No One in Nairobi Knows Their Height


No One in Nairobi Knows Their Height

I have a theory and it’s a bit wild, but hear me out. Let me give some context first.

Height is definitely a sore spot for most people in society. Any society. But generally speaking, men are expected to be super tall and women are expected to be shorter than men. It therefore goes without saying that shorter men and taller women go through the most, all in the name of those unwritten social rules and expectations that make no sense. 

Anyway, as a short woman (I’m only 5 ‘0) I fall into the safe zone where I am at whichever height society expects of me and I don’t get too much serious heat about my height. Being in this position has given me a bird’s eye view (pardon the irony 😅) on how the people I interact with think about height – both theirs and that of those around them.

It’s been my observation that a lot of us in Nairobi cannot accurately identify their height when asked, and not all of that is from a deliberate attempt to hide the truth, but actually from a fallacy that has been spread until it has been accepted as truth.

Let me ask you something. How tall exactly is 6 ‘0? If I presented 5 people to you, would you be able to pick out the one that is 6 ‘0 accurately? If you live in Nairobi, I think you would fail miserably. 

As human beings, our perception of measurements can be good or bad. I’ll be the first to admit that mine sucks. I can’t tell if 80 kilometers is a walking distance or not. I kid you not (as I wrote this sentence I paused to ask Google and…let’s just say, no, it’s not walking distance 😅). This same off-mark estimation applies to most when it comes to height, much as I’m sure some of us are blessed with those brains that can think in the metric system and give directions using them. 

So when men tell you they’re 6 ‘0 and you believe them, the next time someone asks you your height you’ll use that guy’s height as your yardstick to estimate yours. “I’m about 5 ‘5,” you’ll say innocently, not knowing that the lie of this man being 6 ‘0 and the fact that human beings generally suck at estimating measurements combine to give such a large margin of error, it’s not even funny.

Case in point. I had shared this theory with some friends and one of them recently came back with a report that proved my findings had some truth in them. “Soila, tell me how I just got my height measured and I’m 5 ‘5?!” she texted on Whatsapp. She’s always thought she was 5 ‘7. “Mpaka I’ve asked the nurse ‘if she’s sure’ and she’s said we can measure it again. Talk about being humbled.” A trip to the doctor’s office gave her a reality check, because even her passport boldly pronounces her as being 5 ‘7. She has basically been living a lie!

But my question is, how many people had she told she was 5 ‘7 who then used that to measure their own height? The distortions trickle down like a messed-up game of broken telephone, leaving us at a place where someone is standing, looking at me eye to eye telling me they’re 5 ‘4 and I’m thinking, “Sis, I don’t know how to tell you this but…”

In my uni days I had a raging argument with one guy friend who was so convinced of his fraudulent height (at least he seemed to genuinely believe it but it may just have been an ego thing). Other people backed up his claims and that’s the first moment I had my revelation. Since everyone has been lied to about this height thing, then no one knows the truth about how height actually works. Do you know how big an inch is compared to a centimeter? The difference between 5 ‘7 and 5 ‘5 is not small, my friend!

And other than my 5 ‘7 (now 5 ‘5) friend who was crazy enough to stand next to a wall, mark her height with a pencil and then measure that with a 30 centimeter ruler, the rest of you are living under the delusions set for you by men trying to impress you with their non-existent inches (yes, both of them 🫢) and other women like you who have also been lied to.

So the next time you’re at a clinic, take the opportunity to get your height accurately measured. Then you can at least escape the matrix.


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