Size Matters: How Height Affects the Health, Happiness, and Success of Boys - and the Men They Become

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9780618470402: Size Matters: How Height Affects the Health, Happiness, and Success of Boys - and the Men They Become
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An award-winning journalist tackles the hot topic of male body image and shows how physical size during childhood affects our psychology, social status, relationships, and income as adults.

With a mix of fresh research, incisive reportage, and bracing candor, Size Matters traces the surprising history of society’s bias against shortness and reveals how short people can and do thrive in spite of this insidious bigotry. Drawing on his own childhood experiences (he was shorter than 99 percent of boys his age), Stephen Hall explains the evolution of the growth chart, the biology of childhood aggression, and the wrenching phenomenon of bullying. He explores the factors that determine why one child’s small stature may lead to anguish while another short child develops an emotional resilience that will enrich his later life. Weaving together recent findings from the fields of animal behavior, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Hall assesses the role of physical size in mating success and argues that the alpha male may not be king of the mountain after all.
Hall also pinpoints the social forces that create and cash in on our anxieties about size, from bulked-up superhero action figures to pharmaceutical companies selling growth hormone to increase a child’s height -- at a cost of up to $40,000 a year. He introduces us to families who have agonized over whether to make that huge investment. He explains new research showing that a person’s height as a teenager has lifelong psychological consequences. He even tracks down kids he bullied in elementary school and kids who bullied him in high school to show that these childhood encounters have lasting effects on our adult lives. Along the way, Hall builds a persuasive case against societal attitudes that make size (or any difference) matter and argues forcefully that being short has psychological, social, and biological advantages. Size Matters will raise the consciousness -- and the spirits -- of any short male and anyone who cares about him.

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About the Author:

STEPHEN S. HALL is the author of Merchants of Immortality and three other acclaimed works of science reportage. He writes frequently for the New York Times Magazine, Discover, and other magazines. He is 5’53⁄4” and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his 5’9” wife and their two average-size children.

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INTRODUCTION "Squirt" Anatomy is destiny. - Sigmund Freud, The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex When I was eleven years old, attending the sixth grade in a small mill town in Massachusetts, the boys would gather in the schoolyard before classes started to play games and work off energy, much as schoolchildren do today. The play sometimes got rough, especially when we engaged in a brutal Darwinian contest of survival sometimes known as British bulldog. The rules, as best I can recollect, went like this: all but one of the boys lined up at one end of an outdoor basketball court, while the remaining boy stood in the middle of the court. At an agreed-upon signal, the mass of boys dashed toward the opposite end while the lone boy in the middle attempted to grasp, tackle, snag, impede, trip, dragoon, or otherwise wrestle to the ground one of the dozens of boys barreling across the court. Once a boy was tackled, he joined the growing group in the middle attempting to tackle the remaining participants. With each rush from end to end, more and more boys would get tackled and wind up in the middle. When there was no one left to tackle, that round of the game ended. And then it would start all over again - with the first boy tackled in the previous round standing alone in the middle. The distilled, stylized aggression of this game resembled a minimalist football game in which there were only fullbacks and linebackers, all colliding and scrapping and plowing through the snow. In retrospect, I realize that this brute-force exercise crystallized for me the parlous transition from boyhood to manhood. Like many games, it informally codified the cultural insistence on physical aggression (even violence) for boyhood "success." It ritualized, and elevated to mass entertainment, the serial ostracisms of the One, for each round of the game established the lowest-ranking member in the physical (but also, inevitably, social) pecking order. It thrived on the animating tension of isolation and exclusion, singling out one boy for ignominy (and thus inadvertently accentuating the loneliness many boys feel on the cusp of adolescence). And of course this daily rite of passage was built around a mindless set of rules, legislated by children and enforced in the absence of adults. It was also, I hasten to add, a great deal of fun. Boys do like to collide. But the game always left me feeling chagrined for a completely different reason. The fundamental lesson I learned on the playground, rightly or wrongly, was that size matters. Children are acutely aware of who among them is "bigger." In earliest childhood, this instinctual grasp of social hierarchy primarily involves age (that is, whos older), not size. But for most of childhood, and especially during puberty and adolescence, this consciousness evolves into self- consciousness, an excruciatingly diligent examination of differences in physical size, pubertal maturation, shape, strength, and appea

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