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Not the Man I Once Was

June 4, 2014




I’m the tallest man I know, but only when I sit down. I’m 5’8” when standing—the height of the average American thanks to Hispanics and Asians—but seated around a dining room table I tower over everyone. I know what you’re thinking: You must have an ass as big as a Rose Parade float, but I don’t. Well, maybe the size of those carts that scoop up the horse poop. The problem is my legs. They’re too short, not Toulouse Lautrec short, but Boys Department short. 


Someone seated behind me in a theater once whispered to their companion, “Why do I always end up seated behind someone tall?”

Before sitting down I’d purchased a drink the size of the Statue of Liberty’s torch. I had to pee like a stallion halfway through the movie but I stayed in my seat until the credits rolled and they left. I didn’t want to disappoint them.

Back when I was a teenager and realized I probably wasn’t going to grow much taller, I asked my mother why my legs were so short. She said, “You have the legs of a doryman.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Your ancestors were fishermen and whalers in the Azores. They spent a great deal of time in small boats rocking about on the waves. People with short legs are more surefooted, less likely to fall out of a lurching boat.”

This from a woman who didn’t believe in Darwin or natural selection, and thought cave men rode around on brontosauruses like the Flintstones. Like many of her answers, this one was off-putting: I had no intention of becoming a fisherman. I’m not fond of fish, I get seasick and now I feel responsible for harpooned whales. So I’m stuck with the legs of a doryman, far far from the sea. 

But short legs are the least of my problems. Once I was 5’8.5” tall. My doc recently told me that I’ve lost half an inch over the last five years. I’m not good at math but I’m willing to bet a mathematical formula exists that can determine when I’ll disappear completely. But I doubt I’ll be worrying about it for long. Although I pride myself on learning something new every day, at my age I forget two things daily. I don’t need to know much about math to realize it’s only a matter of time until my brain is a clean slate.

Is nature toying with you? Are you shrinking or falling apart?




Starting to think that my legs are different lengths. I don't know why though.
By: Jenny on June 4, 2014
I'm pretty much the same height as you. The problem when I buy pants is to fit my waist the legs are usually really long so I have to pay extra to get them hemmed down from like 38 inches to 29.
By: PT Dilloway on June 4, 2014
My temper is getting shorter.
By: Cranky Old Man on June 4, 2014
This is hysterical. I think I've shrunk a little too, but the brain is definitely becoming a wasteland, in a slow and painful march!
By: Laurel on June 4, 2014
Do people really get shorter with age? Are you just hunching over more?
By: Katy Anders on June 4, 2014
I've lost an inch in height, too, which makes my quest to lose weight even more critical; I'm tired of telling people "I'm not overweight, I'm under-tall."
By: Eva Gallant on June 4, 2014
On my driver's license it still says I'm 6 feet tall. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!
By: Tom Sightings on June 4, 2014
I am both shrinking and falling apart--LOL! There are worse things in life than to be sure-footed. Like forgetting why--or who told you that story--LOL! ;)
By: Rita McGregor on June 4, 2014
It's a good thing I was sitting down while I read this- I haven't laughed so hard for quite awhile....I am shorter than I used to be so maybe it wouldn't have hurt so much if I had fallen out of my chair. I used to be 5'4" and now I am 5'3"....going going gone if I iive to be as old as my grandmother....she was pretty short when she passed away at 96.
By: on June 4, 2014
Oh yeah, the falling apart process has started as well as the amazing shrinking woman thing. Getting older isn't for the faint of heart....and as always you bring a smile and a giggle. Thanks.
By: Oma Linda on June 4, 2014
'i now feel responsible for harpooned whales' made me bust out laughing! :) i worked with a gent who was quite tall - several inches over 6 feet, but it was all his torso! his hips were just barely higher than mine (and i'm 5'4"). he must have been a nightmare to shop for shirts!
By: TexWisGirl on June 4, 2014
Yes- I've lost and inch and a half. But I gained it back in my shoe size. LOL!
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on June 4, 2014
I'm definitely falling apart and it's depressing. I had to have a new photo taken for my driving licence and when I saw my photo I almost had a heart attack. God, where did these large bags under my eyes come from??
By: LL COOL JOE on June 4, 2014
We all are affected by gravitational forces. This combined with the natural wear and tare on our discs (degenerative disc disease) flatten out. Our waists and feet widen and for men, our butts seemingly disappear. Womens bodies undergo changes too, but I'll stop there.
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 4, 2014
I have shrunk just a little...but my God, what a boring place this would be if we all looked like Ken and Barbie!!
By: Tabor on June 4, 2014
I like to pretend that getting older doesn't affect me, but (insert big sigh here) due to the forces of nature that Daniel described, I seem to have shrunk about half an inch. Other than that, I'm still hot. It just comes in flashes now.
By: Pixel Peeper on June 4, 2014
My husband is 5' 8" too, with short legs. He has taken to buying his jeans at Goodwill. Already hemmed, and only four dollars!
By: Val on June 4, 2014
I'm falling apart, and I have some of the facial features of the indigenous people of Norway. My mother's family was as Norwegian as it gets. As a child, I was taunted constantly because of my appearance. I didn't know until I saw the Olympics in Norway that someone sneaked a Sami into the family. I hope I spelled that correctly. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 4, 2014
I am both shrinking and falling apart. why did you have to remind me? I have a 29 in leg. Try buying pants.
By: red on June 4, 2014
Fighting the shrink with lots of calcium, and exercising and eating right to fight the falling apart, too. Only time will tell how well it all works.
By: mimi on June 4, 2014
i feel for you Stephen. i've shrunk about 5 centimeters. seems a lot to me but that's what the doctor said last time she measured me.
By: Fran on June 5, 2014
I think we all shrink as we get older. This is excluding my stomach which seems to ignore this "rule"!
By: John on June 5, 2014
I might be able to answer your final questions... if I ever stop laughing. Thanks!
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 5, 2014
Well, it might not be too long before we can see eye-to-eye. In fact, that day may have already arrived! For I have not had my height measured in a doctor's office in over two years now. I just had to put a stop to it. For at my best, I was a full 6 feet tall and weighed around 200 pounds of fairly solid muscle. If I remember right, the last time a nurse in a doctor's office measured me, I was down to 5' 9.25" tall, and up to 406 pounds of really disgusting goo! Okay, I was weighed after I had my last minor stoke in the fall of last year, and I was down to around 345 pounds. I still think she had her foot on there with mine, though. Oh, and since the US Army had me down as 6' 2"--don't think I am going along with the manly man tradition of insisting that I am/was taller than I really am/was. Since I don't think I was ever that tall, I guess they wanted me to be more than I could actually be, but I'll take it.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on June 5, 2014
I can totally identify with you on this one, Stephen; I too possess a long body and freakishly short legs.
By: Bryan Jones on June 7, 2014
You've reminded me of a great line from a 1972 Woody Allen movie, "Play It Again Sam". Diane Keaton is setting up Allen for a blind date, and when he overhears her say on the phone, "No flats will bee fine he objects. "Let her wear heels. Who am I, Toulouse Lautrec ?" Funny!
By: Michael Manning on June 9, 2014
I'm the opposite - long(ish I'm only 5'4") legs & short torso. But wait - the last time I was measured I was only 5'3 1/2"!
By: The Bug on June 15, 2014

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