When you’re looking for a partner, what boxes do they have to tick? Maybe you want someone smart and funny – someone you could take home to dinner with your parents. Perhaps you hope for a man or woman who wants kids, and doesn’t smoke. But where do you stand when it comes to their height?
TV host Richard Osman, from ‘Pointless’, who is 6ft 7, recently started dating jazz singer Sumudu Jayatilaka, who, at 5ft, is 19 inches shorter. Does this mean anything other than Jayatilaka needs to learn to start standing on her tip toes? They’re not the only celebrity couple to make headlines for their height gaps: Sophie Dahl and Jamie Cullum; Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise; Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni have also bridged the gap.
Anyone who’s used a dating app will know that in the modern world, height matters. On Tinder and Bumble, it’s often listed prominently on people’s profiles – particularly by heterosexual men. But, is worrying about height a superficial concern or is it harder to make that connections if you feel out of proportion?
Kyle Sowden, 23 and 5′11, from Manchester, lied about his height on Tinder. “I noticed that I got more matches when I had 6ft written in my bio rather than when I had 5′11,” he says. “But when going on dates with people, not one person noticed or even mentioned that I wasn’t 6ft.”
Without that immediate face-to-face connection (or neck-crick), Sowden says apps allow users to be “picky” and “shallow” – just by writing what he thought women wanted, it made a difference to him getting a date. And given how fickle ‘swiping’ culture is, he doesn’t think it’s surprising men feel pressure to tweak their height when looking to connect with women.
Simon Farrant, 32, agrees, saying he finds women on dating apps really do care about men being tall. “They seem particularly obsessed by height, the taller the better,” he says. “I found it very strange to be asked that question so regularly.”
Ellie Lees had the opposite problem – a man lied about being shorter than he actually was. “He said he was 6′3, he was 6′7,” she says. “I am 5′2 and couldn’t cope, I bailed at the earliest opportunity.” Lees’ date may have lied ‘down’ not ‘up’, but it reinforces Sowden’s point that some people feel the need to tweak the truth in order to secure a date – and being hidden behind a screen allows them to do so.
Height can’t help but influence people’s choices once they meet IRL, says Shannon Murray, 42, from Dublin. Murray is 6ft tall and uses a wheelchair. Even though she’s sitting down, it still makes a difference to her if a man is short.
“I’ve dated much shorter guys but I felt gargantuan and uncomfortable, it’s not them it’s me,” Murray says. Her ideal height in a partner is between 5′9 and 6′2. “Above that is too tall for leaning in to my wheelchair,” she says.
Eleanor Janegar, 36, who is 6′1, doesn’t mind being taller, but says men feel “emasculated” in her presence. “The term ‘intimidating’ gets thrown around very quickly,” she says. “I have had men who said they were 6ft cancel on dates when finding out my height, even when I told them that wasn’t an issue for me.
“A lot of shorter men also simply don’t consider it an option. I don’t really mind in that most people are shorter than me anyway, so it doesn’t register with me.”
Janegar says she’s also had the issue of men “fetishising” her height and asking sexually inappropriate questions. “I think it comes down to societal gender expectations,” she says. “I have heard a lot of women say they don’t want to feel larger than a man because it makes them less feminine.
“I think it works the opposite way for straight men: the idea that a woman who is taller calls their masculinity into question.”
Height isn’t an issue for everyone. Lucy Taylor, who is 5′8, says it would never bother her when dating other women. “When I first started getting with women it was quite strange to usually be the taller one,” she says. “I don’t date men anymore but when I did, I never understood the fascination with tall men and preferred to date men of a similar height to me.”
Hester Grainger, 41, from Reading, founder of Mumala Club, is 4′11 and her husband is 6′1 – she also says it’s never been an issue for them. “People do comment on how short I am, especially some taller friends,” she says. “I don’t think about how short I am but then I see photos of me with other people and see the height difference.”
And Laura Catchpole says she and her husband are a foot apart and completely happy. “For us it doesn’t really matter, there is nothing that person can do about it, so it’s a bit mean to hold it against them.
“I’m more interested in what is in his head than how far away it is.”