In search of my missing inch

I have brown hair and brown eyes, and I am 5’5” tall.  The Great State of Massachusetts puts these identifying details on my driver’s license, my main mode of identity verification, because they are immutable facts. 

Except, of course, that they’re not.  My hair grows grayer every day.    I suppose I could mess with my eye color via contact lenses, unless the cataracts get there first.   And fifteen years ago, the immutable fact on my driver’s license was that my height was 5’6”.   

I miss that inch.  It crept away quietly some time in the past decade or so, and I have been looking for it ever since.  I do all that stuff one is supposed to do to maintain bone density and heart health and every other good thing as you age: plant-based diet, weight-bearing exercise, blah blah blah.   I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I have all-you-can-eat memberships at not one but two neighborhood yoga studios – and I practice frequently enough that I get my money’s worth out of both.  Yoga has helped me with balance, flexibility, and reducing pain in random body parts.  Yoga has also made me a calmer and more centered person--but not, thus far, a taller one.

Over the past few years, a couple of friends (looking at you, Tina and Holly!) have told me about great experiences they’ve had with Pilates, enhancing their posture and yes, even adding half an inch or so to their height.  Now, these are beautiful, graceful women with exquisite posture (not to mention tremendous social poise that no doubt contributes to their stature), and have been so for the decades I’ve known them.   My own posture has always resembled that of Marty Feldman in “Young Frankenstein.”  But improve my posture and regain a little height?   Yes, please!  Despite my already-profligate yoga expenditures, I start looking around for Pilates classes.

Pilates comes in two flavors:  mat and machine-based.   I’ve taken a couple of mat Pilates classes.   They’re less capital-intensive than the machine version, which can get a bit pricey.  Mat Pilates involves only a yoga mat and a circular contraption reminiscent of the torture scene in “Tosca.”    There are mat Pilates sessions both at my gym and at one of my yoga studios – both, in theory, available to me at no marginal cost.   The Pilates classes at my gym, however, seem to be always fully-subscribed.  The Pilates classes at my yoga studio, meanwhile, are all “hot Pilates.”   My body has been producing excessive heat at inconvenient moments for several years now, and it is a mystery to me why I or anyone else would make an affirmative choice for excessive heat, ever.

Besides, my now-taller friends report their vertical enhancement resulted from machine-based Pilates.  These sessions rely on a contraption called a “Reformer” that is outfitted with springs, ropes and pulleys, reminiscent of the torture scene in “The Princess Bride.”  So when a Reformer Pilates studio opened right around the corner from my home last month, I decided to give it a try.

I like it.   It’s fun to slide around on the machines, playing with all those weights and pulleys.   It feels like I’m exercising a lot of the same muscles I work with at the gym and in yoga, but with less strain and who knows, maybe more precision. 

But is it doing anything for me?   Hard to say. After my third Reformer class, I decide to measure my height – not exactly a “before” picture, since I’ve had a few sessions; but at least a snapshot near the start of the Pilates journey that I may or may not continue.  And who knows?  Perhaps Pilates has already started making me taller!   I look up the best way to measure one’s height, and follow the instructions carefully (it involves pencil marks on the wall).   I do it twice, to make sure the results are correct.

I am now….5’4”.

When I was 12 or 13, and had already reached my maximum altitude, I visited my grandparents in Florida.   We were in the elevator, heading down to the condo’s third-floor pool, when a slightly older, slightly taller girl got on with us.   My grandfather turned to me and announced, at full volume, “I didn’t know they made girls any bigger than you.”   I was mortified.   But he had voiced how I saw myself:  a big girl, maybe too big. 

I am not so big anymore by most objective standards (and perhaps, by most objective standards, I was never all that big in the first place).   But that self-image of the oversized girl on the elevator has never really shifted.   Hair, eyes, height:  all the external stuff changes.   It’s the self-image in my head that is the immutable fact. 

If only I could put it on my driver’s license.


Leave a comment