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  • Nicole Kim

Three Desperate Inches

Growing up labeled as a below-average-height kid, I dealt with my height being the matter of greatest concern to my parents. When I was in the second grade, my parents took me to a doctor who determined my predicted adult height by a series of blood tests: five feet - he said bluntly. After the doctor had a brief discussion with my parents, I walked out of the office with them noticing that they were dismayed. And that is when everything began.

My childhood consists of various painful memories of trying to overcome my vertical handicap. Shortly after my parents acknowledged that I would never grow to be taller than average, my environment and lifestyle started to change. One day I was riding home from school in the car with my parents when they announced that they had a surprise for me: there were some “presents” waiting at home. I received a set of jump ropes and stared in awe at the indoor monkey bars set up on the ceiling of my room. Sometime later, on a cheery Saturday morning, my parents told me that they were taking me “somewhere fun”. That somewhere turned out to be a basketball court. Apparently, I had been signed up for basketball lessons. I had no idea how to play basketball, but because my parents were convinced that jumping is proven to stimulate growth plates in long bones, I was outfitted in a team jersey and a brand new pair of Air Jordans. At the unrelenting insistence of my parents, I engaged in countless “growth-stimulating” activities for years. In between jump roping, hanging from monkey bars, and playing basketball, my parents occasionally took me to see a Korean folk doctor who concocted an elixir, hanyak, that was purported to make patients grow tall. Other times, they hauled me off to an acupuncturist who inserted needles on my back with the hopes that this procedure might spur growth. Then there was the never-ending array of nutritional supplements that I had to choke down daily.

I did grow over the years, like all children; however, I appear to have grown at a normal pace. None of the quasi-scientific interventions seemed to facilitate extra growth that my parents so desired. It was a huge disappointment to my parents who, themselves, are of average height. Since I turned fourteen, I have not grown more than an inch. At that point, my parents seemed to have resigned themselves to the fact that I was not going to grow any taller. What a relief, the pressure was off.

Having all these experiences in the rear view mirror now, I realize that there is a stark contrast between traditional health beliefs and the beliefs of the age of science and technology. I really appreciate my parents’ efforts in making me taller than my predicted adult height, although I doubt that most of what I was forced to do were ineffective or less effective than said. The value in scientific evidence behind the effectiveness of medical procedures has increased over the years, and as the paradigm of science continues to expand, the emphasis on modern medicine grows. In addition, the height standards are becoming less important because of the understanding that there is so much more to the overall quality of a person than solely his or her height. Even with all this mentioned, I still respect my parents’ decision in finding ways for me to grow tall because certainly, the biases around stature persist. After all, I stand tall and proud as a five foot three teenager, and that is all that really matters.

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