Memoirs of a very tall man

Tom Houghton discusses the true essence of what it is to be very tall: a bit rubbish, really

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I’m tall. Very tall. Six foot eight inches to be exact. That’s 203.2 centimetres. Twenty-six hands. One-point-two Smoots (it’s a real thing, Google it).

The average height of males in Britain has risen by 5 inches in the past century. And for those beneficiaries of this burst of evolution, some parts of life, at least, are looking up. According to science (you can’t argue with science), we earn more, have better success dating and reproduce more than you shorter folk.

Further, in my part time job at Starbucks, I was nominated for district partner of the quarter on two occasions; an award given for outstanding contribution, heroic customer service, or great barista skills. But instead of appearing to possess any of these admirable qualities, my USP was apparently my ability to change the light bulbs without the use of a stepladder. Who needs to be good at their job when they have arms (my wingspan is 6 foot 10) this long, anyway?

Starbucks love a guy with a large wingspan


However (in the spirit of Valentine’s Day), every rose has a thorn, and the roses for those over 6”5 or so are, well, thorny.

The Daily Mail reported that being tall (alongside crayons, peanut butter and being middle class among other things) leads to cancer and DEATH. So, aside from the blatantly obvious risk of contracting a fatal disease, I have compiled a short list of a few of the difficulties us tall folk experience in day to day life. It’s about raising awareness, after all.


My polite disposition coupled with my inherent British-ness means being a part of a standing audience often makes me apologetic on behalf of my existence. This involves turning to those unfortunate enough to be standing behind me to give endless penitent glances, as if to suggest that I wish I wasn’t present so that their experience could be made slightly less disappointing.

Too tall for photographs

Public transport

In the same vein as crowds, standing on public transport naturally means that those with a bit of height are visually singled out, whether they like it or not. Regardless of what mood you may be in or how foul you may appear on that particular morning, you WILL make eye contact with around 6 times as many people as those, say, a foot shorter would, unless you just look down, awkwardly. Awkwardness is a trait ever-present in all aspects of life for tall folk.

And even when a seat becomes available, you’re still probably just better off standing. Sitting will, unless you have the luxury of a double seat to yourself, involve straddling the seat in front or bunching your legs to the side meaning an aisle obstruction or (god forbid) rubbing legs with your neighbour.


‘The bunch’ and ‘the straddle’


At the risk of turning this into a rant about height (I don’t think I’ve crossed that line just yet), airlines should receive special mention here. If I had a pound for each time I’ve walked past old biddies or short ageing men occupying the Emergency Exit ‘reserved’ seats as I stooped down the Easyjet aisle to my allocated place, situated between a middle-aged couple too fatigued with their spouse’s tedious personality to sit with one another, well, I’d probably have about three or four pounds.


“Do you have to buy all your clothes online?”

Despite the answer to this question actually being a big fat ‘no’, I have found that this doesn’t satisfy people’s want of hearing that being tall is indeed a burden. Therefore to make life a bit less uninteresting, I’m propelled to contrive lies which range from telling of visits to specialist tailors for new t-shirts to trips to ‘big size’ high street stores, like High & Mighty, in the likes of which I can confirm I have NEVER set foot.

Aside from this, questions such as “What’s the weather like up there?” and “Have you got taller since I last saw you?!” are just great and I wish I was asked them more often.

Occasionally useful as a climbing frame


These don’t need much explaining, surely.


Or more specifically, bed frames. Bed frames that, unless banks are broken, do not ever exceed 6”3. Who even invented this dross? The same idiot who probably also invented bathtubs, cars, tables, bikes and showers.

I could go on and on. However, to put it fairly simply, many parts of this modern world were not created with tall folk in mind. I would quite happily trade a few inches of my height in return for never hitting my head on anything again and having to turn to each witness of said head-banging with a feeble grin on my face, as if to imply that I found the situation just as hilarious as they did.