DEAR ABBY: My husband is 6 feet, 6 inches tall. My 19-year-old son is taller, at 6 feet, 7 inches. They loathe being asked how tall they are. There are times when they are proud of their height and others when they have felt self-conscious because it can be uncomfortable to "tower" over others.
Often, the question is asked in a tone that conveys the person perceives them as some kind of "freak of nature." They have been told they "must have been really well-fed growing up," or the commenters are "so glad they never had to pay THEIR food bills." And, of course, the assumption is that they played basketball -- which they both did. But imagine if they didn't or hated the game.
They have had it with these insensitive, intrusive comments. While I, someone of average height, think a commenter may just be trying to make conversation -- and height is a respected attribute -- it's nonetheless offensive. My son or husband would never ask anyone in retort, "How short are you?" or "How much do you weigh?"
Why do people think that questions about how tall someone is don't fall into the same category? What's an appropriate response when the person asking makes you out to be some kind of freak? -- TALL PERSON SYMPATHIZER
DEAR SYMPATHIZER: Sometimes people, without intending to be rude, blurt out the first thing that comes into their heads, and height is hard to miss. This isn't the first time I have been told that some tall individuals are self-conscious about it.
A social group called Tall Clubs International was formed many years ago so they could socialize without feeling self-conscious. (Today's generations are taller by several inches than they were 100 years ago, and tourists visiting European museums have been shocked at the diminutive size of the suits of armor.)
While all of us can have a bad day, I think the best way for your son and your husband to handle these questions would be to hang onto their sense of humor and answer them honestly.