Friday, July 25, 2003

Short, and short-tempered

Every child's right to use pharmaceuticals to attain perfect normalcy got another boost today when the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of growth hormone shots to help short kids become less so. Perhaps you will understand my consternation at this decision when I mention that the FDA approved the use of Humatrope for boys whose adult height is predicted to be less than 5-foot-3 and girls likely to be under 4-foot-11 — and then reveal that I myself, at a fully grown and much-advanced-adult height, am a growth-hormone-deprived 4-foot-10. Two of those inches, I gained in my 20s.

So I may not know from being ADHD or ODD or OCD or any of those other D's they give children drugs for, and I may therefore try to reserve my opinion on medicating kids for those problems ... just mumbling disgruntedly to myself, but not too loudly. But I know from being short. And while there certainly are some drawbacks to extreme lack of height — just try buying pants off the rack, for example — it's nothing worth subjecting your children to six shots a week for. It is eminently survivable.

Sure, I got teased a lot. I was short in kindergarten, I was short in junior high, I was short in high school. I spent years waiting for the growth spurt that never came. But I like to think that being short helped to toughen me a bit to the torment kids inflict on each other, because my height was so clearly something I could do nothing about, and so it wasn't something I internalized or spent a lot of time blaming myself for. Kids will always find something to tease other kids about. At various times, I got it for being overweight, for being a spoiled only child, for being lousy at gym, for being pushy -- all charges that stung. But my height was always such an obvious target that it was hardly worth making up other things to tease me about, and that was the one accusation it was easy for me to brush off. In the long run, I'm glad I grew up short.

Is it so impossible for families today to think of things the same way? Is normalcy so de rigeur that any departure from it is unthinkably painful enough to justify any remedy? Was Randy Newman right all along about short people having no reason to live? The drug companies would certainly like us to think so. My mom always used to tell me that good things come in small packages, but I guess the only small packages these days are the ones that contain our daily meds. Snippy little thing, aren't I?

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