I'm two inches shorter than I thought I was.
For nearly two decades, when asked, I would tell people I'm 5'8". I don't generally have a problem with my height and it rarely has given me pause in my every day life. Sure there are times while playing basketball or volleyball that I wish I was a little taller. There were times while doing shows in high school and college where I thought were I just a few inches taller, I'd be getting the lead roles instead of the plucky comic relief bits.
However, I never played the victim because of my average height. I knew I was at or just below average height for men in the US, but again, I'd never really thought about it at length. To be sure, the topic would come up every month or so as human conversation drifts towards the statistic and people compare ages, height, length of time in Taiwanese prison, etc. It was very prevalent in the afore mentioned theater productions because costuming required measurements.
My height was 5'8"
That is until this weekend when G-man was playing with a tape measure and wanted to know how tall everything was, including daddy. So we measured him (he's 3'7") and then a couple other things including the dogs, and then me. Now, I expected the index finger and thumb to pinch the tape at the 68 inch mark, but it didn't. I was measuring myself with a four year old helping and I thought, well, maybe he's holding it a couple inches off the ground. I had Ms. A help. At this point I wanted to give G-man an accurate measure of daddy's giant stature, but I was also touched with a 10% sense of foreboding.
Sure enough, sixty six inches.
"That can't be right!" I blurted out. Ms. A began laughing. She's known me for almost 13 years now and she knows that I tell people I'm five eight, just like I know she tells people she's five two. It's not even a social badge, it's just a biological fact.
Or is it?
This really bothered me, but not in the way you'd think. The actual measurement, the raw datum resulting from stretching the tape from floor to scalp isn't important. What is important is if I'm ACTUALLY this tall, what has changed in my perception of myself? Yes it's a body image shift and that's troublesome enough, but the mere fact that I've just now noticed this after all this time worries me. What changed? Was I lying to myself this whole time? Was my subconscious trying to shield me from what it perceived as a degrading biological label?
How could I have been so wrong?
Ms. A, of course, as well as the rest of the house is loving this. The short jokes started almost immediately and I played along as best I could, but writing this now has opened up a little bit of pinkish hurt on my person and I'm having a hard time recovering. What else am I wrong about? Are my eyes blue? Am I a dad? Is my middle name Michael? What else is false that I have thought this far to be an absolute truth? I've tried explaining it to people and for the most part the reaction is either, "You're still taller than me" or "It's just a couple inches." But it's more than that.
Ms. A thinks my weight is compressing my spine or I'm doing the old man shrink. Which is worse on a surface level, but at least not as existentially devastating.
It could be that the tape measure was off too.
So, what did you do this weekend?
(follow up here)
at 9:21 AM