Once upon a time there was a girl, who, at the age of thirteen, had reached her adult height of five feet-six-and-a-half-inches. She imagined that she towered over her friends, who at that point in time, had reached only five feet two or five feet three. As a result, she felt BIG. Perhaps not as big as Gulliver surrounded by Lilliputians, but at least as big as a horse in a herd of ponies, or a bass fiddle among cellos.
BIG was not a good thing to be at that age. Standing last in line with the one or two other “tall” girls was one thing, but being behind the boys made her feel as awkward as Wilt Chamberlain at a Little People’s convention. When they palled around with the boys, her friends looked cute. She did not look cute. She was too tall to be cute. But cute was what she wanted to be. She hated her height.
Fortunately, as the girl emerged from the self-loathing early teen years, she learned to embrace her vertical dimension. She gave up her round shouldered posture in favor of erectness. Her height gave her confidence, a certain strength. Now she was glad not to be one of the petite girls. (Not that there’s anything wrong with petite. Some of her best friends were…..). She no longer considered “cute” complimentary when applied to her. In fact, she wished she was taller, maybe five feet eight or nine. She wore high heels (in those days she could wear high heels without a fear of breaking an ankle), and no longer minded if she was taller than a male companion.
She worshipped statuesque women. She idolized Judith Jameson and longed to become her, or some other majestically tall and graceful African woman with close-cropped hair. But genetically, all she could manage was the close-cropped hair.
The girl, now a woman, eventually crossed that point of no return called middle-age. In order to ensure an ongoing state of wellness, physical checks-ups were now a required annual event. She had learned to fast for two days before the appointment to lessen the devastation of confronting the number on the scale, which had this nasty habit of increasing each year. And the nurse had an equally nasty habit of weighing you before you took your clothes off. (She made a mental note not to get her exams in the winter.) Height measurement? Never gave it a second thought. That is, until the year that same nurse told her she was five feet five. “No, I’m not,” she responded with an air of indignation, “I’m at least five-six.” “Sorry, dear,” the nurse said, “like the scale, the ruler doesn’t lie,”
Fast forward to the present. Obviously, the girl in the fairy tale is yours truly. Now well past middle age (unless the life span increases to one hundred forty years), I have become victim to that malevolent force that each year causes weight to go up and height to go down. But where are the inches going? I haven’t had to shorten my pants or my skirts, so I’m fairly confident that my legs aren’t shrinking. Therefore, it must be that my torso is disappearing; you know, that space between the breasts and the hips. If this trend continues, will my boobs one day be resting on my waist? Now there’s a challenge for Victoria’s Secret, (speaking of which, I hate those models!)
Like Jonah or Job, I wonder if I have I been inflicted with a biblical punishment for being a whiny teen or an adult with too much tall pride? Or is it simply time that is compressing my spine? Does it matter? I am doomed to spending my last years looking up at my granddaughters.
Having my height measurement taken each year has given a new meaning to the term “acrophobia.” Is there no way to reverse this trend? I’m thinking maybe Martha Stewart has the recipe for Alice’s magical “Eat Me” cake. I will inquire. (Is it my imagination, or is Martha also looking shorter these days?)
I know that the secret to successful aging is accommodation, so I will adapt. I will learn to be happy with my new stature. I will avoid standing near tall women. I will comfort myself with the fact that my friends are probably shrinking proportionately. But I warn you, when I am ninety, if I hear one person say “Look at that little old lady. Isn’t she cute?” I swear I will lift my walker and with it, beat them over the head. Or whatever body part I can reach.