I hate tall women. Well, maybe hate is too strong. Begrudge or even envy might be more accurate. I first felt this way in High School while watching Mother bend over her Singer, sewing dresses for my sisters and me. The tall, slender, size 2 beauties pictured on the Vogue patterns looked like outer space aliens compared to my five-foot gnomish body. The only thing I had on those gals was ample cleavage. And I suppose the guys got a pretty good look from their wuthering heights. I like tall men, have been married to one for more than sixty years.

It’s hard to be chic when the women in my family are all shorties, damn eastern European stock. And in later life, gravity and my propensity to eat rather than exercise required major engineering efforts to maintain a presentable figure. Tall, slender women didn’t have that problem, just one of the reasons why I admired and envied my good friend, Georgia.

She’d graduated from Swarthmore smack in the middle of World War II, followed her family west to Santa Barbara, and worked at Security Bank, became their youngest loan officer before marrying a successful realtor. They moved to the Riviera, the city’s most hoity-toity neighborhood. Meanwhile, Frank and I raised three kids and pinched pennies from our West Side bungalow. But for some reason, Georgia’s love of books and our shared hometown of Philadelphia brought us together, along with another improbable couple, Larry and Amanda. Us ladies would meet once a month to talk about books and of course gossip, and the whole gang would go out for dinner and dancing every chance we got.

It was on one such outing in the early 1960s that the incident happened. I laugh about it now, can appreciate the humor. But for a while, I felt cold toward Georgia, and even colder toward my husband.

Ted and Georgia were celebrating their fifteenth anniversary and she had made reservations at the Talk of the Town for the six of us. The Talk was a high-priced club located near the beach, with low lighting, wonderful food, and a ballroom for after-dinner dancing. Ted drove us to the club in their Cadillac de Ville. We climbed out into a warm spring night. He handed over the keys to the valet who whisked the car away.

Inside, the restaurant’s foyer smelled of smoke filtering in from the bar. At the maitre-d’ stand, a tall tuxedoed man with slicked-back hair and a sad smile welcomed us.

Ted stepped forward. “We have reservations for seven-thirty. The name is O’Neal.”

The maitre-d’ scanned his ledger, found Ted’s name and made a quick check with a gold ballpoint. He lifted his head and stared at our group. His smile faded and he cleared his throat.

“I…I’m sorry sir, but we will not be able to seat you.”

“Why the hell not?” Ted puffed himself up, an impressive man built like a football player.

“I must apologize for my indelicacy, but your wife does not meet our establishment’s dress code.”

I think all of our mouths must have dropped open. Seeing our reaction, the maitre-d’ hurried on. “We require that all ladies wear dresses or skirts. Your…your wife is not properly attired.”

Georgia wore a mist-blue long blouse and matching pants. The top had a plunging V-neck framing exquisite strings of pearls. The pants were bell-bottomed and nearly covered her silver stilettos. When she walked, the soft rustle of the filmy material accompanied the clack of her heels. I bit back hard on my jealousy. She looked like a blue heron, standing there for all to admire, and I knew my husband appreciated her efforts.

Georgia spoke up first. “Do you know how much I paid for this outfit? We had to drive to LA to pick it out. How dare you–”

“I’m sorry, but our dress code is very clear. Cost has nothing to–”

“We want to speak with the manager,” Ted growled.

“Of course, sir. Just one moment. Would you step over here while we–”

“We’re not going anywhere until the manager gets out here.”

“Yes, sir. I understand.”

The maitre-d’ stepped from behind his podium, scooted down a side passage, and ducked through a doorway. By that time, other restaurant patrons had crowded into the reception area. The hubbub of their voices rivaled the noise from the bar. Some stared at us angrily, at least at Ted and Georgia; they patently ignored me.

In a few minutes the maitre-d’ returned with a manager who was my height. I figured Georgia would make short work of that pipsqueak. I expected apologies and maybe even offers of complimentary cocktails.

The manager straightened his tie. “Mr. and Mrs. O’Neal, I am truly sorry for the inconvenience. But we must insist that you honor our dress code. It’s a matter of principle and precedent.”

Our little group stood in stunned silence. The room quieted. I guess they wanted to hear every last word of the confrontation. Ted stepped forward and filled his chest to speak. But Georgia placed a hand on his arm and gently moved him aside. She turned toward the crowd, handed me her silver clutch purse, then removed her shoes. She raised the blouse to expose a flat midriff, hooked her thumbs through the top of the pants and pulled downward. The crowd gasped.

Georgia stood before us, smiling, wearing only the blouse, her long legs encased in sheer pantyhose. In the early ’60s, gals wore dresses at or below the knee and the mini skirt was years away from hitting the fashion scene. But even by later standards, Georgia’s blouse was short, way way short, its bottom button positioned directly over her private parts. Whenever she shifted her legs, the flap below the button would open, exposing even more. She slipped on her shoes, folded her pants and gave them to me to store in my huge purse.

Georgia turned to face the maitre-d’, her improvised dress barely covering her backside. I glanced at my husband. Frank’s face wore a broad leer, his gaze fixed on Georgia’s derriere. I gave him an elbow in the ribs and he grunted. I wasn’t blind to his attraction to Georgia, and her to him. Maybe I’d have to insist that we cut ourselves loose from their friendship.

“We are ready to be seated,” Georgia said in her no-nonsense voice.

The maitre-d’s face flushed and he stammered. “Yes, well…well, right this way.” A low cheer went up from the crowd.

The evening proceeded as if nothing had happened, although the winter chill between Frank and I continued. But by the time we hit the ballroom, everyone had downed enough highballs to enjoy themselves. And the other male patrons seemed to enjoy watching Georgia glide across the dance floor, especially when Ted guided her into dramatic dips, twirls, and other gymnastic flares. Frank wisely refrained from dancing with her.

I remained friends with Georgia, even though her willowy appearance sometimes bugged the hell out of me. She died in her sleep several years back, having never fully recovered from a bad tumble. I guess it’s true that the taller they are, the farther they fall. She’d outlived Ted by a decade. I miss her dearly, but feel smug as I stare at Frank sitting in the wheelchair next to mine on the veranda of the nursing home. We’re all short now, even my husband – and anybody standing looks like a giant.