Since reading about Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry’s Quest to Manipulate Height over on Bookslut last week, the book has been bugging the hell out of me.
I’ve been waffling between wanting to read each of the book’s 400+ pages and not wanting the book in my house. Jessa Crispin’s Smart Set column about the book brings tears to my eyes. I haven’t read anything else about the book, but what she writes about the girls forced through puberty is almost more than I need to know.
It pains me that parents decided forced puberty and the subsequent medical problems it might produce was far more desirable than having a daughter who was unusually tall. It angers me that wearing high heels and attracting a man were deemed more important than letting a girl’s body develop of its own accord. It embarrasses me that this book seems to give voice to every fear I’ve had since I was 12, that I am not right and modern medicine has tried to cure this problem.
I was almost one of those girls forced through puberty using massive amounts of hormones.
We all have many coming of age tales in our lives. One of mine happened on a paper-covered table in a doctor’s office in 1984. It was a few days before my 12th birthday. I had just finished 6th grade and my mom was concerned about my fantastic growth (both height and girth) that never seemed to end.
I sat on the table and the doctor, a man, looked at me and told me I was six-feet tall. I made him measure me again. I was still six-feet tall. I made him do it again, because the third time would be a charm. It never changed.
That’s when I started to cry. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what being six-feet tall meant, but I knew that it was bad. It was not what we wanted.
The doctor and my mom talked about the different things they could do to stifle my growth. They talked a lot about periods and menstruation which made me burn with shame. He advised we take the wait and see approach. His reasoning was that girls usually stopped growing once they got their periods and I’d probably get mine within a year or so.
He was right. I did get my period within the year, but I continued to grow, adding five more inches onto my height by the time I was 22. Yes, I grew in college.
That day in the doctor’s office is one of those moments that shaped the course of my life. It was a fork in the road and we took one way. How life would have turned out should we have gone the other way is one of those imponderables I try not to waste my time thinking about.
I like to think everyone has those forks, where had they taken the other road they imagine their life would be diametrically opposite of their current situation.
This is the part where I begin to play down any suffering my freakish height has caused me lest I seem a holier-than-thou martyr type. I pondered finishing this post talking about what it’s like to be actually different and not just feeling different. But as I tried to reason out the argument in my head, I came to the conclusion that we all feel different in some way or another. It might be the curse of humans to think we’re each freakish in our own unique way. Some embrace and flaunt it, holding it up as a badge of their creativity or key to success. Others hide it inside expensive houses and behind consumer goods.
It’s probably why we’re all so lonely all of the time, trying so hard to convince everyone of our uniqueness or how we’re just like everyone else.
Maybe, just maybe I have it easier than everyone else in this instance. I cannot hide my difference, though my hermit-like tendencies may be an attempt at that. I do not need to flaunt it, it is there for all to see regardless of what I want.
In conclusion, I’m not letting that book anywhere near my house. Just knowing of its existence has caused enough problems.