I was seated in a yellow chair at a matching yellow table in the back half of One Plaza downtown when he approached me.
Not that it matters, but often people wonder what girls were wearing when these kinds of conversations take place, so I’ll tell you it was black skinny jeans and a loose fitting long sleeved black top with the sleeves cuffed to make them look 3/4 length. That’s my workaround when sleeves are too short. I make them look like they were intended to be that way.
Little details like that are things you become used to when you’re “very tall”, “amazon”, “a giant”, or “do you play basketball” tall.
I was working on my laptop. I had two telephones and a copy of the paper beside me. My water bottle was to my left, no ice. It was a little too breezy for ice.
He walked up to me in the kind of outfit my grandfather always wore – A lightly printed collared shirt, long pants and a very large baseball cap. He leaned over my computer and asked how tall I am.
“six one,” I answered. People ask me all the time. I’m used to telling them and not nearly as bothered by it as I once was. I understand curiosity. Often, my answer is met with some type of compliment or wish that they too could be this tall.
This particular stranger leaned way back and acted like it was the craziest thing he’d ever heard. Then leaned in again and said “At least you’re not fat. Ain’t nothin’ worse than a tall, fat girl.”
I don’t even remember how I responded to the comment before he pointed a calloused finger at a woman walking by and loudly whispered “like that”.
I swear on my life that it happened.
I don’t know if he thought he was complimenting me, by saying I wasn’t fat, but it didn’t matter.
I’m not in the habit of judging other women by their shape. I make a conscious effort to remember that just as I’ve been made fun of in the past for being too tall or too lanky or (my least favorite) “amazon”, other women have been mocked for features they have little to no control over as well. I didn’t want to be invited in to his predatory judgments. I’ve never thought it was a woman’s responsibility to look the way men she doesn’t know want her to look, despite that being the standard we see on a daily basis.
I wasn’t going to commiserate with him over what he deemed an inappropriate size for other people’s bodies.
I don’t remember my reaction, because I’m betting there wasn’t much of one. I think I froze. Sitting here now I wish I’d said a million things. I wish I’d told him by my standards there “ain’t nothin’ worse” than a man who thinks he gets to decide how a woman he doesn’t know should look. No, he didn’t need a loud, preachy lesson. I wish I’d just told him his words were unkind. They were unkind to women of different shapes, and they were unkind to me.
He didn’t have my permission to assume that I wanted to judge along with him. He didn’t have my permission to include me in a conversation that led to him physically pointing at a woman neither of us knows as if she’s below standard.
He didn’t have my permission to imply that I know there is nothing good about my being 6’1″ save for the fact that my BMI is on the lower end of the charts.
The man smiled at himself as he walked away. He was proud of what he’d taught me. He was happy to know that I would leave more aware of the world and its expectations for me.
He’d enlightened me.
I don’t know his first name, but I won’t soon forget what he thinks about my body.