French President Sarkozy was caught on camera using a little step stool to appear tall and authoritative alongside Barak Obama and Carla Bruni. How high should the step stool be for Nicolas Sarkozy (5'5") to look manly near his wife, Carla Bruni (5'9"), to not be dwarfed by Barak Obama (6'2")? Simple subtraction tells us that he would need 4" and 9" correspondingly...
By no means am I making fun of Nicolas Sarkozy. In fact, I had my own share of height problems, all the way through middle and high school. This was long before the supermodel age, at a time when fragile teenage confidence distorted my self-image into a caricature of a tall and awkward monster; and when all who mattered were many inches shorter. For the prom, I had to either sacrifice the elegant 2" heel shoes or calculate how far away to stand from my date so he wouldn't perceive me as a T-rex.
Unfortunately, illustrators (unlike paparazzi) do not favor Sarkozy's and my type of “troubled” couple. They never draw women towering above men. So, please pretend the genders in the drawing below are reversed.
My calculations demonstrated that our apparent height difference would be inversely proportional to the distance between us.
Apparent height difference = actual height difference / distance between partners
Our actual height difference was 1”, with 2” extra potentially added by my elegant shoes, bought specially for the prom. 3” total, not in my favor.
Standing right next to me, about 7" apart, my date would have to tilt his head up to look into my eyes. Our percieved height difference would be 3”/7” and the angle that he needs to tilt his head - 23 degrees. However, from further away (30") our apparent height difference would be 3”/30” and he would just need to slightly raise his eyelashes. Around 6 degrees up. From this far, my monstrosity would be almost unnoticeable. Such a distance, unfortunately, would rule out any slow dancing...
Flats were my final choice, but the reward: my long prom night ended with memorable romantic midnight kayaking.
In a mood for more? Read another, older story about Math of Dating from The Math Mom.