Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Unbearable Shortness of Being

Reihan Salam highlights this essay on the implications of administering human growth hormone to healthy children. I may have more thoughts on this later, but for now I will offer only a personal anecdote.

I was a short child and have become a short adult. Memories of having my growth plotted by the pediatrician on a red chart, with my tiny data point always off below the curve of "normal" kids still stand out. My genetic legacy was to blame: my banty rooster of a grandfather and father, a 5'0" grandmother, a 4'10" mother. I always took it for granted that I would top out around 4'8". It seemed destined. And at some point (I think when I was seven or eight), the doctors asked my parents if they would consider hGH treatment. They discussed it with me, and I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be normal-sized, to be like other children. And my mother, who had to get a medical waiver to be able to serve in the military because of her height, said no.

So I was stuffed in lockers, tossed in trash cans, picked up by much larger bullies and harassed. My parents turned down a school offer to allow me to skip a grade because they were aware that the social disadvantages of my size would only be greater in a group of older children. Maybe this has given me more "character" than I'd otherwise have developed. But so would other forms of adversity, like a giant birthmark or a childhood brush with cancer. I resent the Leon Kasses of the world, who seem to think that they should decide how my character should develop, who use the abnormal as means to an end of encouraging virtue and tolerance in the broader society. Life might not be roses if I'd reached 5'4", but there are distinct advantages that would have accrued, and I will fight anyone who seeks to deny those advantages to future children out of some false sense of the merit of genetic chance.
blog comments powered by Disqus