"Well?" prompts my wife, gliding down the stairs in a black satin evening dress. I give her the elevator eye, approving until my line of sight crosses her ankles to find ... Payless flats.
"No heels?" I ask.
"I can't," Lina sighs, meaning: "I'd tower over you."
At 5 feet 7 inches, Lina and I stand eye to eye. When I first asked her out, I thought our parity would please her; I was wrong. It troubled her when she leaned in for our first kiss. It troubled her when we stood beneath the chuppah -- she in 2-inch white heels, me just reaching her in my black boots.
My wife's aversion to height-challenged men has been passed to my 14-year-old, 5-foot-7-inch stepdaughter, Vicki. But she enjoys wearing pumps.
Although fewer boys will measure up, she explains, "I won't be asked out by runts."
In fairness, women everywhere prefer having a mate they can look up to.
After splitting from Tom Cruise, 5-foot-11-inch Nicole Kidman told an interviewer, "Finally, I can wear heels." Winning the lanky Aussie's hand had come easily for the charismatic Cruise. But send him incognito to a Jewish singles weekend, and 5-foot-7-inch Tom might be as likely to score as Tom Thumb.
"A tall mensch," sighs Marla, a contracts lawyer, "is hard to find." Marla shared that lament in 1993, two years before I got remarried. But judging from reports from my single friends, Jewish women's calculus hasn't changed one newton.
"The first time I ran an ad," says Richard, 32, "I got zip replies. The next time, I omitted one fact; six replies." The fact he omitted? That he's 5 feet 4 inches tall.
Richard's experience is echoed by Tuvia, a Chasid. Firmly in the modern world, Tuvia is a highly paid computer jock. But his stature -- 5 feet 6.5 inches tall -- has cost him more than one shidduch. "I tell them by phone I'm 5 feet 7 inches tall," he says with a grin. "But if a woman has a problem with my height, she's probably not for me."
When applying to meat markets, singles must sometimes state their height. How low will an applicant stoop? Arlene, a petite sales rep, confesses, "I write that I'm 5 feet 6 inches tall so they'll pair me with a tall guy." And they say that men lie.
Why won't Marla and Arlene even consider dating a Dudley Moore? They offer up some curious arguments, notably, "I like to feel protected."
Could a 6-foot-2-inch bouncer protect them from a .44-caliber Magnum? "Maybe not," they stammer, "but I'd feel more protected." Ah, you want to feel protected? How about 5-foot-5-inch Stu, a third-degree black belt?
In competing for tall men, tall women claim dibs. When my 5-foot-1-inch sister is on the town with 5-foot-11-inch hubby, statuesque women glare. Save him for us! their furled brows snipe.
My sister, Diane, frets. She explains that Howard's height was irrelevant. "We just fell in love."
Sister, what's love got to do with it, the tall women ask. "You stole one of ours."
Marilyn vos Savant, whose weekly column in Parade helps readers think clearly, was asked why women are loathe to date shorter men. Their prejudice, she explained, is a vestige of a bygone time of hunter-gatherers, when height conferred a survival advantage. Today, she noted, the gatherers' reasoning doesn't wash. It's as indefensible, she asserted, as the modern hunters' prepossession to favor women with large breasts.
The Tall and the Short of It
Ladies in waiting: Solitary from holding to your lofty character standards? Tired of remaining a bridesmaid because the nicest groomsmen are an inch -- or a dollar -- short?
Richard and Tuvia offer two words of advice: Grow up.