‘He was not as advertised,’ said my friend Zoe, as she slumped into the banquette on our last girls’ night. She had been on a date with a man who had claimed to be 5ft 11in on his online profile but was, in fact, sub-5ft 7in. Plus, she claimed, his footwear was suspiciously chunky of heel.
It made us all collectively wonder, if he could fabricate his height, where else could he conjure up a few extra inches?
Research shows that, on dating apps, women often lie about their age while men exaggerate their height. These statistics became personally problematic when I hit the dating scene a few years ago.
I’m tall. Five-feet-nine-and-three-quarter inches tall, to be exact. Which is good in that I can wear maxi dresses and occasionally wangle the emergency exit seat on planes, but bad in that the average height of a UK male is 5ft 9in. So if I want a man taller than me, it rules out more than half the male population instantly.
I have always been tall. At school I was head and shoulders above the rest of the students, so constantly felt like the headmaster was addressing his sanctimonious assemblies to me alone. Slow dances at school discos were mortifying as even the tallest boy only came up to boob height.
In my teens I did not want to be tall, I wanted to be like Kylie. I wanted to be pocket-sized and cute and able to snog Lee from 5L without having to manufacture a sit-down situation. (I also wanted feet that were dainty and small.)
To counter the dearth of 6ft-plus males in my home town, I went to Loughborough University. I told my mother this was because it had a nice campus and the course was particularly suited to my interest in contemporary American literature. Really it was because it was full of jocks whose height average was 6ft 2in. And did I mention there were six male students to every female?
Suddenly I was surrounded by tall people. All my friends were tall, as were their friends. I’ve lived in a self-selected tall world for decades. So it came as a surprise, when I found myself dating at 45, that most people were quite a lot shorter. I categorically did not
want a relationship with a man shorter than me. I wanted a man who could envelop me in a big hug, I wanted a man who could throw me on the bed and ravish me. I did not want someone who could wear my jeans.
I was set up by friends with a few guys and I thought it would be ungrateful to enquire about their height before I agreed to a date, so instead I spent hours scanning their social media accounts to see if I could find them pictured next to famous people whose height I could then Google. It was all quite time-consuming. And not entirely accurate.
I met my boyfriend in real life so there was no setting of height preferences. Luckily he is 6ft-something. And thankfully big enough for the enveloping and ravishing. But I have put the Louboutin heels, that make me 6ft 3in, on Ebay.
It’s making me think about why I had those dating rules, though. Why do I want to be smaller than a partner? Isn’t that all a bit retrograde?
My woke daughter heard me theorising and quite rightly questioned my reasoning. Is it about being protected? A need to be taken care of? Is it Darwinian? Do I need a partner who can kill a water buffalo? Quite frankly, someone who can understand energy tariffs and fix the spinning wheel on my laptop would be more useful.
But it’s not only women buying into the traditional man-taller-than-woman cliché. Apparently, half of men want a partner shorter than them. Do they need to dominate? Feel in control? Are they conditioned, like we are, by the movies? Fair play to those subverting the paradigm.
Think Sophie Dahl and Jamie Cullum (5ft 11in and 5ft 4in respectively), Zendaya and Tom Holland (5ft 10in and 5ft 8in) or Mick Jagger and every Amazonian supermodel that walked the catwalk. I admire their modernity, but I’m still uncomfortable with going shorter.
In the meantime, someone has just bought my Louboutins –a drag queen from the Home Counties.