I stand at 6'5", but you'll have to do the maths yourself if you want the metric measurement.
How I got here is not, I believe, so much a matter of genetics as of diet, one originally based on post WW2 food rationing in the UK which, thanks to the National Health Service provision of regular doses of vitamins, free school milk and my mother's vegetarian meals, has given me a lean body and stout constitution.
Happy though I am in my frame, and short of amputating my legs I don't really have a choice, I tend to be a quiet and retiring fella, shy even. Going out and about, as perforce I occasionally have to do, means hearing passers-by include the words jangkung (storklike) and tinggi sekali (very tall) in their conversations. I sometimes succumb to the temptation to respond that I'm not tall; rather it's Indonesians who are short.
I'm thankful that after my 20 odd, very odd, years here, there are many teens who are reaching the heights I have achieved. I hope this is a result of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
A recent study tells me that taller people live better lives, at least on average. They evaluate their lives more favorably, and they are more likely to report a range of positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness. They are also less likely to report a range of negative experiences, like sadness, and physical pain, though they are more likely to experience stress and anger, and if they are women, to worry. These findings cannot be attributed to different demographic or ethnic characteristics of taller people, but are almost entirely explained by the positive association between height and both income and education, both of which are positively linked to better lives.
In general, that sums me up. I am an optimist, an unashamed idealist even, and not being a woman, I don't worry over much. I'm not so sure about income, but I've got by so far, and I did go to university. Apparently, the better early diet also contributes to our higher IQs, thus enabling us to move higher up the salary scales.
Yep, tall people are valued more. In southern Sudan, among the Dinka and Nuer people, women over six feet fetch 80 to 100 cows on the marriage market, while shorter women bring only 50 or 70 because "they bring tall children.” Plus, in a nation short on step stools, they can “reach things.”
This leads me to the several negative factors which the study doesn’t appear to take into account. For example, when asked for help in reaching for articles on top shelves, I usually ask for help in getting what I want from lower down.
I used to be regularly accosted in public urinals in the UK by other users who would ask, “What’s the weather like up there, Lamppost? Is it cold?” I’d refrain from looking down at them because … well, because. This scenario is rarely possible here because there are few public urinals.
Clothes are also a problem. For example, I have often been given presents of shirts which, although welcome, are too short in the sleeves. I hope that one day Our Kid will grow into them, otherwise I’ll contribute them to flood victims or poor folk at Idul Fitri. That said, our local tailors fit my needs.
Shoes are a particular difficulty. I regularly trawl shoe stores in the forlorn hope that I can find a pair that will fit my size 11½ (47) broadfit feet. On the very rare occasions that I do find a comfortable pair, they're generally imported, having originally been exported from Indonesia, and are therefore exorbitantly expensive, or they've got 3" heels.
One of the biggest problems I have is the shortage of space in public transport. On planes I generally ask for a seat beside an emergency exit as there is more legroom. We can't all be Barack Obama. What's more, I doubt that he's had to travel on a Metro Mini or its equivalent very often.
It's the same everywhere. I never managed to get a driving licence in the UK because the only car I can fit in comfortably is a Rolls Royce. I can't even ride a motorcycle here because the only models are suitable for children. Look around you if you don't believe me; what percentage of the riders are too young to get a licence?
But the biggest problem I have is the state of Jakarta's sidewalks. We all know how important it is to walk looking at our feet to avoid the numerous holes and other obstructions. I've lost count of the number of times my head has been gashed open by non-trimmed trees and low slung road signs because I daren't walk tall.
So next time you see a tall westerner wearing a hard hat, please don't offer sarcastic comments. I need a bit more compassion. ............................. Originally published in Jakarta Globe