By Charlotte Steinway, 17, The Archer School for Girls
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With her well-practiced slouch, you can't tell that Charlotte is 10 inches taller than her friend, Shana Rehwald, who is 5 feet 2 1/2.
Photo By Charlotte (using the autotimer on her camera)

During the past 17 years, I have mastered the art of the slouch. Depending on the situation, I can adjust my slouch to most optimally benefit my just-about-6-foot-tall self.

My "semi-slouch" helps me fit under the showerhead every morning and check my hair in my locker mirror during school. It shaves off a good two or three inches and is just discreet enough to keep people from noticing that I’m slouching. I even do it when I’m being measured at the doctor’s office (my "semi-slouch" is inconspicuous enough to avoid an order to "stand up straight"). I slouch so secretly that at my last check-up I was a half inch shorter (one quarter inch shy of 6 feet) than the previous year.

In addition to my "semi-slouch," I take great pride in my periodically utilized "full slouch." In the "full slouch" I’ve got one knee bent at a nearly 90-degree angle with my hips jutting to the side opposite the bent knee, shoulders pulled down and forward, with my arms bent. The "full slouch" is used only for special occasions, such as being in the front row at a standing-room only concert or posing in a large group photo. Since I’m usually the tallest, I get shoved to the back row where all anyone can see in the picture is the upper region of my forehead. I also use the full slouch when I actually want to look one of my many 5-foot-tall friends in the eye.

I’ve always disliked being tall. When I was a little girl, I would constantly get comments about how "big" I was, making me feel like some massive behemoth. I have never been able to purchase jeans without exposing nearly three inches of ankle. Every night I usually resort to sleeping in the fetal position because I get fed up with my feet hanging off the end of the bed. Although I have bothered my parents for a longer bed, I have learned to love my bodily scrunch. For eighth grade graduation, my name was the last one called because the order was determined by height. When in a public arena, I often get a birds-eye view of people’s dandruff-ridden scalps.

And plane rides can be challenging—even American Airlines adding three inches of legroom hasn’t solved my problem. If I were to sit normally, my knees would nearly penetrate the seat in front of me, making the plane ride objectionable for both of us. Luckily, I’m extremely flexible so I can sit in the butterfly position, provided I am seated next to a family member, or I can contort my body into a sort of seated fetal position, which tends to be the most comfortable.

But it’s not the physical difficulties that pose the greatest nuisance; it’s the clichéd comments that have really bothered me. People often approach me and feel compelled to inform me how tall I am. I usually reply, in the nicest way possible, that yes, I am extremely tall, and yes, I have been aware of that for the past 17 years. I’ve been asked how the weather is at my height and told I’m destined to marry a basketball player. But the comment I get the most is: "You’ll appreciate your height when you are older." I never tell them that thus far, my height has refused to grow on me (pun intended).  

When the commenting person is either extremely petite or just annoying, I reply with, "I actually hate being tall." The person usually feels so bad about drawing attention to it, that they proceed with an onslaught of compliments, "It’s good to be tall, I wish I were THAT tall!" Or downright denial of my feelings, "Aww, you don’t hate being tall; you must love it!"

And although I always swore that "No, I really do hate it!" in the past few years, I have started to find a few new ways to look at my height. As the tallest player on my basketball team, I play center—the position that requires the least physical exertion, which is a plus for me since I despise sweating. I can reach the top shelf in my closet, and my height has always qualified me for admission onto upside-down theme park rides. I rode the Jaguar! rollercoaster at Knott’s Berry Farm at the tender age of 8. However, the most advantageous aspect of my vertical loftiness is my personality.

There are benefits to being tall

At 4 feet tall in kindergarten, I knew I was different. Not only were my fuchsia leggings and denim overalls shorter on me than on all of the other girls, but I also noticed that I was the only student who eagerly volunteered to share my cotton-ball cloud collages with the rest of the class. I also starred in "Cinderella," my first of many performances, when I was 5. After questioning my personality for the past 10 years, it finally dawned on me—it is impossible to be both tall and shy.

I’ve always loved giving speeches, and I never hesitate to speak my mind in class (even if I am clearly wrong). My friends always volunteer me to ask for directions because I am "the outgoing one," and I would never turn down the opportunity to sing Spice Girls karaoke.

And although I enthusiastically embrace my slouches, I have even found two instances where I can almost get by without slouching: yoga class (impeccable posture is greatly encouraged), and at formal events where the attire requires the majority of the female attendees to wear heels, and thus, I feel entirely comfortable wearing my ballet flats.

This is not to say I have fully come to terms with my height—I don’t think that will happen until I turn 65 and begin shrinking. Every year I still fear the moment when, during my annual check-up, my doctor could notice my slouch and tell me to stand up straight, thus revealing my height to be a number-which-must-not-be-named. But until that moment occurs, I will remain content with my slouch, my too-short jeans, and, more importantly, who I am as a person. Because, when it really comes down to it, the view from the top might not be so bad after all.