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GETTING MEN TO FACE FACTS ABOUT THEIR HEIGHT CAN BE A TALL ORDER

SHARE GETTING MEN TO FACE FACTS ABOUT THEIR HEIGHT CAN BE A TALL ORDER

When I was little I wanted to be tall. In fact, my older brother, Tom, and I determined early on that in order to succeed in life we would have to reach at least 6 feet. We actually hoped that we would exceed that goal and maybe end up at 6 feet 4 inches or 6 feet 5.

The only problem is that we had almost no tall genes in our family - with the exception of Uncle George - the only one who actually broke the 6-foot barrier.Uncle George, my dad's uncle, used to pass through Salt Lake City occasionally and stay with us for two or three weeks.

He was tall and proud of it.

I remember Tom and me discussing height with Uncle George during one of his stays, and in spite of his impressive height, he was not known for his tact. He expressed a healthy skepticism about our potential to be big guys like him.

"You'll never be very tall," he said to Tom.

It was a simple, matter-of-fact statement. He didn't apologize for it. He didn't preface it with, "I don't know how to tell you this but . . . "

He just blurted it out.

It was devastating to both of us, because if Tom, who was older than I, had no chance of ever being tall, what possible hope was there for me?

As I went through school I grew in large spurts. In junior high, I shot up to giant status - or so it seemed at the time.

When we measured in my eighth-grade gym class, I was the tallest boy. Mr. Laursen, the gym teacher, predicted that I would be a noted basketball player some day.

The only problem was - unbeknownst to Mr. Laursen and me - I had reached my full height in the eighth grade. I just stopped growing, while many of those little guys in the class kept on going until they topped 6 feet.

Five feet 8 inches didn't seem tall by the time I was a senior in high school. In fact, people started referring to me as "average," or even short.

In the meantime, my brother towered over me at an astounding 5 feet 111/2 inches. Yet, he was disappointed, because that measley half-inch prevented him from reaching his lifelong goal.

Basketball stardom eluded him as well. But at least he seemed tall, sort of. Certainly in comparison to me.

He never caught up with Uncle George, but then Uncle George would have been startled that he did that well.

That was years ago, and I have long since buried any lingering dreams of athletic prowess. But, lately, I have noticed that I am shrinking.

In recent years, I have been measured at only 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Since I considered 5 feet 8 the key to being average, I fought for that last half-inch. I tried to stand up straighter.

Then I thought of something terrible. Could I have actually exaggerated my height in the first place? Maybe I never reached 5 feet 8 inches even when I thought I did. If so, how could I look anyone in the eye - unless I stood on my toes?

Now I've become conscious of how many guys express their height in half-inch increments. Could it be that in many cases, the half-inch is thrown in just to add that little bit of security denied them by the absence of the crucial tall genes?

Women don't do this. The desire for height and the willingness to stretch the numbers just a little is a guy thing. It's something the culture decrees.

For reasons beyond our control, none of us can rest easy until we are each recognized by the world as a huge, gangly, strong, athletic, masculine colossus.

I just hope I don't shrink to 5 feet 6 1/2.