It used to be that some evenings were less than enchanted for Suzi Woolford. Whenever the 33-year-old senior data specialist gazed acrossa crowded room, she would discover only two or three strangers at her eye level -- the rest of the crowd usually stood beneath her 5-foot, 11-inch frame.
Columbia resident Susan Pfeifer, who also measures 5-11, understands what it feels like to stand out in a crowd.
"People fear you, or are awed by you," said the 30-year-old chemist.
And although both women believe tall men face fewer stigmas, Mark Elrod, 26, who is 6 feet, 7 inches tall, speaks of other problems.
"I've learned to duck," said the Columbia resident, lamenting the hazards of walking into hanging signs and doorways.
But things are looking up for the threesome since they joined the Baltimore TallClub (BTC) -- a social club of about 50 lofty individuals from various parts of the state, about 10 of whom live in Howard County.
"I'm one of the short ones," said Woolford, an Annapolis resident who ispresident and a four-year member of the club.
Women must be at least 5 feet, 10 inches tall to join. Male club members must be at least 6 feet, 2 inches tall. All potential members are measured during the first business meeting they attend.
"I was looking for a club tojoin since most of the people I went out with at the time were either family members or people I worked with; I wanted to meet more people," said Woolford. She said it was "pure luck" when she spotted a newspaper ad about the club. "When I read it, I thought 'I'm not into gardening or anything likethat but I am tall.'"
Jay Corwith, a 33-year-old computer programmer from Laurel, became engaged to Woolford after the couple met through the BTC. At 6 feet, 4 inches, Corwith is one of the shorter members of the group.
"It's a different environment to be with people who are around your height," Corwith said. "Younotice strange things, like when you are on a crowded dance floor and you are used to being able to look out over the crowd. At a (BTC) function, I realized that this is what it's like to be a normal heightwhere you can't see everyone. And I stand straight up at BTC meetings; I don't have to bend over to hear."
The BTC is one of 54 clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada that make up Tall Clubs International(TCI), a 53-year-old, non-profit organization. The aim of TCI is to promote public awareness about the problems of being tall. The organization has encouraged apparel and furniture makers to accommodate theneeds of tall people. For example, the first charter club of the organization -- formed in 1938 and called the California Tip Toppers Club -- was instrumental in getting manufacturers to make king-size mattresses more available.
The organization also contributes money forresearch into Marfan Syndrome -- a hereditary disorder characterizedby abnormal blood circulation and unusual tallness. The disease can be fatal and often strikes young athletes.
But members say the organization mostly offers them the simplest of social pleasures.
"Inthis group, it's my chance to be normal," said Pfeifer. "They don't say, 'Geez, you're tall.' In this situation, I know how the average person feels, and it feels wonderful."
The three most often-asked questions of tall people? This group says they are: Do you play basketball? How's the weather up there? and, How tall are you?
"I'm a walking opening line for people," said Woolford.
Elrod notes practical problems. He says he would never be able to buy an old home in Baltimore because the door frames aren't high enough. The Columbia resident's frame barely scrapes past the standard doorways of modern homes, which are 6 feet, 8 inches -- just -inch above his head. And he drives a Ford Bronco II because "a Toyota is out of the question unlessI stick my head out of the sunroof."
"You can get annoyed or you can laugh it off," Elrod said. "The club helps people to laugh it off."
"The top of my refrigerator is always clean," said one person.
"People don't push you around," said another.
"You can see the parade, but you will be stuck in the back," explained Pfeifer, who says being tall is a double-edged sword. "You learn that, for the most part, throughout all of your life you will be noticed.You can't hide from who you are."