Tall Tales (2002)

(originally published as "An Inch Late, A Dollar Short" on September 26, 2002 in the Jewish Journal)

When Jewish women explain why they date only the tall or well-heeled, logic gets the short shrift.

WELL?” prompts my wife, gliding down the stairs in a black satin evening dress. I give her the elevator eye, approving until my line of sight crosses her ankles to findPayless flats.

The author and his wife, Lina, kissing under the wedding chuppah in 1995

The author and his wife, Lina, kissing under the wedding chuppah in 1995

“No heels?” I hint.

“I can’t,” Lina protests, meaning: “I’d tower over you.”

Five-seven Lina and I stand eye-to-eye. When I first asked her out, I thought our parity would please her; I was wrong. It troubled her when she leaned in for our first kiss. It troubled her when we stood beneath the chuppah, she in two-inch white heels, I just reaching her in my black boots.

My wife’s aversion to height-challenged men has been passed to my 14-year-old stepdaughter. But five-seven Vicki enjoys wearing pumps. Though fewer boys will measure up, she explains, “I won’t be asked out by runts.”

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

In fairness, women everywhere prefer having a mate they can look up to. After splitting from Tom Cruise, five-eleven Nicole Kidman told an interviewer, “Finally, I can wear heels.” Winning the lanky Aussie’s hand had come easily for the charismatic Cruise. But send him incognito to a Jewish singles weekend, and five-seven Tom would be as likely to score as Tom Thumb. “A tall mensch,” sighs Marla, a contracts lawyer, “is hard to find.”

Marla shared her lament in 1993, two years before I got rehitched. But judging from reports from my single friends, Jewish women’s calculus hasn’t changed one newton.

Forget Shorty

cartoon of two Jewish women in short skirts chatting over a meal

cartoon of two Jewish women in short skirts chatting over a meal

“The first time I ran an ad,” says Richard, 32, “I got zip replies. The next time, I omitted one fact; six replies.” The fact he omitted? That he is five-four. Richard’s experience is echoed by Tuvia, a Hassid. Firmly in the modern world, Tuvia is a highly paid computer jock. But his stature—five-six-and-a-half—has cost him more than one shidduch. “I tell them by phone I’m five-seven,” he grins. “But if a woman has a problem with my height, she’s probably not for me.”

a Hobbit

a Hobbit

Heaven help the nice Jewish boy who doesn’t measure up. If he’s not famous—or well-heeled—he has slim chance of wedding a Jewess taller than a pygmy. Near-pygmies slight him. When applying to meat markets, singles must sometimes state their height. How low will an applicant stoop? Arlene, a petite sales rep, confesses, “I write that I’m five-six so they’ll pair me with a tall guy.” I say: Hitch this liar to the nearest Hobbit.

Why won’t Marla and Arlene even consider dating a Dudley Moore? They offer up some curious arguments, notably, “I like to feel protected.” Could a six-two bouncer protect them from a .44 Magnum? “Maybe not,” they stammer, “but I’d feel more protected.” Ah, you want to feel protected? How about five-five Stu, a third-degree black belt? Nyet.

In competing for tall men, tall women claim dibs. When my five-one sister is on the town with her five-eleven hubby, statuesque women glare. Save him for us! their furled brows snipe. Diminutive Diane frets. Howard’s height was irrelevant, she explains; “We just fell in love.” Sister, what’s love got to do with it? You stole one of ours.

Marilyn vos Savant, whose weekly Parade column helps readers think clearly, was asked why women are loathe to date shorter men. Their prejudice, she explained, is a vestige of a bygone time of hunter-gatherers, when height conferred a survival advantage. Today, she noted, the gatherers’ reasoning doesn’t wash. It’s as indefensible, she asserted, as the modern hunters’ prepossession to favor women with large breasts.

Ouch. Let’s move on.

“He’s Not Successful”

Scan this paper’s personals, and what will you find? Women seeking soulmates who are “successful.” In other words, loaded.

Not so, they’ll clarify; “just successful at what he does.”

“I see,” I’ll reply. “I have a friend, Stan. Teacher of the Year two years running. Interested?”

“Um, no thanks.”

Bait and hook. “How about Marc? Never mind: he’s not a success at anything. Not that he needs to be; his late dad left him set for life. You wouldn’t be interested.”

“I didn’t say that.”

In girlspeak, “financially secure” is a kissin’ cousin to “successful.” A successful man brings home a fat paycheck. His financially secure brother has a well-rounded portfolio, a recession-proof income, and a house. He’s also “unencumbered” (more girlspeak) by payments to ex-wives or their young.

In my gallivanting days, as a mere technical writer I managed not to attract gatherers like Deborah, who explains that Prince Charming “Needn’t be rich; I just want to be able to live comfortably”—namely, to enjoy a new sedan every three to five years, an annual flyaway vacation, and the freedom to charge those Italian shoes at Bloomie’s instead of chasing Blue Light Specials.

an ad for KMart's Bluelight special sales

an ad for KMart's Bluelight special sales

The Tall and the Short of It

Ladies in waiting: Solitary from holding to your lofty character standards? Tired of remaining a bridesmaid because the nicest groomsmen are an inch—or a dollar—short?

Richard and Tuvia have two words of advice:

Grow up.

© 2002 Paul Franklin Stregevsky

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