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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Zoom: the great height equalizer

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Zoom height
A vertically gifted member of the Review staff discusses the benefits and drawbacks of Zoom learning.

Associate Mosaic Editor

Most of my semester (or, dare I say, Zoomester) has consisted of me sitting down. Usually when I sit, I’m used to potentially blocking someone’s view or inadvertently kicking or punching someone as I stretch out.

This is not because I am mean (at least I don’t think I am). It’s because I’m very tall.

While I like to equate myself to Big Bird, as I am tall, love yellow and have the mannerisms and personality of a six-year-old, I am not eight-foot-two like my kindred spirit. I instead tower at a mere six feet. That’s 72 inches for you number lovers, 182.88 centimeters for those who adhere to the metric system.

I wish I could say that height only matters for official documents, safe doorway entry and buying pants, but there’s a bit more to it.

Back in the olden days (i.e., 2019), my height generally made me stand out. It was statistical destiny; although estimates vary, women at and over six feet tall account for around 1% of the U.S. population. It would be really spectacular to end this paragraph with “I’m literally 1 in a million,” but I just did the math and that’s regrettably not the case.

Regardless, numerically speaking, I’m special.

Like with any circumstance in life, there are good and bad things associated with being tall.

Being tall makes you stand out, can command authority and exudes confidence. I can reach things on high shelves, which is very useful for helping people in grocery stores and conducting research the old-fashioned way in a library. If anything, my height is a conversation starter (although some of my tall peers get exasperated with height talk, I don’t really mind it). It’s what makes me unique, and I take great pride in it.

It has been especially useful in current circumstances as I remind my friends to stay “one Nadya apart” from others. When out and about, I know I’m at a safe distance from people when I imagine falling on my face. If my head were to hypothetically touch them, I know to move away.

On the other hand, at least for me, my height means very crummy circulation; the temperature of my hands is constantly equivalent to that of a pint of UDairy ice cream. I hit my head on low-hanging things frequently, from doorways to the occasional chandelier, and if you’ve seen “Elf”, you may know that shower heads and shoe sizes don’t take very kindly to me and my people.

There are times when I’m not really up for standing out, yet have no choice. I’ve been told that my height is intimidating (for the record, once we’re back on campus post-COVID, you’re always welcome to come up and say hi to me. I love hugs) and buying clothes can be the stuff of nightmares — I have yet to buy a formal dress that doesn’t come from the Misses section (not that there’s anything wrong with the Misses section. I’ve just spent so many hours in there that it’s practically become my second home).

With Zoom, however, some aspects of my life have changed.

Now that classes, extracurriculars and events occur over Zoom, I’m not asked the same questions. There is no more “Do you play basketball?” (no, but I am pretty decent at tennis and very mediocre at chess); “Why do you wear high heels if you’re already so tall?” (I didn’t know there were laws dictating that I can’t, my bad); or “How’s the weather up there?” (just blissful, thank you).

There is no more of me awkwardly crouching to comfortably reach the level of a bathroom sink or water fountain, or to give hugs to my peers. There is no more of me jokingly calling all of my friends “short.” There is no more squishing myself into airplane seats or group photos where I loom in the back row like an ill-placed streetlight.

Instead, there is just me, seated at my screen, like everyone else. Even though I am a vehement denier of the overarching concept of “normal,” I can’t help but say that I feel somewhat “normal” for once. For the first time, I am going about my life without feeling self-conscious or different as a result of my height. Although circumstances revert back to the way they were when I go out for walks, my educational and extracurricular life has taken on a new character, one that is not influenced by my 72 inches.

People frequently tell me “I wish I were taller like you!” Although I seldom admit it, there have been and continue to be times when I wish I was shorter.

Zoom has sort of quasi-answered this wish, but now I find myself a bit nostalgic for the times when I towered. As I said before, for all the annoyances and insecurities that come with it, I am proud of my height, and I think everyone should feel the same way about every aspect of themselves.

After all, if everyone were the same height, it would be hard to find your friends in crowds. If something were on a high shelf, you’d always have to grab a ladder, and if something were on a low shelf, there’d be a lot of people on their knees in grocery stores. Adjustable car seats would be rendered obsolete, and no one would pay extra for economy plus because the legroom on airplanes would be universally satisfactory. The anatomy of group photos would be completely overturned, with the back row standing, the front row kneeling and the middle row awkwardly crouching.

Height, like your favorite childhood cartoon that you still watch sometimes, the time of day when you study best or your favorite aquatic mammal, doesn’t define you, but it is something that makes you even more unique.

I think it’ll be interesting once in-person classes resume and campus life rises from the ashes to go back to those unintentional view-blockings and surprise attacks, those cut-and-dried questions and those clumsy, back-breaking (but still wonderful) embraces. Nine months without them have made me realize how important it is to appreciate myself just the way I am.

I love my genes— not the “Tall” sized ones in my closet, but the ones that make me tall. When everything goes back to normal (this phrase is becoming more cliche to me than “Wow, you’re really tall”), I anticipate my special normal as well, head injuries and all.

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