Doesn’t it seem like the generations that came after ours got taller? It sure does to us. But that’s not the end of it: from Santa Barbara, California, author Barbara Greenleaf complains that we’re getting shorter. And she has proof, which she writes about for BoomerCafé in “Height: the Long and the Short of it.”
When I was growing up, I was one of the tallest girls in class. 5-foot-6-and-a-half! I know this because in those days kids were lined up in size order, small to tell, and I always placed next to last (or first, depending) in front of Susan Walling, she of the hearty Scandinavian stock. Except for Susan’s Scandinavian family and a few others, ours was basically a second-generation family from the neighborhood of southern and eastern Europe, where people were short-ish. So there was all the more reason that I was considered tall-ish.
But no more. I just had my annual physical, where I was weighed and measured. Knowing this moment of truth was coming, I did that math peculiar to middle-aged women: should I keep my shoes on so I’ll be a half inch taller or take them off so I’ll be a half-pound lighter? I opted for the latter, fluffed up my hair, and practiced my very best posture.
Alas, to no avail. The measurement now? 5-foot-4-…and-a-half. My head is now a full two inches closer to the floor than it was in my prime. Someone recently even called me “petite.” I’d rather be “a tall drink of water.” Aaargh! When I told my sister I’d lost two inches, she replied that we should create a ruler on the side of a door, but instead of marking up from the bottom like we did as kids, we’ll have to erase from the top.
I used to love being tall. Tall connotes seriousness of purpose and leadership ability. Tall = Authority. Think George Washington (6”4”) and Thomas Jefferson (6’2”). Of course there was that shrimp Napoleon, whose press agent put out the word that he was a full five-foot-seven, the average for his day. Oh, yeah? Then why did they name a short man’s complex after him? There was also barely there Stalin (5’6”), but as he and Napoleon don’t fit my model, I’m conveniently ignoring them.
So, back to me! I’m sure it was due to my height that I was chosen camp-color-war captain although I never caught a fly ball in center field. And I was picked to star in our junior high musical even though I couldn’t carry a tune. What other explanation could there be?
Although it does not make it any easier, I realize I am not alone in my downward spiral. Studies show that almost all of us shrink as we age, and on average women lose just over three inches by the age of 80. These same studies show that almost all of us also overestimate our height. If I really am to be the Incredible Shrinking Woman though, I know where I can be among my own kind: the Little People of America. That organization represents anyone under 4’10”, which they consider a dwarf. The way things are going I should start preparing my membership application now.