My ideal ... height


I was in my room the other day, making prank calls. I called my father and pretended to be my mother, by speaking in her distinctive, gravelly voice. “It’s off,” I told him curtly. Then I called my mother and told her my father was bawling at home. She explained they had some new invention called “caller ID” and had been humouring their “lonely girl”. Disappointed, I decided instead to imagine the ideal height.

My writing, unlike my other art, is aimed primarily at human beings* so it is their height I will discuss. Now, remember this and take heart: unless you’ve had the misfortune of tumbling into a concrete bridge that’s under construction, your height is not set in stone. If you’re a man reading this and you’d like to adjust your height, you can stoop, crouch, or go on tippy-toes. Women, as usual, get the better deal. We can simply change our shoes. We are so privileged to have all of these options in life, or at least in shoes. Why, there’s even a new mid-heel shoe available for autumn!

I’m 5ft 7in or (forgive me if you’re European – I can never figure this out) about 19m tall. The downside of being this considerable height is that I can never stand, toes pointed in, blinking widely, bleating “I’m tiny” until some buffoon takes pity on me and we get engaged.

The upside is I can completely dominate business meetings, particularly when I remain standing and insist everyone else sit on beanbags.

I was much taller than my ex-husband. I use the past tense but I shouldn’t: he’s very much alive, and very much cashing the alimony cheques.

Anyway, when we were together, walking in our customary way (my arm slung over his shoulders, casually), people would mock us. “Look, that wicked giant stole a monk-child!” Or, less cleverly, “Weird – the woman is taller than the man.” I’d pin them to a wall by the scruff of their neck and Michael would stamp on their toes.

If we were running late for an important event, I’d swing him up and carry him along. One time, 10 minutes behind schedule because of an
impromptu spoken-word jam, I had to run the length of the Phoenix Park with him on my hip, as he giggled and shrieked: “Giddy up, we’re homeward bound.” Neither of us knew it at the time but I believe that instant was one of those small, decisive moments when our love began to wilt.

The ideal height keeps your head in the clouds but your feet on the ground. It lets you see what’s happening on stage without missing the crowd scene right ahead. My dream height is marked on a garage wall in pencil, over dozens of others, going higher and higher each time, until it stops. I’m there now, and hoping not to shrink.

*You may have heard that my latest outdoor installation Untitled: Bowl of Milk sent ripples through the
hedgehog community.

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