It's a small world for the tall

It takes a big man to admit he's too tall.

But I stand stooped before you today to say I've been too tall for decades, and height's not all it's cracked up to be.

I've been thinking about this a lot since reading an article that said tall people make more money. A new study, first reported in the "Journal of Applied Psychology," found that each inch of height means about $800 more a year in pay, which adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.

"These findings are troubling," said lead researcher Timothy Judge of the University of Florida. "With few exceptions, such as professional basketball, no one could argue that height is an essential ability for job performance."

The researchers analyzed four studies in the United States and Great Britain that followed thousands of people as they grew up. And up and up. They found that taller people were perceived as more competent, and suggested this attitude comes from our evolutionary past, when size and strength were important to survival.

I believe this study has several shortcomings. (Ha!)

First of all, as a tall person, I see no evidence that I'm paid more than my peers. In fact, there have been times in my so-called career when I could barely afford enough food to fuel my oversized engine.

Secondly, I've never found that people perceive me as being more competent, especially once they've gotten to know me.

Third, the study doesn't account for people like me, who work at home. Most people I encounter through work have no idea that I'm 6-foot-5. To them, I'm merely a disembodied voice over the phone or a snitty little e-mail message.

Finally, the study overlooks the daily hardships faced by the overly tall. If there is a "height dividend" hidden in the pay scales of America, then it's only because it's expensive and inconvenient to be much over average size.

Take, for example, clothing. When I had a regular job that required me to wear decent clothes, I easily spent $800 a year more than my colleagues for clothes that would fit my elongated frame.
(Now, working at home, I usually wear my one-size-fits-all bathrobe, so it doesn't matter so much.)

Or cars. Buying a car is traumatic enough when you can fit into any little sedan on the lot. But when I shop for a vehicle (or even rent one), my first priority is not engine or color or reliability. It's "can I fit?" I go to an auto dealer and try on cars.

The whole world is designed for people of average height or shorter. Do normal-sized people duck through doorways? Fold into thirds to fit into an airline seat? Get decapitated by ceiling fans?

For extra-tall people, a good day is one in which we don't hit our heads on something. It's difficult to maintain the illusion of competence when you're doing the ooch-ouch dance over the latest goose-egg on your skull.

Speaking of dancing, it's something tall people should only do alone, such as while in a shower where the spray hits at navel-height. Unless you can find an equally tall partner, you'll just look silly on the dance floor. When there's a big height difference, "dancing cheek-to-cheek" takes on a whole new meaning.

So you, the normal-sized public, should ignore those vestigial evolutionary perceptions about height and survival. They simply don't hold true anymore.

Don't put us tall folks on a pedestal. We'll only hit our heads.

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