Nell Musolf

Nell Musolf

Nora Ephron famously wrote that she felt bad about her neck as she grew older. I don’t feel so bad about my neck — that’s what turtlenecks and scarves are for — it’s my height that gets me down in the dumps.

Growing up, I was always one of the taller kids in every class and while it wasn’t much as far as marks of distinction, in a life filled mainly with mediocrity, I ran with it. But recently the nurse hasn’t been having to reach up quite so high when she measures my height. At my last checkup I learned the disheartening news that I was no longer 5 feet 10½ but am now 5 feet 9½. Yikes, a whole inch gone, and I never even got to say goodbye.

Worse, that inch I lost didn’t just vanish into thin air. No, it has taken up permanent residence around my waist, which hardly seems fair. If I have to shrink, why can’t I shrink everywhere?

A friend of mine who also lost some height doesn’t mind being shorter. What bothers her are her knees since, as she puts it, “I don’t know if they’ll be my friends or my enemies when I get up in the morning.”

It’s a woe many people are familiar with. We’ve all heard the expression “trick knee,” but I wonder if “tricky knee” might not be more accurate as those babies can go out on you without any warning, causing you to yelp in pain like you’ve just been stabbed in the kneecap one day followed by smooth sailing for weeks.

Such up and down behavior lulls you into a false sense of security that those knees of yours are done giving you attitude, even though you know they aren’t and never will be. Tricky equals sneaky in my book and who needs — or wants — sneaky knees?

Another friend feels bad about bifocals, which, as anyone over age 50 will tell you, are a wonderful invention (thank you, Benjamin Franklin!) but which are also next to impossible to find in a frame that is just right for each bifocal line. Working on a desktop computer while wearing bifocals usually means tilting your head so far back that you look like a baby robin waiting to be fed a worm. On the plus side, all that stretching must be good for the sagging neck muscles Nora Ephron lamented.

Then there are the good things about getting older, and there most definitely are bright spots. It’s nice to be able to enjoy yourself more now that you’ve gotten to know yourself so well. I suppose there isn’t much of an option with that one. You almost have to know yourself extremely well by the time you need bifocals, have tricky knees and are a full inch shorter. If you don’t, at least you’ll have something to do when you retire.

Then there’s reading all night if you want to, eating popcorn for breakfast if that’s what floats your boat, and only answering the phone when the spirit moves you, which for many of us is never.

There’s hanging out with friends you’ve known for decades and will always be your pals no matter what you put on Facebook, being happy you don’t know what Omegle is, and rejoicing in the fact, finally, you don’t really care so much about what other people think of you because what you think of you is what counts.

It does seem like nature gives with one hand while taking away with another, but isn’t it interesting that the stuff that goes away is mainly external while the stuff that sticks around is internal?

So let’s not feel bad about our necks, knees or shrinking height. Instead let’s feel good we’re still around to talk about them with anyone who will listen.

Nell Musolf is a freelance writer living in Mankato with her husband and two dogs. She can be reached at

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