22 Aug 2014
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Have You Noticed People Are Getting Taller?

With Amazons everywhere, store-bought pants getting longer and even new mandates making ceiling heights higher--columnist wonders 'when did I become short'?

Have You Noticed People Are Getting Taller?


When I was a young person, I towered over my mom and my aunts.  I was told that every generation grows taller than the last.

Is it me, or does it seems that young people today are all 8 feet tall?  I ran into a young man at the health club today who was 19 years old – and 6’ 7” tall!  He told me he’s still growing.  At 5’ 6”, I felt like a midget next to him!

If you’ve been in a furniture store lately, you’ve seen that furniture these days is being designed for much taller people.  The heights of some of the chairs and dressers is shocking to a person of my now-modest height.  And the sofas are obviously designed for people with very long legs.  To sit on one of the new styles, I have to place a couple of pillows behind my back - and my feet do not touch the floor.

If you’ve been on an airplane lately, you must have noticed how difficult it is for these tall young people to make their way down the aisle.  They have to hunch over to avoid hitting their head on the ceiling.  After being crammed into one of those airplane seats for a long flight, it almost takes a crowbar to get them out of there!

On the other hand, my “short” husband Joe and I can be quite comfortable in that same tight space.  We laugh that this is one of the benefits of being “short.”  To us, the minimal space allotted to each passenger feels almost luxurious! 

I recently accompanied my friend and his daughter up to the University of Wisconsin at Madison to meet with recruiters for the volleyball team.  As soon as we entered the volleyball department offices, I felt like I had gone down the rabbit hole and into a land of giant women!  There were very tall gals everywhere!  I felt so small I was actually laughing to myself! 

Alexandria’s first interview was with a pretty gal, a former member of the UWM team, who was sitting behind a desk.  When she stood up after the interview, I was startled to see how tall she was!  The second interview was with one of the coaches.  Needless to say, Alex was very disappointed when the coach said his latest recruit was 6’ 6” tall, since she is only  5’ 10”!

The Niles Family Fitness Center where I work out and swim recently got new equipment.  Now when I sit on the bike there, the handles are so far away I can hardly reach them!  My arms are just too short for those bigger machines designed for bigger people!  I guess I just have to deal with it.

When Joe and I go out for dinner, we are finding that, in the newer eating establishments, the distance between the seats and the tabletops is much greater than it used to be.  If we get tired while waiting for our meals to arrive, we can just rest our heads on the table - which is now just under our chins!

When you were a kid, did you ever sit on a thick Chicago phone book to boost you up to the table  while eating dinner at an aunt’s house?  Perhaps restaurants should think about providing booster chairs for the older, short people, as they do for small children. 

I recently bought a pair of slacks.  In order to get a pair from which I wouldn’t have to cut off eight inches of material from the bottom of the legs, and then rehem, I had to get a size 10 SHORT.  Short?!  I don’t know exactly when it happened, but apparently now I’m officially considered “short.”

Well, the fact is, people are getting taller.  The designs of furniture and airplanes and clothes aren’t the only things that are changing to accommodate.  As an architect, I can say that the design of buildings is also changing.  For example, ceilings are getting higher.  And the building codes have been changed to require stair treads to be deeper (at least 10”) – simply because taller people have bigger feet.  Ask your teenager what it’s like to make their way down the basement stairs of your grandmother’s old house in Chicago.  And ask them if they can stand up straight down there without their head hitting the ceiling.

Every generation is indeed taller than the one before.

And I’ve just had to accept the fact that now I’m considered “short”.


Barbara Gembala Nakanishi




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