attracted to him, which frustrated my dating sensibilities.
So, was my Male Coworker correct in his feeling that short men get friend-zoned (possibly based on their “cuteness” rather than, I assume, their perceived “hotness”)? In the Western world, it seems he might be right. But everyone gets friend-zoned for one reason or another, and while the dating world is tough, I don’t think that means you stop looking for what you hope to find. And being friend-zoned isn’t always so terrible…some friends do wind up getting together romantically.
Changing the culture of dating is how we’ll get away from height or unconventional looks(or anything else) being a deterrence to singles. Height, like so many other factors, is simply one part of a person. You won’t know if you think someone is sexy or not until you meet them. You won’t know if you’re attracted to them sometimes until after you’ve hung out once and gotten to know them. I’d say give the shorter guy, or taller girl, a chance.