“Taller Than Mom and Dad” by Sue Shellenbarger. The Wall Street Journal, 12/24/2014.
In our day, a girl over six feet tall was unusual enough to be ridiculed. They wore ballet flats and low hair styles. They slouched. Now, girls over six feet are common. And my own views have changed, too. A pretty girl is just another pretty girl, but a tall pretty girl is stunning. All of them seem pretty to me now, and all seem tall.
It is no surprise to us that our children are taller than we ever were. Now they are discovering their children are taller than them. It seems every generation is destined to see their parents from above, as is evident in almost any family photo. We are not shrinking (well, a little, maybe)—our progeny are growing taller, and we see this as desirable, a sign of good nutrition and superior genes that must have lain dormant in us. Corporate executives are almost always tall.
The WSJ article has a formula to predict the difference: a boy’s eventual height will be 5 inches more than the average height of his mother and father. A girl’s height will be 2 1/2 inches over the average of Mom and Dad.
We accept this generational gain as normal and healthy, but how long can it go on? Sci-fi stories set in the future never portray us as giants. Giant muscles and boobs, maybe, but not in height.
Kurt Vonnegut was a refreshing exception. In his 1985 book Galápagos, set a million years in the future, we have evolved into furry, seal-like aquatic creatures with seal-sized brains. Our oversized brains of today are a bizarre evolutionary dead-end that has become detrimental to survival, like the huge antlers of the extinct Irish elk.
Sounds reasonable to me. Evolving to smaller brains is already apparent in the younger generations. Our fascination with water activities is increasing. Fur will come later.