Laws of Attraction, Theories of Relativity

My dear friend, who writes I’m Gonna Break Your Heart, is tall with long dancer’s legs that make women and men alike swoon a bit.  That she almost always adorns those legs with very high heels means that she is solidly north of six feet tall.  The aforementioned facts are only relevant because it was her height and the moronic on-line dating messages her stature inspired from substantively shorter would-be suitors.  One message (and the accumulated impact of many like it) inspired a blog post about the type of men who feel compelled to contact her with some variation of the “you don’t know what you’re missing” theme.

Her post was built of frustration and fatigue, but it was the comments, which struck a more unforgiving tone, that got me thinking.

I agree that the men who are sending those messages are Napoleonic troglodytes with massive chips about their shoulders and serious insecurities.  However, no one addressed the issue of the origins of said shoulder chips or active insecurities.

Boys are reared in a Lord of the Flies type of world where whomever is strongest, most virile always has the conch.  For better or worse, height is frequently perceived as a component of that strength, height is part of virility, and in that context height has virtue.  That socialization doesn’t go away simply because we have reached adulthood.  Therefore a lot of men read “you must be this tall to ride this ride” as you must be this GOOD to ride, and they have read that/been told that for the better part of their lives.  It may not be conscious but it is certainly looming in the subconscious.

To further complicate matters, it seems that the definitions are limited to tall and short (at least as it pertains to dating) with tall being at least six feet.  Given that every man under that magical number of inches is well aware that the average height of adult males in the US is 5-9, it stings twice when men of average stature are told they’re too short (read not good enough.)  Do all of these factors lead to attempts at over-compensation? Of course.  Do the majority of those attempts have some sort of douchetastic ramifications? Probably, and that’s what shows up in my tall friend’s inbox every so often.

Quick aside: if you are a woman dating a man who tells you not to wear heels, you should generally be distrustful of people who ask you to sacrifice your comfort for the sake of theirs.

The final complication is added by the fact that too many women typically take no ownership of their role in this issue.  As men have been socialized since childhood to place virtue in size and strength, women have been socialized to place virtue in the physicality of size zeros.  Women have been socialized to be the “fairer” sex and a part of that is having a man who is taller and bigger.  I get it and I am not trying to demonize any woman who wants that, but it would be nice if we could at least call it what it is.

So a man is being told he is too short to be dateable (read not good enough,) even though he knows he is about average, and most women who make the claim don’t acknowledge that their explicitly stated preference has even the tiniest root in their own body issues.  That might get frustrating for a man.  I am not now, nor would I ever excuse less than gentlemanly behavior, just offering a theory of its origins.

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19 Responses to Laws of Attraction, Theories of Relativity

  1. Brando says:

    Good points–I’ve always thought it silly when women require a suitor to be SIGNIFICANTLY taller than them, as if the height would somehow be a benefit (perhaps she expects that they will subsist entirely on whatever fruit he can grab from a tree branch or something). Likewise, a guy should be willing to date taller women–it’s not as though he’s got to fit her into a car trunk or anything like that. At least I hope not!

    The way I see it, there are so many better things to be shallow about–height just seems far too arbitrary.

    “there are so many better things to be shallow about–height just seems far too arbitrary” – hysterically brilliant. that is all.

  2. imgonnabreakyourheart says:

    Confession: I am the shrimp in my family and have always wanted to be taller. Hence, the heels. My body issue, I know.

    Your quick aside should be a rule.

    The one thing you fail to mention is the innate hotness in any man, like yourself, willing to adorn his arm with a woman in heels taller than he. That confidence is sexy as hell.

    Thank you. I agree that confidence is an endearing trait for both men and women.

  3. imgonnabreakyourheart says:

    Oh, and thanks for the compliment. *blushes*

    My pleasure.

  4. kitty says:

    thing is, though, we get to interact with the short men after that chip is well established.

    as an average height woman who doesn’t care about a man’s height, i may not even get to weigh in.

    but for me, it’s not short men i shy away from, it’s men with “short man syndrome” who overcompensate for being my height by being a jackass.

    I am a man of average height and I’d like to think that I dealt with all of my macho, trying too hard, chest thumping (brain thumping too) bullshit long ago, but who the hell knows. I say that to say that everyone gets to weigh in. What I have come to learn (over too many years of dating) is that relying on the arbitrary is foolish. In case you’re wondering at what point I arbitrarily draw the line of that which is arbitrary? Things that are a product of a genetic accident are arbitrary.

  5. the concept of a checklist of necessities for a relationship (of any kind) has always seemed a bit absurd to me…
    i blame the modern proliferation of internet dating and the whole abstraction that has come to be known as a “profile”
    that said ive dated em all..tall short.. fat slim…white collar blue collar .. rich poor…
    and if theres one thing ive learned…
    its CHEMISTRY…its there…or it isnt…
    xoxo

    That is another brilliant point – the notion that our checklists have become so ubiquitous because of the nature of online dating. Anecdotal evidence of old pictures I have seen would seem to bolster you point.

  6. kate.d. says:

    Women have been socialized to be the “fairer” sex and a part of that is having a man who is taller and bigger. I get it and I am not trying to demonize any woman who wants that, but it would be nice if we could at least call it what it is.

    Bingo. Dudes with Napoleon complexes–and their ensuing bad behavior–certainly deserve condemnation, but gender stereotypes and our collective, continuing willingness to invest in them make the situation what it is overall. Play that game, don’t play that game, whatever works for you – but it’s important to acknowledge the entire context.

    I agree with you on every level, so here are my questions: how do we break that cycle as a society? As individuals who are a part of the cycle? As individuals who aren’t?

  7. rondamarie says:

    I like to date men that are at least a few inches taller than me, I’m 5’7″ and I like to wear heels, I’d like my man to still be taller than me when I wear heels. Its my preference, and whenever someone asks me why I prefer to date taller guys I am not afraid to say it is because taller, bigger men make me feel petite, and I want to feel small. I’ll admit it is MY body issue that feeds this desire.

    I get that. Given that acknowledgement, I would ask have you ever considered trying to change it? Please don’t mistake this for lobbying one way or another, but I am just curious.

  8. Grace says:

    I’m not that tall. A little shy of 5′ 6″ but men regularly think I am taller (I’ve mentioned this before). The men that have a problem with my height and high heels are not worth my time. Those that don’t mind? Like my sweet boyfriend (5′ 5″) that loves the days I wear 4 inch heels…those guys are always welcome.

    I am with you on that score. As I tried to indicate, this issue isn’t specific to heels and height. It applies anytime someone asks you to sacrifice your happiness so that they can be happier. Let’s pretend we’re discussing board games. He loves them and you hate them (you’ve tried it before and have an informed hatred for them.) A man who keeps asking you to play because it makes him so happy is the same as a man that asks you to wear lower heels even though the higher ones make you happier, feel sexier. Whether it’s board games or high heels, or it’s you asking him for something he hates, the issue is still the same. Make a choice about doing it or not, but be distrustful of the person who can ask the question.

  9. Brilliant post. In terms of the comments, I’d have to agree with what suicide blond said – it’s all about chemistry. It’s there or it’s not. I have not had with tall guys and had steamy chemistry with not so tall ones.. and that’s all that matters and should matter..

    And as My Favorite Blonde wrote, the checklist nature of online dating (or at least as most people approach it) lends itself to that type of restrictive thinking that has nothing to do with chemistry.

  10. Carla Ganiel says:

    The whole time I was reading her post, I kept thinking that being short for a guy must be sort of the equivalent of being a plus-size woman. And Lord knows, the men of the internet dating world have plenty to say on that subject.

    It narrows the options, it’s unfortunate, maybe it’s shallow. But it is what it is. Desire is inexplicable.

    Of course, at 5’3″ most guys I meet are taller than I am.

    Carla, I am going to try to split a hair here. The comparison to being a plus sized woman is only apt in the limited sense of the women who have no control over such things. There are plenty of women for whom nature and genetics dictate that their healthy weight is larger than what Cosmo magazine tells us is the idealized (read: fictional) version of beauty. However, women who are obese because of life choices that have led them to plus size, fall into a different category in my mind. It is a question of choice versus genetic lottery. Either way, women who are larger than size 6 have a more difficult road to travel in finding a mate, but I think that has more to do with the shallow-as-a-hair-root desires of most men.

    • mscarlita says:

      Yes, you make a good distinction. I think, though, that in many instances, women don’t feel as if it is something they can control. Still, you’re right. While the effects may be the same, the cause in one case is fixed and in the other it isn’t.

  11. DC Darwin says:

    I think you are missing the point of your own argument. The point isn’t that society’s has forced us to think that height and strength are important; it is our genes and ultimately our mating desires that have created this notion.
    Please stop thinking that society or any other “institution” creates anything. There is a reason why taller people are in positions of power, why pretty people always get treated better, and why ugly/fat people are looked down upon. Our genes determine all these physical characteristics and our genes drive us to seek out the best possible mate to reproduce with. Because of contraceptives and a better understand of women’s fertility cycles, we have circumnavigated nature and have allowed for those with lesser genetic appeal to “date” those with higher appeal. In other words, think about it like this, if anytime you had sex with someone you were bound to be pregnant, who would you chose to date (ie how would your offspring turn out)?
    Please read Darwin and forget anything that “society” has taught you. In the end, despite our technology and “sophistication”, we are still animals and will behave as such.

    I would have responded more specifically to your comment, but the following comment handled that for me. I will, however, note that you espouse lots of theories with very little in the way of sound reasoning to support them. Further, I wish to make clear that even under the most charitable reading of your comment, it came across a touch rude – walking into a party and insulting the host with assumptions that s/he is not well read, is not the best first impression. Just saying.

  12. David says:

    Sorry DC Darwin, it doesn’t work that way. We’ve only had effective and widespread contraception for, at most 2-3 generations. That’s not enough time to “circumnavigate” anything.

    Moreover, while we’re on the subject of Darwinism, we’re all here because of unbroken chain of lineage in which all of our parents were found attractive (choose whatever definition of “attractive” you like) enough to mate with. Some of us may have better genes than others, but we’re all pretty damn strong from an evolutionary standpoint.

    David, thanks for handling the heavy lifting regarding the former comment. It saved me some work.

  13. Lemon Gloria says:

    Thanks for pointing me to her post, which I’d not read. Both were really interesting. This made me think, not just about height but also about attraction and the online shopping nature of dating at this point.

    I think that checklist are valuable, however, that which we choose to place on them is where the conversation frequently devolves into drivel. What arbitrary factors are really more important than the substantive factors that will carry romance into the sunset age of porch swings and holding hands?

  14. Alice says:

    i have a “height thing” (which i fully recognize as also being a “shallow thing”).. i’m aware that it’s a society-conditioned reaction, that i want a man taller than me because that’s what’s “natural” etc. etc., but i HAVE dated a guy shorter than me and i just plain prefer them to be taller. if it’s a shallow society thing, so be it. we should all be allowed one shallow thing when we’re searching, right? i’ve dated guys who are “robust,” one with bad teeth, and a few who were definitely not traditionally attractive. but.. i want ’em taller than me, darn it.

    I don’t consider it to be a shallow thing. Things that are deeply ingrained into our psyche rarely are. The only reason that I included the portion of the theory that involves women and their “ownership” of this issue (not necessarily a problem just an issue) is because so few women acknowledge said ownership. I do not begrudge you your preferences.

  15. As a 5’11” lady, I’ve thought through this height issue thing many, many times. And my only conclusion is this: whether your preferences are societally based or not, they are your preferences. Period. A man may not date me because I’m not a size 4 and I might not date a man who’s 5’4″, and both of us may be “shallow” or “limited” in our preferences but…well…if that’s what we are actively choosing?? Then it’s just our choice. Done.

    I’ve dated shorter men and much taller men, and what it always comes back to is great conversation and great chemistry. If either one of those things is missing, it doesn’t matter how many inches the guy has on me or how many I have on him.

    Great post, as always, my friend.

  16. Karen says:

    I may be late to the discussion but I had one more comment for DCDarwin.

    Your assumption that it’s only genes that dictate what traits we find attractive isn’t true. Society and the culture in which we are raised has a PROFOUND effect on what we find attractive and desirable (or unattractive and undesirable, if you will). If it were genes alone, then how would you explain the preferences for the longer necks in the Kayan women near Thailand? Or for more voluptuous women in certain African tribes? How about body modifications such as tribal piercings or full body tattoos?

    Many people strive to be what they consider “normal”, but our sense of “normal” isn’t innate, it’s learned. And not only are we taught from an early age what is considered beautiful and appealing, we’re also taught what isn’t. It’s those social stigmas that give some people the self-entitled permission to ostracize and denigrate those who aren’t considered ‘culturally acceptable’. So I think it is you who is missing the point of your own argument.

    And I’m pretty sure that if Darwin were still around, he as a man of science, would be fascinated by this discussion.

  17. Karen says:

    I wanted to add one sentence to the last paragraph after my reference to tattoos and such…

    Granted, these are all examples of created physical traits and are not genetic, but the argument is still the same.

  18. Mixed/Other says:

    Gotta say that boardgames may not be the best analogy. Unless of course a line has already been distinctly drawn, as you mentioned. However, in what other way do we learn to share and grow if not by occasionally doing those things that please those we love – even at a bit of our own expense.

    I confess I derive a great deal of satisfaction in seeing my partner pleased by my participation in something that costs me so little.

    No I don’t mean that one should regularly sacrifice one’s dignity on the altar of a dating relationship at the expense of one’s own contentment. But what I question is this: in what is one actually finding one’s happiness? Is it Control? Image? Popularity? Comfort? Or are we willing to invest in relationships with other people and ride out certain ups and downs like a blue-chip stocks they are?

    There is also an important thing to remember, if the man (or woman) you are with does not value him or herself enough without heels/ perfume/ makeup/ money/ cars/ suits/ whatever, he or she is never going to value him or herself with or without said accouterments.

    I think it may be also fair to say that if you are with someone whose insubstantial self-pride and self-image carry more value than you and/or the relationship, there is more than a need for distrust, there is a necessity of evacuation.

    I would also encourage stepping to the stone of skepticism and caution before leaping to the stone distrust. Distrust is a very difficult weed to uproot, and almost inexorably poisons to death the roots of an already flowered relationship. It also inhibits two people from openly communicating with the assumption that the other has their best interests at heart. And when the flower dies and is uprooted, each person is left only with a root of distrust lying in wait to strangle the next seed to germinate in the heart.

    As for me…if she’s tall and long, or short and plump…more power! If she doesn’t want to talk to me, oh well. I know who I am and what I am worth, even if she can’t see it. 🙂 Peace!

    @ DC Darwin: if you can honestly say, that you have never once purchased something in a store simply because you saw and ad on TV and thought it was cool, then I may buy part of your argument. Then you can enjoy your pedestal above society. In truth, to say that society doesn’t influence is like saying the Holocaust never happened. Poor form.

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