Back when I was 16, I was in love. He was a dancer, four years older than me, suave as hell in my innocent, inexperienced eyes, and of course, tall. I’d lose my mind whenever I watched him dance to an overrated Chris Brown song and wipe his face with his shirt afterward. He was beautiful to me, even after we entered a toxic relationship. I slowly realized he was romantically incompetent, and all he had to offer was six feet of crying myself to sleep at three in the morning.
More often than not, when girls are asked to describe the physical qualities of our ideal hypothetical boyfriend, I find the answer usually goes along the lines of “curly hair, pretty eyes, and definitely over six feet.” This pattern has shown to be so strong that even dating apps have caught on; Bumble and Hinge offer height on the list of physical characteristics one can add to their profile.
This raises the question of why we, as women, are so keen on dating men taller than us. Why has height become a common prerequisite for dating any man, often trumping other physical, and sometimes even emotional attributes?
There is potentially both an evolutionary and social answer to this. One common pop theory is that women tend to prefer taller men because they create a sense of security, seeing them as better protectors and providers of the natural resources we need for the survival of our genome.
Additionally, culturally speaking, we women have been exposed throughout our lives to rhetoric designating taller men as more desirable than their under-5’7 counterparts. Taller male love interests dominate the media. Time and time again, I turn on the television to a ’90s high school rom-com featuring a vertically-gifted jock that has all of the girls swooning. This socializes women into thinking taller men are superior in the realm of love — and that they may face shame if they choose to date someone on the shorter side.
However, despite the apparent consensus among women that taller men are preferred in the modern dating pool, there are some major pros for the world’s petite princes.
A study by sociologists at NYU found that shorter men may make better partners and have lower divorce rates. While not a lot of research exists to explain this phenomenon, some of my friends and I hypothesize that it’s because they have to work harder on their personalities and likeability to find and keep partners, to make up for a lack in height. Additionally, they reportedly do more housework and have more sex with their partners, making them perfect pocket-sized companions.
I found this news shocking when I first delved into my research on short kings after I caught myself — at 5’7 — crushing on my 5’3 coworker. Admittedly, I felt ashamed about being attracted to a man a few inches shorter. I, too, had swiped left on the premise of height before and let myself get caught up in expectations and stereotypes.
But now, after over a year of dating my short king coworker — well, now ex-coworker — I couldn’t be happier. He is the most handsome, sexy, and intelligent man in my eyes. He treats me better than I could have ever hoped for, and I still melt when he looks up at me with his lovely brown eyes and eyelashes. He sees me like a queen, and I see him like a king. My friends, though they were dubious at first about our relationship, now praise our healthy, unproblematic, and ultimately, just very normal relationship.
I think it’s time we take a step back and break away from the idea that only tall men are worthy of our attention. Let’s give short kings a chance. There’s a reason they’re called kings, after all.