Friday, June 18, 2021

Andy Young: The long and the short of height

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Some time ago I was teaching a unit on memoir when one of my 18-year-old high school charges submitted something alluding to her height, or rather her lack of it. An eloquent writer who stood just over 5 feet tall, she intimated in her essay that she wouldn’t mind adding an inch or two to her stature.

Few people (regardless of age) are completely satisfied with how they look to others, and that’s too bad. Those wishing to alter their physical appearance slightly can easily do so, provided what they wish to change is something simple, like the style or color of their hair. And those possessing greater wherewithal can, albeit for a stratospheric price, find a plastic surgeon who’ll happily change the size and/or shape of a variety of body parts whose owners consider them too prominent, or in some cases not prominent enough.

But aside from wearing platform shoes or developing a permanent slouch, there isn’t much one can do to augment or lessen his or her personal altitude. 

Fair or not, societal norms and stereotypes have the potential to make things challenging for males of less than average height, or women who tower over their peers. 

I’ve always wondered what the perfect height is. Is it different for a man than it is for a woman? Does it change as one ages? And if and when some international fact-finding organization has synthesized the data that they’ve spent decades compiling and announces they’ve determined precisely what the ideal height is, how many people (of any gender) will be fortunate enough to attain it?

I knew exactly what my personal optimal height would be back when I was 12 years old: 6 feet, 6 inches. Since I planned at the time to make my living playing in the National Basketball Association, I figured having the top of my head 78 inches above the ground would, assuming I had correspondingly long arms, be more than sufficient for me to excel in my chosen career while at the same time not making me one of those people who can’t leave his residence without being gawked at. It was an ambitious goal for someone with a 5-foot-7-inch father, but I was so determined that I abstained from smoking cigarettes, and also from drinking coffee or tea, activities which reliable sources intimated stunted one’s growth. 

I never did make it to the NBA, although an unwillingness to work hard and a general dearth of talent had more to do with my coming up short (pun intended) in regard to my professional basketball aspirations than any lack of height did. But there were fringe benefits to having what were, in retrospect, less-than-realistic athletic aspirations; passing on alcohol and tobacco in my quixotic effort to grow taller turned out to be good decisions, both health-wise and fiscally.

Ultimately, I attained what I consider to be a more than satisfactory stature. For those obsessed with numbers, I currently stand 5 foot 13, or 6-foot-1, for people unable or unwilling to do the math.

The bottom line is that I ended up being one of those fortunate people who, through a process that was most likely one percent design and 99 percent pure luck, achieved the perfect height. But the funny thing is that good fortune has put me in a place where I am surrounded by an astounding number of other kind well-adjusted folks, both male and female, who have by utter coincidence attained the perfect stature as well. 

So what exactly is the perfect height? 

Whatever it is that you are, of course! <

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