Not such a tall story…

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I have been robbed by the actor Stanley Tucci. In today’s Guardian Weekend magazine, he features in a Q&A, one of those old newspaper ideas that still work well.

The questions are the same each week, and one asks: “What do you most dislike about your appearance?” To which Tucci replies: “I would love to have my hair back, and to be two inches taller – I am 5ft 8in.”

Ha! That man has taken those words from mouth, stolen them while I was sleeping perhaps. Still, it’s encouraging to learn that a famous man worries about follicular loss and a lack of height. I would have put Stanley taller than that, but that has been said about me too.

“I thought you’d be taller,” a letter writer/occasional columnist said when he met me years ago.

No, same height as I’ve always been since the growing business stopped. At the time this man had only spoken to me on the phone and seen my by-line photograph in the newspaper. Although I can’t claim much in the way of tallness, I can safely say that I am taller in the flesh than in the picture that accompanied my column.

Wishing one had been taller and hairier is pointless, but sometimes pointless distractions carry a certain weight. In the photograph to accompany the Q&A, Tucci looks handsome with his bald and shaved head, heavy glasses and stubble on his face that runs on from the bristles at the side of his head. That’s a trick I have never managed to pull off. Without visits to the barber, my hair grows thick at the sides and back, and eventually reaches a ‘mad professor’ moment with too many protruding clumps. And the stubble just looks scruffy.

People of perfectly average height – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it – often wish they were taller. My great university friend John Sheridan, the subject of one of these laptop excursions, was 6ft 4in and towered over me. I wished I could have been taller then but John thought there were disadvantages, including a tendency to slump your shoulders. It is also harder to pass unnoticed.

As a Tucci-sized man, I have one son of 6ft 2in and another of 5ft 11in. Thankfully our daughter is a little shorter than me, and indulges in a good-tempered squabble with her mother over who is taller.

According to a story in the Daily Mail last year, being tall can be good for your heart but can harm your sex life. The story below this was such a mass of worry-inducing contradictions that I fear I shrunk an inch while reading it. Nothing worth repeating there.

A couple of years before that, the Daily Telegraph was reporting on “The benefits of height”, and opined that “Tallness, particularly in men, has always been a valuable biological characteristic, where those fortunate enough to be at least 6ft benefit from a pervasive positive discrimination.”

If small men suffer the opposite effects thanks to their limited stature, then those of us in the middle – yes, I’m still calling this the middle, thank you – presumably get away without being too much affected either way.

Would I have escaped this ledge earlier if I’d been as tall as my son? Who knows, but I’m stuck at 5ft 8in, size eight shoes and a head of larger than average dimensions.

But then look at Stanley. He seems pretty cool to me.

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