My U.S. Army physical records my height at 5 feet, eleven inches. I always wanted to be six feet, but at five-eleven I was content. That made me taller than average, and even more important, taller than most girls. I was big enough to play basketball in grammar school, but that was back in the day when there were guys under six feet playing in the NBA. In school, I was about fifth from the end of the line when we lined up in size order The four guys taller than me were my best pal, Rich Bilello, Robert Griesbaum, James Hoffman, and another kid whose name I forget. In sixth grade we got a transfer from another school, a tall, skinny kid from Canarsie named Anthony Dana, who looked like Ichabod Crane. Anthony was not only taller than ne, but smarter. I dropped in two categories.
It was a banner day for me when I grew taller than my father. I shot up pretty quickly in grammar school and always thought of myself as taller than average. This changed somewhat in high school. I tried out for the basketball team at Brooklyn Tech, but with an enrollment of 6,000 boys, I never had a chance. I did make the baseball team where height was less important, and still thought of myself as tall. After all, the relatives we saw infrequently would always say: “Jimmy, how tall you got!” Now who could argue with that. Among my neighborhood pals, only Phil, my next door neighbor, was taller. But something was happening. I felt like I was leveling off and maybe, or perish the thought, shrinking!
My first clue came around the time I was to be married. I always wore a pants size 34 waist with a 32 inseam. I seem to recall the guy in the tux rental place telling me I was a 31 inseam. “Can’t be” I said, pulling myself up to what I thought was my full 5’11” height, “I wear a 32 inseam. I tried on the 32 but it was too long! What’s happening to me? I rationalized that it must be a sizing quirk with tuxedos and smiled weakly, already sensing what was in store for me. Soon after, I had to take an annual physical at my place of business. The nurse, after measuring my height, wrote down 5” 10”. I was stunned. Where did a whole inch go? I kept fooling myself that nothing was wrong and that I was still above average height. I made my peace with the 31 inseam and moved on with my life.
Some years ago, my family doctor took my height and weight, and while I knew I would never fit into a size 34 waist pair of pants again, when he told me my height, I froze. “Five-nine” he said. Somebody please make it stop. Now I had lost two inches along the way and was becoming “The Incredible Shrinking
I felt the same although I noticed that my wife seemed to have got taller over
the years. Both my sons were taller than me and my daughter was about the same height. (Now I know how my Dad must have felt.) The last straw was when I began
having to sometimes buy pants with a 30 inch inseam. Oh the humiliation. If they were cotton khakis
that shrunk, I could still buy 31s, but more and more, 30 inches became the new
standard. I was turning into Danny DeVito!
They say that somehow we actually lose height as we get older. This is not easy to accept for a guy who was once fifth tallest in a class of over 50 kids. I pray my wife wears short heels when we dress up or I may have to resort to lifts. As George Costanza once pointed out, although talking about a different subject, shrinkage is not an easy thing to bear.
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