This post was first published in the Exeter Creatives blog on 23rd August 2015. In some ways I’ve moved on a bit since then.
I rarely have encounters. In other words I don’t often manage to make eye contact with a stranger and engage them in conversation. I suspect that many people are like this and that it is a feature of modern society, but for me, there is another reason.
When I was growing up in Merseyside I was always shy. That’s not unusual, but my shyness was compounded as I grew, because I grew! I was 6’ at 15 years of age, 6’ 4” at 16 and when the University doctor measured me at 18 (they seemed to do this for all freshers) I was 6’ 6”. Now I can easily stretch to the full 6’ 7” of a 2 metre Peter and as it rhymes I may as well do so.
Again that’s not that unusual. There is a general trend towards increasing height and in a professional cricket or rugby team I’d be well within the mainstream. However in a sense that does not really matter. I still have the chip on my shoulder however silly this may seem to those with a genuine disability, or those much taller or shorter than me. Thankfully the chip is reducing.
My experience as a young man in the north-west was that the majority of my encounters would be along the lines of hearing (often while in a supermarket) ‘what’s the weather like up there?’, ‘you must have been born in a growbag’ or ‘how tall are you? 7 foot?’. I can laugh at that famed Merseyside humour now, but somehow then I didn’t have the courage to ‘rise above’ it and not let the taunts affect me.
It is clear to me now that my sensitivity was unfounded. I look at people of similar height, Peter Jones of Dragons’ Den for example. Surely he never had these confidence issues and if he did he would have dealt with them early on. In my early 20s an older woman came up to me and said ‘gosh you’re so wonderfully tall, how wonderful, enjoy it’. At the time I had no idea what she meant, but now I can finally see that it can be a positive thing or at least of neutral consequence.
In a strange way, and this is a familiar story, my feeling of being a ‘freak’ drove me to work hard on my creative side. If someone encountered me in the street I wanted them to think not ‘look at that very tall man’, but ‘look it’s Peter Farrie, the ‘famous songwriter’, isn’t he tall’. I cringe now to recount that conceited thought, but if I’m honest, that’s what drove me.
Of course the best thing about getting older is perspective. Inside I feel that I’m an open and friendly person, interested in others, willing to share and contribute. I hope that in the main that is what I am. However if I still come across as a little aloof and awkward, then perhaps this post will help you understand why.
It’s ridiculous I know.