DR MAX PEMBERTON: Why a man telling tall tales on a date really is a red flag
Any woman who has been on a date will recognise the scene. You enter the bar or restaurant; you’re excited and keen, and you spot him across the room. He sees you, you both smile. Then he stands up and you immediately realise he’s lied about his height. He’s 5ft 7in, but he said he was 6ft.
Among my female friends, this has happened time and time again. I actually suspect men lie about their height on dating apps more than they lie about their age. But who are they trying to kid? It seems such a daft lie — the moment you see them, the game’s up.
I think it says a lot about the power we have for self-delusion. These men have genuinely convinced themselves they are the height they say they are.
The irony is, I don’t think women are put off by a man being a few inches off 6ft, but they are by men who lie. Inevitably, they wonder what it says about their date’s character, that they’d literally self-aggrandise like this.
Well, there might be a very real reason to be wary, according to a new study last week. It shows those who worry about being small are more likely to have ‘dark personality traits’, including narcissism and psychopathy.
Dr Max Pemberton, pictured, warns men against lying about their height on social media and dating apps
The researchers from Italy’s Padua University suggested that when people cannot be ‘physically formidable’ — in other words tall — they try to be ‘psychologically formidable’ instead, and that can lead to manipulative, cynical behaviour and a lack of empathy for others.
But hang on. We all tend to exaggerate our height, convincing ourselves and others that we are taller than we really are and we’re not all psychopaths!
I see this concern surrounding height all the time. When I do a physical examination in my clinic, no one seems to care much what their blood pressure or pulse is, but they’re always hugely interested in their height measurement. And they are almost always disappointed. ‘Oh, I thought I was taller’, they often say.
It’s not uncommon for patients to be so convinced I’ve made a mistake that they ask me to measure them again to double check and, every single time, they are convinced they’re taller than they really are. I’ve never had someone think they are shorter.
At 6 ft 1 in — genuinely! — I’m relatively tall so perhaps it’s easy for me to be dismissive of this obsession.
In fact, I’ve had several otherwise smart, rational and sensible friends (who are a good few inches shorter than me) try to convince me they are 6ft and, therefore, I must be 6 ft 4 in. I’m definitely not.
The fact is, as a society we tend to value height. Research shows taller people tend to have higher self-esteem and self-confidence. A study of Swedish men showed that shorter people are more at risk of low mood and suicide.
Height also appears to confer certain social benefits, too. Taller people are more likely to go into higher education, for example. This is true even when short and tall people have matching IQs, suggesting that there must be some unconscious bias at work when they’re applying for college or university.
The researchers from Italy’s Padua University suggested that when people cannot be ‘physically formidable’, that can lead to manipulative, cynical behaviour and a lack of empathy for others. Stock image used
It’s a bias that goes on throughout life: people who are over 6ft earn on average £100,000 more over a 30-year career compared to shorter people. Doubtless these advantages stem in part from the pervasive tendency to associate height with power.
This tendency is embedded in our language: we look up to people we consider superior, for example, or look down on those who are inferior.
Not that it’s all plain sailing when you’re taller than average. I’ve had several tall patients who have hated their height. If you’re not a particularly confident person, for example, it’s hard to blend in. There’s literally nowhere to hide.
The truth is, our height doesn’t have to determine how we feel about ourselves. Of course, there’s nothing inherently strong or weak about being tall or being short. And as for being a psychopath, well, I’d take that association with a large pinch of salt.
Blatantly lying on a dating app about your height, though, is something else. On the one hand, I feel sorry for men who feel they need to do it. But on the other, it sets alarm bells ringing — loudly.
Do watch for it when you’re dating. Self-delusion is not an attractive quality in anyone. Far better to fall for a man whose head is not in the clouds.
After my piece two weeks ago about the dangers of erratic sleep, another study last week shows less than six hours’ sleep a night increases the risk of infections by more than a quarter. I’m managing much more regular sleep thanks to developing a bedtime routine. It’s surprisingly effective.
The life long toll of abuse
The singer, 47, has spoken about abuse she alleges she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, Stephen Belafonte
Mel B (pictured) was always my favourite Spice Girl and I’ve been really saddened to hear about all her difficulties since those fun, heady days of Spice World and Girl Power.
The singer, 47, has spoken about abuse she alleges she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, Stephen Belafonte, claims which he denies, calling it something she’ll live with ‘for the rest of her life’.
She claims he emotionally and physically abused her during their ten-year marriage — they split in 2017 — and confessed she became ‘very good at hiding things’. She described how he would even try to control what she wore.
Abusers are experts in destroying their victims’ sense of self. But with the right support, it can be something you put behind you. It takes extraordinary strength and courage, but it is possible to rebuild your life, get back your confidence and throw off the shackles of your abuser. I can only hope Mel B gets there one day, too.
It’s not just the cost of living crisis people are worrying about — there’s a cost of dying crisis, too. Although the average cost of a funeral fell slightly in 2022, to £3,953 from £4,056 in 2021, people are increasingly worried about how their loved ones might pay for it and are starting to opt for ‘direct cremations’ instead. This is where there is no memorial service and ashes are returned to family members. A snip at about £1,500.
Indeed, more and more people are saying they’d rather their family members spent the money saved on a holiday. I quite like this idea.
And yet funerals do have a valuable psychological function, too. Having an event to focus our attention and thoughts on allows our minds to start processing what has happened.
You simply don’t get the same thing lounging on a beach.
DR MAX PRESCRIBES…
What’s more, a new study last week showed that taking daily vitamin D reduces the chances of developing dementia. Stock image used
This is one of the few supplements I routinely recommend people take. It’s estimated that 60 per cent of the population of the UK have insufficient levels. There’s evidence that supplements might decrease the risk of premature death and reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. What’s more, a new study last week showed that taking daily vitamin D reduces the chances of developing dementia.