Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Answers for tall people

You’re so tall, someone I never saw before greeted me in the bus. He wasn’t so tiny himself. No, I’m not, I replied. You’re not tall, the guy wondered out-loud . No. You’re small – that’s it.

Of course, it is obnoxious to typify someone by a characteristic that he didn’t work for, even if meant positively. O, you’re so black, orange, beautiful, etc. Rather than making you stand out, it renders you invisible. Just as “ugly” and “beautiful” people complain to be overlooked, the ugly by being ignored, the beautiful by receiving stares.

Genetics and History

Men from the Low Countries are the tallest in the world, on average. This is already true for millennia. The Ancient evil Romans had Dutch body guards because they were the tallest. And among the tall Dutch, I was among the tallest, from the start. I was born after a pregnancy of 8 months and already a full centimeter longer than the average Dutch newborn. When I was hospitalized in an emergency at the age of 11, I woke up from the anesthesia in a bed in the children’s ward that was at least 20 cm. too short. (If one feels tall depends on how you compare to people around you, not on your absolute height.)

I once went to Maastricht in the most-Southern part of the country, from where two of my great-grandparents hailed. (The others were from the Northern Netherlands. My grandparents met half-way in Amsterdam at a choppe – “from a choppe comes a choppe.”) When I emerged from the archive of the Maastricht Jewish community, I saw two “ancient” people sitting on a bench in the sun. They seemed so old, they might have known my great-grandparents. I walked over to them. This is my chance to ask about people who all died. What were their character traits, what was their social status, did they stand out as Jews?

I greeted them and asked: did you happen to know my great-grandparents so-and-so? They looked at each other and said in unison: giants! That’s all I got out of them. Genetically, I never had a chance — to be small.

However, genetics do not predict foolproof. If there is no starvation, statistically, children end up a little taller than the average of their parents. But we know that in one family some may be tall and others short. And the children of them can easily be short and tall too. Most tall people find small people cute and most short people find tall people handsome, so they often end up marrying each other. Physicians call that “negative partner choice.” It’s not negative; it just means that they chose their opposites. But I know a couple of whom both spouses are very tall; their first two kids are giants, but the third is a dwarf who needs growth hormone. G-d does have a sense of humor.

None of my ancestors came from the Netherlands. After all Jews were exterminated or chased away twice in the Middle Ages (a history chapter the Dutch conveniently ignore), my ancestors all came from outside: Germany, Poland, Russia, the Alsace and one from Spain. Why my family is tall is not clear, but also why the Dutch are tall is unknown.

And most Dutch Jews are small. Many Jews assume that I must be a convert to Judaism. I don’t even have converts among my ancestors in the last 10 Dutch generations.

It’s not true that one can’t do anything about it. In the Eighteenth Century, at the begin of the Industrialization, the British working class was introduce to tea, because giving this to children keeps them smaller so that as grownups they needed smaller clothes, smaller beds, smaller houses and supposedly smaller salaries.

In Israel, where most Jews are small, giving small children tea is normal. In some neighborhood I cannot walk the sidewalks because the trees are not trimmed high enough. A visit to Israeli cemeteries is always reassuring to me as all graves have a concrete rim that measures on the inside 190 cm. – I’m not going to die.

On top of the above, generations in the West get taller and taller and the reason for that is a medical mystery too. (Once the reason was completely unknown but through hard work and steady progress we can now say with certainty that we don’t have a clue.) When I entered high school, there was one guy taller than me in the top class. When I left high school there was one guy taller than me in the bottom class.


People have the strangest assumptions about tall people.

That we are strong. Rather, we should watch our backs. Moving a piano: let someone else do it. Tall people are probably fantasized to be strong by the same misunderstanding that small children would be weak – they are not! Try to get a baby to do what it doesn’t want to do. I once had to give a young child an antibiotic syrup that he disliked. The doctor insisted there was no alternative. I apologized to the kid while two grownups immobilized his four extremities and his head, I worked the syringe between his teeth and pushed it empty. He then threw it all up and still won. I congratulated him. Stupid doctors.

That we are smart. We have overview and are to be looked up to. Probably same misunderstanding: that children would be stupid. If only we would be able to hang on to our childhood intelligence!

That we would  be violent and mean. We understand that many people were physically abused when they were small, but it wasn’t us. Probably because of this misunderstanding, most tall men are really sweet – the only option we were given. I love to walk up to someone almost as tall as me, get really close and say: And you thought you were tall? Fun.

That we run faster. Our legs might be longer but our bodies are much heavier. And that’s still without calculating in, that we’ll have more contrary winds (just kidding).

Then there is the assumption that genitals of tall people are also oversized, which oversexed people can’t get out of their heads, it seems. Sometimes I see women stare at my crotch. Maybe they stare at all men’s crotches — who knows. No recommendation to start a conversation with them.

And then there is the Will you be my daddy? expectation. Many of us were removed from our fathers’ laps too quickly because our size gave the wrong impression that we must be now fit to fend for ourselves. People assume that we will be natural leaders — and arrogant.

It’s a light form of racism. Height is one of the first things people notice about you, it is hard to hide, and even before you open your mouth or do something, others have already an opinion about you. Still, tall people should not stand stooped over. Pride goes a long way.

But — when you need people to understand your position as a tall person, they can easily deny any difference. Why would you want to change seats in the bus — no one is entitled to a special place. That you won’t fit in 95% of the seats must be a lack of your humbleness, clearly ….

In a fair world, we would get more salary or pay less taxes, because tall life is more expensive. Clothing, shoes, belts, beds, linens, chairs, bike, car, etc. that would fit us are more expensive and less seldom on sale. We might even need more food and sleep.

What to answer

Anyone who stands out (pun not intended) gets picked upon. It can be frustrating, and so here is a collection of answers for other tall people to use. The toothlessness of having no comeback plagued me all through adolescence and into adulthood. Well, no more powerlessness!

“You’re so tall.” — “No, you’re so short.”

“Is it cold / what is the weather up there?” — [You spit a little bit in the direction of their face and say dryly] “It rains.” They never ask again.

“Do you play basketball?” — “Do you play marbles?”

“Wow, you’re so tall. / Can’t I get a few centimeters from you?” — “Jealousy is not a virtue.”

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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