Size really does matter when it comes to men’s height
Sunday, March 09, 2014
RAISED on fairytales in which tall, dashing princes gallop to the aid of maidens in distress, women assume the perfect date must tower above them — but suppose the guy who adores you is eyeball to your shoulder?
According to the dating experts, he may be in for a disappointment — women, it seems, yearn primarily after tall, well-built men.
They need to feel feminine and protected, explains Rena Maycock, a director of the Dublin-based Intro Match-Making agency.
“It’s a genetic thing that may even go back to primitive times when men were larger and hunter/gatherers,” she says.
There is an element of ancient programming underlying this view of men, agrees psychotherapist Anne Colgan — it harks back to prehistoric times when height and strength in a mate were much prized by women because it meant the physically weaker female had a better chance of survival.
And from rom-coms to action thrillers, Hollywood continues to recycle this age-old stereotype.
“It has been reinforced by films and what we are fed on TV is that the ideal mate is tall, dark and handsome and this goes into our minds and takes root from an early age,” says Colgan.
It can be difficult to persuade women to date men who are the same size as them — but convincing girls to consider guys who are physically shorter than them is virtually impossible, says dating coach and editor of the book Guide to Dating Anne Marie Cussen.
“I’ve managed to convince a small woman to date a man who was shorter than average but slightly taller than her,” she says.
She has also persuaded some women to go on a date with men who are the same height as them, she says — but this is the limit.
“I’ve never managed to convince a woman to date a man shorter than her. On occasion, I’ve tried when I felt it was a very good match— but I came up against a blank wall. I find that even really petite women — 5ft or 5ft 2in — will ask for a 6ft male.
“They can be quite resistant to men who are under 5ft 10in and they’re very resistant to men who are 5ft 6in or 5ft 7in — they want the man to be taller even when they’re wearing heels.”
Research from the online dating website AYI.com underlines this.
Male stature really does seem to matter for women — more than 80,000 interactions between users of the British website found that every inch increase in a man’s height directly correlated to his likelihood of being contacted by a woman.
The study showed that taller men were significantly more likely to be contacted by women, and that for most women the ideal male is 6ft. Not surprisingly, 6ft men who were members of the site were 33% more likely to be contacted than a man of average height (5ft 7in), and 77% more likely to be contacted than a man under 5ft 4in. But hang on.
Bernie Ecclestone (5ft 2½in) managed to attract, date and marry the stunning Slavica Radic who towered nearly a foot above him? Notwithstanding the fact that they have since split up.
And then there is former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his high-profile wife, former model Carla Bruni, two inches taller than his 5ft 5in, in her bare feet, and who interestingly was quite often seen wearing lower heels at public engagements with him.
Or musician and producer Pharrell Williams, accompanied on the Oscars red carpet by his much-taller wife Helen Lasichanh.
Or Tom Cruise, 5ft 7in, whose willowy ex Nicole Kidman is variously cited as being 5ft 10in or 5ft 11in, depending on reports.
And then there’s 5ft 10in Rod Stewart, whose wife Penny Lancaster measures 6ft 1in in her stockinged feet.
Cussen says normal rules don’t apply in these cases. Wealth, status, power and confidence, she believes, can change a woman’s attitude.
“Status and success will compensate,” she says.
“If a man’s status is very high, it will compensate for his height if he’s smaller than the woman. If a man is very successful in his career it gives him confidence and it will make him more attractive to a woman.
“Generally, however, I think it would be impossible to convince your average woman to date a man several inches shorter than her.”
Anne Colgan says it’s all about perceived capability — there is a deep-rooted expectation in many women that their mate will provide for them.
“Some women are programmed to find a provider and if a man is clearly very wealthy or powerful, he’s obviously capable of being a good provider so the wealth and status may compensate for his short stature.”
However, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good relationship, she warns.
For dating agency boss Maycock — a 5ft 10in woman — the rule was that her dates always had to be over 6ft.
She never dreamed that one day she’d fall in love with, let alone become engaged to, anybody shorter than that.
But one night in 2010 she found herself in a bar chatting to Feargal Harrington, the 5ft 10in man she will wed next June.
Not only was Feargal below Rena’s self-imposed 6ft height restriction, on the night in question, she literally towered over him — her glamorous four-inch heels brought her to 6ft 2in.
“Before I met Feargal I’d probably have said no to someone who was the same height as me,” she recalls.
“I used to go into bars with my friends and just look for guys who were head and shoulders above everyone else.
“When I met Feargal and realised how amazing he was, it didn’t matter that we were the same height. The love of my life is exactly the same height as me in his stockinged feet so as soon as I put on my shoes I’m taller. That doesn’t matter to me now.”
Feargal says: “The first time I saw Rena she was all in black and wearing 4in heels which put her at well over 6ft. I thought I didn’t have a chance.”
However, after being introduced by Feargal’s brother, the duo got chatting and that informality, he believes now, was the key.
“I didn’t have the urge to impress,” he says.
He immediately relaxed when he decided he didn’t have a chance with this beautiful, tall woman.
“So I wasn’t worried, and because of the informality our personalities shone through.
“It’s never bothered me that Rena in 4in heels would be substantially taller than me,” he says.
“We both have the chemistry and the spark that makes for a good relationship.”
For many looking for love it’s their must-have shopping list that often gets in the way.
“They put so much pressure on themselves to tick the boxes of height and hair colour before they get to know anyone — these are all superficial things and they’re not giving themselves a chance,” says Feargal.
Rena — formerly a chief executive of a group of regional radio stations who established Intro with Feargal, who worked in the auctioneering sector — says it can be difficult to convince female clients that height doesn’t equal romance.
“When they come to Intro they seem to think it’s like ordering a car but we’re dealing with human beings,” she says.
It’s difficult to convince women that a compromise on height could actually give them a far better chance of finding the man of their dreams.
“An obsession with height can actually stop you meeting someone,” she warns.
“We’ve called women about a guy we feel is the perfect match for them — but because he’s “only” two inches taller than her, she will turn him down.
“The thought of losing someone over a few inches is so sad.” But there is hope, insists Stephen Nolan, CEO of kamalifestyles.com, which coaches men on how to approach and attract women.
“Women have an idea that they want tall men before they meet the person, but attraction is not a choice,” he says.
“You cannot choose who to be attracted to. That’s not how things work.
“We have men coming to us who firmly believe that women want taller guys. They believe they’re at more of a disadvantage than a tall guy.”
But, says Nolan, the secret is that attraction to somebody is all about the chemistry — and the chemistry isn’t based on height.
All it takes, he believes, is for the man to make the kind of first impression.
“The more you speak to someone and the more information you get from them about themselves, the more your perception of the person changes and that is the fact — suddenly height is not such an issue.
“Most women, when you approach them first, might feel for a few seconds that you’re not tall enough, but that’s a perception that can change very quickly based on the other information she finds out about you.”
Factors like height are “external” and can be combated by building up “value” in other areas when you learn to put across who you are in the most effective way, he says.
“It works — 85% of our clients are in relationships or dating regularly after two or three months.”