I was with my friends B and S the other night. B asked S, who’s taller, to reach something in the kitchen.
“Why can’t you reach it?” I asked B. “You’re pretty tall.”
“Not anymore,” she said. “I’ve been shrinking.”
“How tall are you?” I asked.
“I used to be 5’7″,” she said, a little resentfully.
“How tall are you now?” I asked again.
B changed the subject. S just stood there, reveling in her tallness.
Oh, hell. My husband and I have been joking about this shrinkage business for years. When we moved to our house 12 years ago, we used the inside of a closet door for measurements. “We’re documenting the kids while they grow,” we told people, “and us while we shrink.”
Ha, ha, ha! Aren’t we a riot? I just love it when another one of our favorite aging jokes rears back and bites us in the ass. Especially this one. I happen to love my height. I’m 5’7″, which I think is the perfect height. I have no interest in being 5’6″ or, God forbid, 5’5″. I want to retain every damned inch, every fraction of every millimeter.
“I do yoga,” I told B. “That’s why I haven’t shrunk yet.” I tried to stand up very, very straight as I said that.
B raised an eyebrow. “I do yoga, too. I still shrank.”
Vitamins, I think, as we eat dinner. Protein. More Boniva, like Sally Field! Some kind of machine that stretches me out on a regular basis. I’ll try them all. I’ll try anything. Being 5’7″ is part of my identity. Do not go gentle into that short body. Rage, rage at the dying of the height!
I recalled those idiotic ads where women of a certain age stared at the camera and swore they weren’t going to “give in” to old age. “I’m going to fight it!” they announced, like it was a mission to explore space or cure cancer.
I always hated those ads. I’d fling popcorn or other edibles at the TV screen at that point. “Get a life!” I’d scream. And, “Shut up!”
And here I was now, reduced to vanity and superficiality, just like those insipid models. This used to be beneath me. But now it’s not. Maybe it’s — I shudder to think — above me. Could it be I’m already beginning to think like a short person?
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)