Thought for today:
"The old saying that the best things come in small packages is often very true, but not always, I might add. An anthropologist study on one of the central African tribes of pigmy people many years ago revealed that despite their absence of height (less than five feet tall) and overall smallness in body size, the small males of the Aka and Mbuti Tribes fathered more children than did taller and larger men of other African tribes and most Europeans. It just goes to show ladies that size doesn't count, but sperm does!
When I was a Probation Officer, training up in Newcastle on Tyne during 1970, being a lover of dancing I was a frequent attender at every dance I could get to. I am relatively small in height (the result of an accident as a child which stunted my growth), but until recent years could always dance well.
There was one young woman on the Probation course whom I befriended called Carol. Carol loved dancing, but nobody ever asked her to dance.The reason was simply that Carol stood over six feet tall. She was naturally conscious of her height and foolishly dressed down in her attempt to minimise it; wearing the flattest of shoes. She always wore 'flatties,' as she called them, never wore a dress and felt that she looked much better in jeans or slacks.
Over the year in Newcastle, me and Carol became the best of friends and surprisingly, we also finished up being regular dancing partners. Given that this was the year of the Shake as opposed to that of the Waltz, dancing together became physically possible. I had always been a rebel and so breaking any stupid rules of etiquette which said small men don't dance with tall women because they both finish up looking a pair of wallies, seemed to me a rule worthy of breaking.
To digress momentarily, after my childhood accident, though small in size, I never felt small in person. Unlike me though, Carol had lacked self confidence for most of her life. However, during our year of daily contact and close association, she was to come out of her shell totally.
One night at the bar while other students were dancing, I noticed Carol there alone drinking a half pint of bitter. She looked somewhat isolated in a room of happy people and for the remainder of that night we spoke. She told me she loved dancing, but felt too conscious because of her height walking to the floor, even if anyone asked her to dance, which they rarely did. The bulk of our conversation that evening was around the problems of her height and how being a six footer made her feel. The evening concluded by me asking her for a dance, but due to the disparity in our height, she declined.
Being a Behaviourist and keen student of psychology at the time, I would often use less conventional thought and methodology whenever approaching problem situations of long-standing order; what many folk might describe as turning things on their head to best advantage.
Carol had agreed to let me help her if possible, overcoming her height consciousness, saying that she'd nothing to lose. Our first private exercises in her room involved her learning to stand on her toes, like a ballet dancer might. This exercise not only physically helped to strengthen her foot arches, but psychologically assisted her in learning to make herself as tall as possible.I also had Carol regularly practising exercises where all posture was upright with head looking straight out, never downwards and spine always straight, never bent, even when she bent her knees to pick a coin off the floor. All of these exercises were supplementary to the breathing, muscle control, imagination exercises and relaxation training I gave her for almost six months. I had used such exercises myself from the age of 12 to help myself stand and walk again after three years of being unable to walk.
Then we spent a number of weeks learning to dance the Shake together. Carol was an excellent dancer and when she moved to the rhythm of the disco music of the times, her long lean body lost all its ungainliness and assumed a sensuality it had previously lacked. A number of weeks were then spent persuading Carol to improve her wardrobe, change her hairstyle and colour and have her nails manicured and eyebrows tweezed. Although a student, being a single child born to financially well-off parents, Carol had no difficulty financing this make-over venture.
Throughout this entire period, when I must confess to having felt a bit like a Professor Higgins, many hours were spent talking about other associated problem areas she wanted addressing. When I considered Carol to be confident enough and after much coaxing, I eventually persuading to wear a stylish short dress that we shopped for together and high heels to the coming dance at the University.
My rationale was that all of her life she had tried to make herself look smaller and plainer by wearing flat shoes, and using a stooping posture in the company of smaller others; anything that made her fit into the background better, but this had not worked and had only made her more miserable and more conscious of her height. She even told me that in her middle teens, she would compensate for her height by looking for boyfriends over six feet tall only, be they good or bad, likeable or not. I told Carol that her good looks were there to make her stand out in a crowd, not blend in the background like a wallflower!
Carol had a natural beauty both inner and outer and eventually she came out to the University dance one Saturday night dressed to the nines. Her new hair style and fashionable dress showed off her gorgeous figure to maximum advantage, but it was the 4-inch-high-heels that clinched it! Carol had the longest legs in the dance room, but Carol also had the best pair of legs on the floor, and the high heels made them look even better. For the first time in her life, Carol felt good to be the tallest on the floor and to stand out from all others in the most positive of light. She confessed to having danced more that night than she had in all her previous life.
For three or four years after the Probation Course had concluded, we kept in touch. During these years her confidence grew and I was proud to witness her pass out when she joined the Northumbrian Police Service. Though I was unable to attend her wedding, she married someone who stood 5 feet 8 inches tall (six inches smaller than herself), and though her long satin dress covered them from sight of wedding guests as she walked down the aisle, she proudly told me afterwards that she wore 4-inch-high-heels!
Whenever I see a very tall woman today dressing down and wearing flatties, I am sorely tempted to pull her to one side and tell her about the tallest woman I was ever privileged to know.
While I have told you of a significant part of my relationship with Carol, some of the men out there will realise that I haven't told you all whilst all of the women know that I never would. What I can tell you however, is what Carol taught me. Despite being tall in height, Carol taught me that any small or tall woman can lead any man, big or small, a merry dance; so long as she has what the man hasn't, but wants." William Forde: June 26th, 2016.