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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Column: A question of inches

You know that panicky feeling you get in your stomach when someone is giving you the side-eye? Maybe the following scenario will jog your memory. Ron is going out with his friends for some fun times at the pub. As they’re leaving, Ron’s friend, Luna, gives him the look – the timid smile and wandering eyes that make Ron feel ridiculously insecure about how he is presenting himself. “What? Is it my hair? My new TOMS?” Luna sighs. “Not exactly. To be honest, I think you should reconsider your height. I’m thinking six feet or six one would look better for where we’re going tonight.” Hold up. Wait a minute.

Height: the unavoidable shadow that influences daily actions, voice-inside-head assumptions and personal presentation. Coming in at a solid 5 feet tall (5 feet 2 inches when I’m trying to one up someone), I’ve had my fair share of height-related experiences. Never a day goes by when my place in this world as a slightly overgrown hobbit does not affect the way I lead my life. Whether it be choosing the seat in lecture that allows for optimal viewing, running around Target begging the employees to order more step stools (they were out of stock!) or worrying that my height may cause someone to underestimate me, I know that size matters.

Let me be clear, I don’t plan on going all Annie on you this quarter and dishing out my hard-knock life. I know shorties aren’t the only ones who consider what height means in our society. Whether you are among the tall, taller or tallest, there are times when we all must stop and stare … or wonder, “How does that beanpole ever get a date?” or “Is that Munchkin in college or kindergarten?” I’m not saying that we all make life-altering decisions based on these thoughts, but I do think we most definitely consider their implications.

The evidence has always been there. While we may not exactly remember, our height was recorded as soon as we were born. Not to mention the awkward pre-teen physical when our doctors revealed the magic number – how tall we would become before nature hit the brakes. Or take your mind back to those markings on the wall in your childhood kitchen – the markings that represented the battle you and your siblings fought for years, where height was the only weapon. For some reason, being taller than someone else, whether it is by a centimeter or millimeter, meant something in those days. And I would argue that meaning did not fade with age, but became a hell of a lot more complex.

Why is the “normal” heterosexual couple one in which the girl is shorter? Why is it easy to sympathize with smaller characters in movies? Is height connected with certain personality traits? I’m no shrink, but I feel like our subconscious is begging us to address these questions. I see no harm in doing so. Being a little more observant in this mad world full of legitimately strange occurrences could only help.

Authorities, peers and books are always telling us to see the world through someone else’s eyes, to walk in their shoes. Instead of sitting your subject down and stealing their shoes, I propose we look at how we all experience the world as subjects of a universal trait – a trait that varies in every single person on the planet. My mind was blown when I learned in anthropology that just like snowflakes in their characteristic uniqueness, no two people in the world are exactly the same height. This tells me that a simple mark on a measuring tape is most definitely not the full story.

It’s as easy as seeing how far an ‘ole chap has to jump to make a safe landing from our glorious British busses. Making a simple observation like this may not change your life, but it can open your eyes to someone else’s world.

Fact: every single person’s head is a measurable distance from the ground. Just like “hipster” or “cylon,” our height serves as yet another label on our person, a permanent one at that. It can dictate who we date, how dependent we are on the people around us and what parts we get in the school play. Its impact can be seen on our own campus every single day. This quarter I plan on adopting that observant eye and sharing what I learn about these seemingly innocent numbers that are aggravatingly inescapable.

Reach MAYA MAKKER at mgmakker@ucdavis.edu.


  1. HA HA this is great! I really like her sarcastic, but yet sophisticated tone. Look forward to reading more from her.


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