Help! My In-Laws Called Me ‘Tall’

February 17, 2011 | By | Comments (0)

I have always dreamed of being tall. Height gives you presence. Long legs. And that willowy runway silhouette that looks so good in drape-y fabrics. I am jealous of you if you look like this, and I can’t imagine trying to make you feel uncomfortable by saying, “Wow, you are so tall! Did you play basketball?” Of course…I'm not your in-law.
Inlaws Weird though it sounds, a 6-foot-tall reader named jackmanl wrote recently to say this is exactly the sort of ribbing she has to put up with all the time from her in-laws (who, by the way, “are on the rather short side,” she noted).

She goes to family gatherings, and people routinely sidle up and say: “Why are you wearing heels? You are tall enough already!”

It’s getting really annoying, she wrote: “I was just at a family funeral and I was told REPEATEDLY I was tall…as if I had forgotten.”

What is going on here? And how can jackmanl put a stop to the comments?

OK, first. When jackmanl’s in-laws say these things, there is an underlying message. They are reminding her that her height makes her different from them, that she is “other,” that she is not really a part of “their” family. They may not consciously realize they are sending this message, of course. But in the land of in-laws, this is common terrain.

Knowing this, jackmanl has many choices about how to respond. For instance, she can ignore the comments. Or she can enlist her husband, as her emissary, to approach his family to tell them that the comments make her uncomfortable. Or she can try to fight the battle on higher ground, by trying to win over her in-laws and change the way they feel about her.

While she is considering these options, she also can confront the situation directly, in a polite but firm way, the next time someone makes a comment:

Cousin-in-law Mabel: Wow, you are tall. How tall are you, anyway?

Jackmanl: Why, Cousin-in-law Mabel, what an odd question. You’ve known me for five years. You were at my wedding. Are you telling me this is the first time you’ve noticed I’m tall?”


Have your in-laws ever said things that make you uncomfortable? If so, how did you handle it? 


(image courtesy of Real Simple)