The long of it is: I happen to be 6’3” tall. Happen to be because in my childhood family my parents were short and my siblings were short to mid-height. It made for a certain amount of estrangement. And in Thailand, where I now spend most of my time, it’s like a Monty Pythonesque tracking shot: a crowd of people moving along with one fool’s head, neck and shoulders sticking up, wondering where all the people are. That’s not to say there aren’t any tall Thai people. There are. But at large, Thais are short, which makes the environment a bit squished for tall interlopers like me.
Tall for me means long… long feet with long toes, long hands with long fingers, long legs, long arms. As you might speculate, this longness carries some inherent clumsiness: long foot stuck in pantleg, long fingers overeaching drinks, long legs not quite escaping elevator doors, long arms elbowing waiters with heavy trays. Early participation in sports and some dance training (not enough) helped to keep this lumberingness in check. I even learned to walk like Yul Brynner (the best stride this side of Westworld).
It’s a matter of genetics, you say. ‘tis. And in my history there was a fortunate congenital fellow traveler: a tendency toward leaness coupled with a tendency to dissipate stress, to this day. Thank you Mama.
My father was a short, muscled man (his father was tall). He worked hard all of his life. This anecdote talks genetics: He always had low blood pressure. His amazing parlor trick was that he could sit down on a chair, anytime, elbow on the arm, side of head in hand, and within a minute or two he could fall asleep. Amazing! One day, when he was around 60, the amazing man collapsed on the job. After a brief stint in the emergency ward, he was taken to see a cardiologist. From a detailed examination, the doctor said: You didn’t have a heart attack. You suffer from low blood pressure. Your aorta collapsed and that’s why you collapsed. Ben, you have to quit smoking! Papa took this advice seriously. He never changed his diet, continued to eat whatever he wanted but he did quit smoking three packs of Lucky Strikes a day… by switching to two packs of filtered Kent cigarettes a day, till the day he died at 83. Lucky you
say, congenital luck I add.
Worldwide, Thailand notwithstanding, tall is admired, tall is envied, tall intimidates, tall is odd. Apropos, there is a downside to tall. After the churn of hormones and metabolism in the 20’s and 30’s, in the 40’s tall tends to become lanky, horsey, if you will. The long and tall becomes thicker and hulkier. Seemingly more so for women than men… a difference in musculature I suspect, that old testerone-estrogen bugaboo. And excess weight, during the second half of life, becomes another bugaboo even if it wasn’t during the first half.
Fat is fat. If you’re fat you’re not ‘curvy’ or ‘full-figured’ or ‘plus-size’ or ‘husky’ or ‘heavy-set’. Politically Correct euphemisms are for the thin, the fashion industry, the diets industry, the diet supplements industry. And you? You’re just fat. Maybe influenced by nature but more than likely by nurture. It’s simple really… whatever you put in your mouth, your body absorbs what it wants and moves out the waste. Suppose you stop eating anything for a few weeks or so. You’ll end up unsurprisingly thin, very thin, and probably dead. For proof just visit a refugee camp in Yemen or parts of Africa. What you put in becomes weight. What you don’t doesn’t.
The short of it is this: As the Wizard Wiley quoted recently in these pages: “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Tall is tall, long is long, short is short… and fat is fat!