Jayne Dawson: The long and the short of it is a man still has to be taller

Jamie Cullum and Sophie Dahl.
Jamie Cullum and Sophie Dahl.
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Let me kick off by sharing the information that I married in flat shoes.

Not because I liked them, not because I was putting comfort at the top of my list - only a madwoman would think in terms of comfort for her big dressing-up day - but because I was determined not to appear taller than my husband.

And in fact I’m not, but I wasn’t going to wipe out that couple of inches height disparity with heels. I was already risking it with the veil and the updo.

It mattered. A lot. I would have dug myself a trench down that aisle with my bare hands before I succumbed to the shame of being the bride who towered.

But that was all a very long time ago. And I was sensitive. Because accusations of tallness had dogged my life up to that point.

“Isn’t she tall, isn’t she pale, isn’t she quiet?” was my paternal grandmother’s favoured form of greeting.

My best friend was miniature, from a long line of miniatures. She got the best boys. My height was the very opposite of an asset.

Don’t get the wrong impression - I’m five feet seven inches - but people were stunted back then. In Bramley. In the 70s.

But it’s all different now, surely? These days I wear heels to the sky, to make up for the years I missed out.

Everyone’s tall now and, if they’re not, who would care about a woman being taller than her man anymore? This is the modern world, everybody.

Well here’s the thing. We still do care a great deal.

The truth is, that in only nine per cent of relationships is the woman taller than the man.

We can name the celebrity examples: Sophie Dahl looks to be twice the height of her spouse Jamie Cullum; Sally Bercow soars over husband John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons; and billionaire Bernie Ecclestone has always been attached to tall and willowy beauties. I wonder what his attraction is?

But they are the exception. Most short men still marry women who are even shorter.

I know this because there’s been a study - one of those studies that perhaps comes from the School of the Bloomin’ Obvious but, nevertheless, is fascinating in the way it puts scientific flesh on what we already know in our hearts.

Sociologists in New York looked at how people pair up and revealed that a man’s height plays a crucial role not only in who they date, but how that relationship plays out over time.

They discovered that short men marry later but when they do they have more stable marriages that last longer. A cruel person might put this down to lack of choice and desperation, but I am not that person.

Once safely married however, short men are less likely to do their share of the boring domestic chores. I repeat, LESS likely.

That’s because they marry women who are younger than they are and - this bit is me speaking, not the American researchers - probably easier to boss around.

Tall men, on the other hand, are more likely to marry well educated women and also women who are older.

So though our world has changed so much, made such revolutionary technological discoveries, it has also stayed so much the same.

A woman still wants a man’s shoulder to lean on - without having to bend herself in two to reach it. A man still wants to be able to sling a comforting arm around her shoulders, without finding a wall to stand on first. Height is protection - and dominance.

And, after all these years, there will still be brides marrying in flat shoes, instead of walking tall. It’s all a bit disappointing, isn’t it?

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