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Long and Short of Being Tall

February 27, 1988

To provide for the basic needs (clothing, living quarters, transportation, etc.) of the Mission Viejo Waikle family, who range from 6 feet, 1 inch to 7 feet, 1 inch in height (with four members being 6-9 and over), must be a mighty tall order, which some skeptics may say is a "Mission Impossible" ("Walking Tall," LIFE, Feb. 12).

As Mr. Gary Waikle put it, "everything is built for the average person, but nothing is built for us." Although many things have to be specially made for them, such as clothing, height of doorways and beds, I admire the Waikle family philosophy, which is for tall people to adjust to their surroundings rather than trying to remake the world in their own image. To practice what he preaches, Mr. Waikle even drives a Volkswagen Beetle. Ouch! He must feel like an accordion inside it (he's 6-9).

It is ironic that even their name symbolized tallness, as Waikle may have been derived from Wakeman, the old village watchman, a job made-to-order for a tall person.

One part of the article which I particularly liked was that it brought out some of the more unpleasant aspects of being tall, which are often overlooked. Not only are things not typically made in a tall person's size, but such items are quite often much more expensive, since they have to be specially made. This is almost akin to discriminating against people on the basis of height.

Also, although the Waikle family members like basketball and play it, many tall individuals don't. However, just because a person is tall, he is often stereotyped as a potential basketball player. And, whether he likes it or not, a tall person stands out, and thus is often stared at and made the butt of some cruel and insensitive jokes.

Being tall isn't all it's cracked up to be. As one tall person said, "It isn't like acne, which you'll outgrow, or braces, which will one day be removed." It's a life sentence.

KENNETH L. ZIMMERMAN

Cypress

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