Hardwired For Sorry [5]


My Height-ened Apology

My uncles, aunts, the traders at Iwaya market, and the sales person at Wranglers boutique conspired to spit accusations at me. I burrowed the ground with my eyes and hid my lanky arms behind my back. They made me regard my elongating form with shame.

Ahan Ope, do you want to grow as tall as iroko?” People questioned me without expecting answers.

I wanted to die and on the days that I did not want to die, I wished God would shrink my height—who would marry me? They said I was tall for a girl and at the rate at which I was growing, it would be impossible to find a man taller than I was. Even when I pretended not to care, fury spread its wings on my face and at night, I buried my face in my pillow while crying away the pain.

And so, I learned to apologize. I apologized to the inconvenienced sales person who searched and searched for the right size of shoes for me. I apologized to the world, boys in particular, by slouching a little so that the measure of my stature did not intimidate. I apologized to petite girls, who would never have a problem when it came to marriage, by silencing my brewing envy and playing nice. I apologized to my older siblings by giving up my right to speak in their presence because I was told that I had stolen their right to be taller than me.

Like the women in Amy Schumer’s sketch, I say sorry when I do not need to. After I hit my head on the roof of a campus shuttle bus as I got off, my auto-response to the driver’s remark, “All these tall people eh,” was sorry. It was my defense for distracting the other passengers, by making them concerned about me. It was embarrassment for being five feet ten inches tall. It was martyrdom without the halo.

In the last scene of Schumer’s sketch, the male moderator inadvertently pours hot coffee on the third panelist’s legs. She falls down in pain, screaming, “Sorry!” Exaggerated for comic effect, her legs melt off and in agony, she moves with her splintered legs to the chorus of sorry from sympathizers. Her dramatic exit ends with these words, “I’m sorry, I’m dying, I’ve ruined everything. It’s all my fault.”

The moderator never says sorry. He says, “Oops!”


Until recently, I believed apologizing for my height was the polite thing to do. I have not unlearned this, but I have become more conscious of it and begun to question the premise of my apology.

Why should anyone have to apologize for the genes they received? Do I apologize for my father and mother too? Why should I be ‘conditioned’ for marriage as if it is the highest purpose I could aspire to? And is a woman who is taller than her husband an anomaly really? Really? Does my height mean I am likely to be more domineering than petite women with graces are? Can flat shoes and a small car truly alter my outcomes in life?

The message from my society is subtly clear: make yourself smaller so men can feel bigger, taller, and more powerful. My height is but a metaphor, which affronts obstinate traditional ideas about gender.

stand out where I come from. Perhaps I’m not supposed to fit in; I am to own and celebrate my uniqueness and be a lighthouse for tall girls and ‘short’ boys too.

This hardwiring for sorry cuts across cultures. My apology revolves around my height; what does yours spin around?


Ope Adedeji is a fourth year law student at the University of Lagos. She dreams about bridging the gender equality gap and working with the United Nations. Ope writes occasionally at artsandafrica.com and talesbycecile.wordpress.com.


©Timi Yeseibo 2015

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52 thoughts on “Hardwired For Sorry [5]

  1. I am delighted to have saved this post and made the time to read it. As women we become more confident with age and embrace our height, size and who we are. When you reach that stage in life it’s a wonderful time to enjoy the journey. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m 6’1 and a girl but I’ve never felt the need to apologize for my height. If anything, I hold it so dear to me and you’ll often find me telling people ‘its not my fault that you’re short and if you wanted to see the board, you should have come earlier to sit at the front’.
    In my next life, I’ll love to be this height too. Girllll, you don’t know what you have! Best be proud of it and walk with your head high. If anyone says anything, call them a midget 😐


    Liked by 2 people

    1. haha. your comment just made me really happy. I love how you show off your height like a jewel or a crown on your head, it is something I am learning, I also others would learn from you too. Thank you.


  3. just discovered this blog..kinda late but I feel I should write something.

    good job Ope…#tumbsup# nice blog too livelytwist

    I also had experiences like this with cousins calling me names like ‘omogaa ese guun’ (tall child with long legs) ‘agaali’ (donno what that means..Lol) n the likes…I felt really bad those times…some people even claim to want to borrow my height, they ask why I’m taller than my sisters and ask me to give them what I have been eating

    but those days a gone…I rock my heels with so much pride..I careless about what they think…I think they should be sorry not me…more height, more advantage!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Dara, better late than never, right? You waded through those experiences and came out stronger. Thumbs up to you! Rock those heels 🙂
      Thanks for sharing and nice to meet you!


  4. Love this awareness how as women we often apologize for our physicality whether in weight, curves, and also height. I love Ope’s reclaiming of her height as something she is entitled to and that it makes no sense to apologize for being born to stand out – literally and in other ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “My apology revolves around my height; what does yours spin around?”

    Becoming more comfortable with ‘self’ I feel less of an inclination to apologies for being me. Actually, this could be a stage of self-assuredness or maturity in play. We get to a stage where ‘sorry’ not longer becomes the hardest word to say. Neither is it necessarily an admission of ones guilt or failing, it’s a stage in life where you no longer have hang ups about showing genuine feelings of remorse.

    Ever since watching the Amy Schumer’s video my sensitivities have been heightened to the conversations with female and male friends. I have listened to and observed my fellow senior exec colleagues male and female, I must say that I have noticed no discernible differences in the usage and enactment of sorry across gender lines… Might we sometimes be blindsided by societal pressures and expectations?

    Physiologically women may be more emotionally attuned or dare I say emotionally aware – knowing how and when to say sorry…

    A really good read, thanks for sharing Ope, walk tall!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. @I feel less of an inclination to apologies for being me, a wonderful place to be. It’s a journey, as you allude … I think that our interdependence means we never fully arrive, but learning is part of the fun.

      Interesting observation on the use of the word ‘sorry’ across gender lines. I find myself delving into the ‘why’ behind the sorry for women- is it embarassment, a need to be liked or perceived as nice, or good ole matrydom without the halo?

      Thanks for sharing. Now you have me thinking again, which is a good thing. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hello Ope,

    I am an unapologetic lover of clever puns- ‘Height-ened Apology’ made me smile.

    I find that with age, I have become better acquainted with who I am, I like the person I am and I’ve decided not to apologise for this person’s mannerisms.

    But then, I sometimes apologise for my occasional mild stutter. I am mostly sorry that the person that I am speaking with has to go through the pain of plucking out the sense in the jumbled up words. XD

    You wrote this piece well, I am aware of these “conditions”-a man being expected to earn more than his woman, a man being expected to be taller than his woman, . These fickle rules with no substance. I bet whoever set the latter rule was insecure about his woman seeing his balding spot so squarely.

    I totally agree with you, “Perhaps one isn’t supposed to fit in; they are to own and celebrate their uniqueness”.

    Your height is a plus, you stand out effortlessly.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That line got me too 😀

      Its good to hear that you’re unapologetic about who you are, that is the aim! I hope you do find a way to be that with your mild stutter because that is also the aim!

      Thank you for the kind words Nedoux

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Five foot ten is the perfect height, Ope. It’s the height you were meant to be. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Best of luck in your studies and in your aspiration to work for the UN.

    You touch on one of the reasons women say sorry. It’s because in the past we have worried about surpassing men in any way. We didn’t want to hurt their feelings or their egos. Now in the 21st Century, we are learning to accept our equality.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it is 🙂 And thank you too, for your well wishes.

      I am happy that in this century women are learning to accept equality. While we still have a long way to go, we have made a lot of progress. Hopefully, this post and the others in this series would inspire women to see that.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I discovered this series yesterday, and I appreciate how each story gives an insight into the silent struggles women face. It is really hard to break from the chains that have held you since birth probably, and harder still to decide to chart your own course.
    Thank you Ope, for helping us understand more, and for helping to break the chains that tell us a woman shouldn’t be too tall, the chains that blame a woman for being who she is, even if she cannot help it.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. My apology evolves around my height, weight and complexion. As if I owe it someone to be petite and light skinned. People make me apologise for not fitting the ‘norm’ for beautiful and for a long time I was sorry for being me.
    Now I wear high heels, dresses and I paint my nails yellow. In this life I only have this body in this skin. I’m done being sorry, I’m now more about being grateful and being beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @I’m done being sorry, I’m now more about being grateful and being beautiful, yes!
      Wonderful! This life is funny. I didn’t realize tall girls had ‘pressure’ When I was younger, I so wanted to be taller! 🙂


      1. haha Timi, it would shock you the amount of pressure tall girls face. They are told they are too tall like it is a plague. 😦

        Some girls wear it well–becoming models, playing basketball and what not. I remember facing a lot of pressure from my relatives–they told me I had to play basketball and that I could not waste my height. I just was not interested though.

        I think that all body sizes and heights face pressure. Being told you’re too thin, you’re too plump, you’re too thick, your hips are too wide, you’re too fat, you’re too tall, you’re too short and maybe you’re too “medium heighted” lol! etc

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for sharing Ope. I thought of my mum as I read this and how growing up must have been for her as a gangly 6 feet tall young woman. If she ever apologised for her height, by the time I was born, she had shed her guilt and rocked her stilettos and platforms in spite of the fact that she was clearly taller than my dad.

    …and the slouching, I identify. As a busty yet skinny young girl, I would apologise to those who accused me of flaunting my mammary glands to oppress hapless men by slouching…

    You are right. Apologising is not the polite thing to do, it is the wrong thing to do.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I couldn’t help but relate to Ope. In elementary school and high school, I towered over everyone, especially the boys. Now, I embrace my height, as I know, as we age, we often lose a few inches. No one should apologize for the genes they are blessed with. We’re all unique in our own way. It would be a boring world, if we were all the same.
    Nice job, Ope!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tall girls… hmmm. Ope’s story is an eye opener. For years, I wanted to be taller, so maybe I could model (my parents would have killed me, lol). Now, I console myself with high heels.

      “Now, I embrace my height,” so much packed in 5 words… Thanks for sharing Jill.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you Jill! I had the same experience in primary school. My seat was almost always at the back of the glass because I was one of the tallest–and yes, the tallest girl. Tough luck, because I was short sighted and had not started wearing glasses.
      Like you said, it would be a boring world if we were all the same. I had to imagine a world without tall people for one second. Oh the disaster!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow. I am tempted to say ‘sorry’ on one hand for this, but I will not. Instead, I will congratulate you for standing tall against a society that wants you to shrink yourself so that others may flourish. I believe if we treat each other right as firstly humans before anything, and embrace individual differences, there will be no need for issues like gender equality, religious crisis and racism. All in all, good piece and wonderful series.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your beliefs … that’s the goal, isn’t it? But we’re all flawed. I hope that reading other people’s stories helps us see another perspective and motivates us to modify our response. Yes, I think Ope is brave. Thanks Yahaya!


    2. Thank you Yahaya. It is good to read your stance. Society wants us to apologize for everything. From our opinions to how we look to who we are. It is important that we stand out and be true to ourselves. Hopefully, like Timi said seeing other perspectives can help modify our response.

      Liked by 1 person

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