By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
And so it goes for the very very tall women of the Internet, as they chat among themselves and others, negotiating the high road between paying tribute to their tallness and decrying those who only see them for what they hold themselves out to be: very, very tall. Last weekend a close-knit group of 50 regular chatters from across the country got together for a convention in Arlington and tried to have it both ways: celebrating their altitude as well as their attitude. On Saturday afternoon, nearly a dozen of these giantesses were about to throw a very very tall baby shower for one of their own.
They were chat-room roommates, cyberspace cadets, drawn to each other by the common bond of their highness--and America Online. Five years ago, two women began the VVTW romance site to meet others of their extreme ilk. Here they could pay homage to their lofty she-ness; here they could share the problems of low doorways and high heels; here they could find tall men looking for tall women, tall women looking for tall men, and tall women looking for tall women. And despite the hazards of these kinds of virtual relationships--sorting out the pedophiles, the pornographers, the false screen personas (hey--turns out the guy's only 5-foot-3)--70 or so regular roomies emerged and decided to actually, physically meet each other.
Previous get-togethers had taken place in Oregon, Florida, and Las Vegas, but now it was the metroplex that was under attack from the very very tall, who gathered at the far North Dallas home of Laurel Fisher, a pleasant, all too giggly woman--long face, big grin, over 6-foot-2--who goes by the screen name TreeinTX. The ceiling in her contemporary brick home is 12 feet high, more a matter of convenience than taste, as her husband is 6 feet 9 inches tall.
Although Tree had never met Karen from Illinois, and didn't even know her last name, she had agreed to host her baby shower. Still, they had been chatting each other up for the last two years. "I know it sounds crazy," says Tree with a laugh, partly out of embarrassment. "But just because you haven't met somebody doesn't mean you don't know them."
According to their Web site, the worst question you can ask a gathering of the VVTW is how tall is very very tall? It's the kind of question that makes them feel like objects--albeit very very tall ones. Although there is no height requirement, certainly, Shir6ft5 from Arkansas and TallBabeFL6'2 from Florida would qualify. But once inside Tree's house, I noticed a very very short woman, Marie (Sweetdrm12)--the runt of the litter at 5 feet. Apparently, her husband had gotten her involved in the group. "He's not tall either; he just likes tall women," she says. "But let's not go there."
The baby shower proceeded in the den, both in real time and virtually. Tree's computer was never turned off, and one of the women would, on occasion, go to the keyboard and describe the goings-on to those VVTW on-line roomies who couldn't make the weekend. Karen, at 6 feet, already knew she was going to have a very very tall baby girl, and several of the gifts complemented the overarching theme of her nursery: giraffes.
Although Karen had always been attracted to tall men, she married a man of lesser stature: a lawyer standing only 5 feet 11 inches. Call it the tyranny of the very very tall, but Karen said that she and the others consider any man who is shorter than they are to be just plain short.
I drew my shoulders back, pulling myself up to my full height of almost 6 feet, conscious for the first time that these women found me small.
Everything about them--their thoughts, their demeanor, their sexuality--seemed to be defined by one dominant trait: their length. But living large hadn't been easy for them, particularly when they were gangly juveniles. Several were gawked at in public, treated as if they were some kind of sideshow attraction, unable to walk into a restaurant without everyone taking notice. Others had to face the contempt of adults who assumed the very very tall were more mature than they actually were. In high school they seldom dated, intimidating boys their own age who hadn't caught up with them--and might never. "Even the tall guys back then were attracted to short girls," said Nanner59, who is 6 feet tall and from Florida. "What a terrible waste of height."
"I can't tell you how many times people asked me, 'Do you play basketball?'" recalled Tree. "Tall girls are expected to play sports even if they aren't interested in them."
Most of the VVTW regulars considered it their mission to counsel the very very tall girls who enter the chat room saying they hate being so different. "We tell them we all went through it--the same trials and tribulations and insecurities," explained Nanner59. "But all that passes. They just have to wait for everyone else to literally grow up."
Certainly over the last several decades, our culture has grown more accepting of tall women. Some of that is by necessity: The average American woman is now 5 feet 5 inches and growing--up from 5 feet 2 inches several generations ago. Size also matters for women: the very very tall are taken more seriously, dismissed less easily, both in business and when operating heavy machinery. And our aesthetics seem more inclusive of tallness--evolving to encompass the beauty of the supermodel, the grace of the female athlete--tall broads all.
For some of these very very tall women, the VVTW chat room has given them a forum where tall is the norm and they can feel average for the first time in their lives. But for the majority of these regulars, it has given them a chance to tout their tallness, a place to be downright chauvinistic about it. "For us height isn't a matter of inches," proclaimed Nanner59. "It's an attitude."
Perhaps it was that attitude that made me retreat to Marie. Did her husband really drag her into VVTW? Maybe at first, she says, but then the very very tall embraced her for who she was.
But wasn't something lost on-line--nuance, innuendo--those nonverbal cues that give meaning to conversation and prevent people from being misunderstood? For her, that wasn't a problem: these weren't her virtual friends; the emotions between them were real. "Now I am tall in spirit!" she bellowed.
As we spoke, the very very tall took notice and all talk in the den ceased. To fill the silence, I said something...stupid.
"I don't know," I shrugged. "I just feel comfortable talking to Marie."
"That's exactly what we mean!" shouted one. "It sums it up right there!" hollered another. "Men are intimidated by tall women."
I began to backtrack, searching for some nuance or non-verbal cue to give a different meaning to my conversation. "No, really, I feel comfortable talking to all of you. I mean come on, look at me, I'm 6 feet tall."
"Yeah right," said Nanner59, spotting the extra quarter-inch I tacked onto my true height. "And I'm blonde and skinny."
The women uttered a collective hoot. In one sentence, I'd managed to antagonize the whole large lot of them and be cut down to size. I lowered my head in disgrace, which made me even shorter.
Somehow we got past the awkward moment, and I got ready to leave. They were certainly gracious enough, inviting me to meet the rest of their members for dinner at an Italian restaurant--then go dancing with them at Cowboys to end the evening and the weekend's festivities. I told them thanks, but I had made other plans.
I was going to dinner and a movie with my wife. She is only 5-foot-1.