My awareness of just how tall I was started in junior high, and with it came the need to slouch, hunch, and in general try to be shorter. I had always been the tallest girl in class, sometimes the tallest person in class, but in junior high I became more aware of it. Perhaps it was the day that I wore a cute green shirt that matched my eyes but also happened to become the source of the unfortunate “jolly green giant” nickname some of the (shorter) boys gave me. Somehow “jolly green” was quickly replaced by “Amazon”, which lasted a while and I definitely found preferable. Either way, the green shirt was only worn one time. That is a mistake most tall girls only make once when they’re in school. It has lasting ramifications. I had become painfully aware that I was taller than everyone around me.
During that time, and without even realizing it, I began slouching. I could hear my friends better, I blended in more, no one stared, called me names, or noticed me. For those fleeting moments, I felt like, what I had always wanted to be, I was just one of the girls. We could giggle, laugh, talk about boys, books, music and make-up. When clothes, shopping or shoes came up, I would drop back out of the conversation. There’s not much shopping one can do at Forever 21 when you’re 5’10”.
The first time my mom saw me slouching, she was picking me up from the mall with my friends. My mild-mannered mom lectured me the whole way home about how lucky I was to be tall. At home, she made me stand with my back to the wall. She placed a hand on each shoulder and pushed my shoulders against the wall. Her lecture continued,
“No daughter of mine is going to slouch.”
“You’re going to stand up straight.”
“It’s bad for your back.”
“You’re lucky you’re tall…”
“Tall women are beautiful..”
At 5’6½” tall, my mom grew up being told she was tall. She truly believed she was tall and strangers would occasionally comment on her height. I’m sure she never expected to find herself reaching up to push the shoulders of her 13-year-old daughter who was over 5’10” back against the wall every day or two to make her standing straight and tall.
If she saw me slouching, or hunching over at all, up against the wall I went.
Eventually I got better at saving my slouching for when mom wasn’t nearby. Eventually I became more confident and found myself standing straighter. Maybe her words had started sinking in, or maybe standing with my shoulders back against the pale yellow wall each night really did have an impact. I know it wasn’t fun, and the more I stood up straight, the less I had to stand there, wearing jeans that weren’t long enough and shoes that needed to “stretch out” while listening to all the reasons of why I’m lucky.
In college, I became the one who pushed (figuratively), trying to convince the taller of my friends to stand up straight so we could be tall together. A gang of amazons. Of warriors. Of tall slightly uncoordinated study geeks, a few of whom eventually found their way into athletics where coaches sought height and strength.
Standing tall and having good posture is critical to good health. Researching ways to stop slouching that don’t involve your mom forcing your shoulders against the wall, there is a lot of information, but one of the best I came across is an article on Wikihow that outlines six ways to stand up straight and stop slouching:
- Get your mind right (become aware)
- Enlist your friends (for those times you aren’t aware)
- Get straight through strength (work on your core)
- Train your muscles
- Walk with a book on your head
- Back bound hand pose
- Shoulder squeeze
- Cow face pose
- Baby cobra pose
- Bridge pose
- Camel pose
I will fully admit that the only reason why I included this second list is because of the “cow face pose”. While the stretches look amazing and I want to do them right now because talking about my back makes me need to stretch it, the Cow face pose, definitely wins.
I still continue these stretches and exercises to make sure that I’m always standing straight and walking tall. Thanks to my mom, I decided long ago that since 99% of the time I’m the tallest woman in the room, its way more fun to own it proudly and stand tall.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I owe you. I’ll reach at least one thing for you from a shelf on high. xo