I’m Dating A Man Who’s Taller Than Me For The First Time

I remember when Hinge first came on the dating scene. The tall girls were thrilled, because finally they had a dating app where men had to disclose their height.
For so long, my tall girlfriends had to either:
1. Awkwardly ask their potential date what their height was before they met up without sounding like a total asshole, or
2. Wait patiently until the actual date, knowing full well that they wouldn’t be into it if their date was shorter than them.
But me? Even though I’ve always been considered a tall woman — I was in the back row of every school photo and have been bordering on 5’10” since I was 17 — I’ve always felt pretty nonchalant about height. 
Until recently. We’ll get to that. 
When I fell in love for the first time, I fell for a sun-kissed musician with long golden hair and endless freckles, who used to write me songs, smash me avocado on pieces of thick toast and take me to the beach. He was about a centimetre taller than me and I didn’t care. His height only ever occurred to me in small moments, like when we were walking along the street holding hands and our shoulders would graze, when I had to sink down into my seat in the cinema to rest my head on his shoulder, or when other girls would point it out to me. 
“You don’t mind that he’s your height?” they’d ask.
“No, not really,” I’d say. “I actually barely notice it.”
They were always surprised by my ambivalence and said that they “could never” do it because they “liked to feel small” next to their partners, especially during intimacy. At the time, I thought nothing of it and continued to be madly in love with my guitar-strumming, almost-my-height boyfriend. 

The mainstream representation of hetero intimacy always depicts a woman who is smaller than a man.

Upon reflection, every time I’ve been in a conversation about height in relation to dating, it’s always women talking about men. In heterosexual relationships, the majority of straight cis women seem to want to only date cis men who are taller than them. And it’s always for the same reason; that they liked to feel “small”.
The only way I can make sense of this is through the lens of how women have historically been taught to view their bodies in relation to men. The mainstream representation of hetero intimacy always depicts a woman who is smaller than a man. Often, she’s small enough to be picked up with ease. The small-ness isn’t just portrayed in height, but in body weight too. I can’t think of a single aspirationally portrayed straight couple in a film, book or TV show where the woman is taller or curvier than the boy.
Not to mention the stereotypical romantic things that you get to do as a girl in a relationship with a boy, such as wear your boyfriend’s T-shirt around the house and his jeans outside of the house. Pair them with a platform loafer and not only are you an effortlessly cool fashion girl, but you have a boyfriend that is obviously the big spoon. The hetero dream! These are the moments we’re taught to look forward to, as women consuming mainstream love stories. But what happens if you get to the moment and the T-shirt is too small and the jeans won’t do up?

In moments of singledom, I’ve often reverted to a mentality of shame about my body. It’s what we’re taught! That to be successful we need to be loved and to be loved we need to be attractive and to be attractive we need to be small.

I won’t lie; I had this experience in my first relationship with my first boyfriend — and I did feel disappointed. Having devoured Hilary Duff rom coms for a literal decade, I wanted nothing more than to wear my boyfriend's T-shirt around the house like a dress when he wasn’t there. But my love for him was bigger than my insecurity about my own body in his clothes. 
I understand that it’s not like this for everyone, and it hasn’t always been for me. In moments of singledom, I’ve often reverted to a mentality of shame about my body. It’s what we’re taught! That to be successful we need to be loved and to be loved we need to be attractive and to be attractive we need to be small. I used to feel insecure about being single, and the easiest thing to blame was my body. 
But truthfully, the intimacy with my boyfriend showed me that that wasn’t true. By the time we met, I’d developed some serious curves and he loved them. He was the same height as me, but I loved him. It occurred to me — when we were having sex for the first time — that you don’t really notice the way someone’s body looks when you’re really into them. You notice how it feels. Although I was already on my own journey to radical body love (and I’m still on it), my experience of intimacy with him confirmed it for me.
There was never a moment during sex that felt like an imbalance — that I was overpowering him, or him me. It always felt equal, which is how I like sex to feel. Either of us could play a submissive or a dominant role, depending on the mood. 
Since my first boyfriend, all my meaningful relationships have been with people around my height or a little shorter than me. I’ve never made out with someone shorter than me and thought about their height. Or the size of their body. If I’m into them, it just doesn’t occur to me.
This might have something to do with my sexuality — I don’t date based on gender. If I had to label myself, I’d probably say I’m pansexual. People’s energy, their vibe, our chemistry, the way their minds work and the aura they carry with them into whichever space they inhabit is what I find attractive. 

The amount that I’m enjoying being the “smaller” femme in this relationship is something I’m highly aware of. I don’t know how to feel about it. 

I was in an on-and-off relationship with a woman for three years in my early twenties, who was both shorter and thinner than me. I do remember that when we first got naked, it occurred to me to be careful with her. I was new to dating women at the time and I’ve found that the way I go into relationships with women is more careful than with men. I feel more aware of them and how I’m making them feel, because I have a fundamental understanding of what it means to be a woman. It felt like her body was really sacred to me, perhaps in part because it resembled mine and also because it was smaller than mine. But with her was the only time I’ve had that thought and linked it to size. 
But here is where it gets interesting. Because now, I’m in a relationship with a man who is quite a bit taller than me. And I notice it all the time, especially during intimacy.
There’s something about his 6’2”-ness that feels really attractive to me. I feel supported in a way that makes me feel able to let go more than I ever have before. I definitely don’t think it all comes down to his height; there is more emotional intimacy, vulnerability and support than I’ve ever had in a relationship that is very much present too. But his physical size helps, I think. 
It feels a little cliche, how much I like that when he cups my face in his hands to kiss me, I have to tilt my head up. Or that one of his hands can cover the entire surface of one of my butt cheeks. Or that when we walk with our arms around each other, I fit nicely into the nook underneath his arm. I can’t deny that these moments make me feel undeniably feminine, and that I really like that. 
As a woman who has had to come to terms with her curves, who has taught herself to feel empowered by the space she takes up physically, the amount that I’m enjoying being the “smaller” femme in this relationship is something I’m highly aware of. I don’t know how to feel about it. 
To be honest, on the one hand I’m kind of annoyed that I enjoy it. It’s so fucking typical. But on the other, I don’t want to deny myself the pleasure. It’s just something else that I’ve discovered I like. I could sit here and question whether the patriarchy has invaded my subconscious, which has brainwashed me to think that tallness means masculine and masculine means strong which means I have the space to be more vulnerable. But to be honest, I didn’t question what it meant about my femininity when I kissed a woman for the first time, so I don’t think I should start now.
Tallness is a quality that some possess and others don’t. For me, I still don’t think height matters. I’d still be with my current boyfriend if he was my height or shorter. But I enjoy his tallness and his strength, the way that I think we should all enjoy the physical traits of the person that we’re dating. 
If you’re someone who cares about height, that’s perfectly fine, but it’s important to acknowledge that, and try to understand why. If you’re like my other tall girlfriends, it probably has something to do with wanting to feel “small” and that is definitely something that we should address within ourselves. Because taking up space as a woman is powerful and sexy. 
Although I don’t think about someone’s height as a point of contention when I’m in the early stages of dating them, I think it’s okay to love that someone is taller than you. I also think it’s okay not to care. The only thing that really matters is how you feel about yourself, and how the person you’re dating impacts that. 
Listen to your body and mind. If it’s telling you that you’re into something, embrace it; explore it. If it’s sending out some alarm bells, there’s probably something to investigate there. Talk to your therapist, a sex expert or your partner about it. The thing about love and sex, desire and attraction, sexuality and empowerment is that we’re only just forming a language around it. Just don’t knock a short king, queen or gender non-conforming babe until you’ve tried it. 

More from Relationships

R29 Original Series