Opinion: Insult of height

Commentary by Dick Wolfsie  

Most people stop growing in their late teens or early 20s. I was stunned the other day to learn that President Obama’s annual physical indicated he had grown over an inch since taking office. His doctor said there was no explanation for this. The Democrats said it was Obamacare.

Of course, seniors do not usually get taller. Just the opposite. One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons is an elderly woman tracking her husband’s height with pencil marks on the inside of a closet door, just like our parents did when we were kids. Sadly, the lines on the door suggest the man had gradually been getting shorter.

Recently I went for a medical procedure that required a brain scan. A nurse called the next day to say that after examining my head for 15 minutes, they were pleased to report they didn’t find anything. I guess this was good news, but they need to find a better way of presenting that information.

While I was there, I was also weighed and had my height measured. Now, my father was six feet tall and my mother was barely five, so I always calculated I was right in the middle, at 5′ 10.” (You can see now why I didn’t do well in math.) For almost 55 years, on my driver’s license, my passport and all medical questionnaires, I listed myself as 5′ 10.” It not only made me feel tall, but it made me seem trim according to the weight chart. If I gained a few pounds, I just told myself I was taller. I found this easier than cutting back on pie.

The nurse reviewed the stats: “Blood pressure, 123 over 80; height 5′ 8” and weight 170. Very good, Mr. Wolfsie. Please step over here and…”

“Whoa! How tall did you say I was?”

“That would be 5 feet, 8 inches—in your socks, which adds a little, of course.”

“Look, first of all, I’m 5′ 10.” Okay, maybe 5′ 9 1/2,” and second of all, these are expensive nylon socks, and very thin.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Wolfsie. Please grab one of the blue gowns off that hook on the door … if you can reach it.”

That night when I got home, I asked my wife how tall she thought I was. “Well, let’s see, when I’m in heels, I’m taller than you, and I’m 5′ 7,” so I guess I’d say you are 5′ 8.” And you’re just about as adorable as can be.”

“But when we got married, I told you I was 5′ 10.” You should have said something.”

“I figured you just rounded it up from 5′ 7.” You did the same thing with your math SATs. By the way, I also didn’t believe that 170 number you threw at me — not by a long shot.

“You think I lied about my weight?”

“Oh, I thought that was your IQ you were bragging about.”

The bottom line is I have to admit either I’m a pathological liar and need some expensive counseling or I am — and this is tough to admit — shrinking. It’s going to depend on which one is covered by Medicare.