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.