My Wife Wants Me To Stop Lying About My Height

My childish, overactive mind stunted my development.

Sleepless nights as a teen stunted my growth cottonbro studio | Canva

Here is a secret. I’m not 5'9". I tell people I am. But I’m not. I’m probably closer to 5'8 and five/sixths, but you can’t bring fractions into the mix without sounding like a jerk. My wife tells me to just say that I’m 5'8". But I disagree. I should be able to say I’m 5'9". 

I tell her, “If people knew how short my parents are, then they would grant me a sixth of an inch." Which is true. My dad’s side of the family is so short they look like a teacup collection.


It is frustrating because I always thought I was meant to be tall. I was 5/8 at 13. My future looked bright. I couldn’t wait for the unbridled confidence that comes from being tall. Then, mysteriously, I stopped growing.

And, sadly, I won’t keep growing despite my oldest daughter’s incessant, borderline bullying questioning of my wife every time we stand together, “When will daddy keep growing?” No. Despite my desires, the road ahead does not involve me growing. If anything, it involves de-growing.

I read somewhere that kids with unstable family life tend to be shorter because their heightened cortisol levels interrupt their sleep, and without sleep, the body doesn’t grow. Height is like money invested in an index fund; it grows while you sleep. It would be unfair to blame my height on my family’s dynamics when my overactive mind also contributed to that lack of sleep.


One Sunday night, when I was eight, my parents left me in front of the TV with the maid. At that time, Colombia had two main channels. I don’t know what was playing in RCN, but I will always remember what was playing in Cadena Uno. At seven at night, En Cuerpo Ajeno was on, and Twin Peaks was on at seven, and then at eight, it was En Cuerpo Ajeno.

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En Cuerpo Ajeno was a supernatural telenovela about a man who dies and reincarnates in another person’s body. It was a terrifying proposition for an eight-year-old, but it didn’t matter because I didn’t make it past the Twin Peaks scene where a man turns into a horse. I can’t remember what was scary about that. I have tried to go back and watch the show again, but I haven’t been able to. It is not because I find it scary but because the pacing is mind-numbingly dull, the way that 90s shows were.


I must have cried or screamed, but I can’t remember which one. My dad stormed out, and when he saw me like this, he decided to take things further. He could’ve easily unplugged the power cord and talked to me about what I had just seen. Instead, he stormed into the kitchen, picked up a serrated knife (the ones you use to slice bread,) then angrily grabbed the power cord, bent it the way circus’ strong men bend metal, and serrated it — which did not happen as fast you would imagine. Unfortunately, my dad did not own Ginsu knives.

He picked me up and took me to my room. But by then, I had already seen way too much. I struggled to fall asleep for a while. Sometimes, I would wake up screaming for my parents, telling them my bed was sinking into an energy vortex. My mom would walk me around the block every night, so I would be tired before bed and just go to sleep. But I struggled with it.

Boy can't sleep because of nightmares Ana Portal / Shutterstock


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For years, I was also afraid of opening the shower curtain. I imagined the villain from Twin Peaks waiting for me to get out of the shower. Then, I became a teenager, and the nightmares took a different tone. We had moved into a new apartment my mom had bought. She put a down payment on it with a small amount of money inherited from my grandma’s state. The apartment was on the fourth floor. My room was the first one from the hallway, and my door faced a window.

Imagine there was a window between the third and the fourth floor in the looping stairs of the building. If you climbed through said window, you would find yourself on a landing. From this landing, you could climb our window and break into our apartment — which we used to do whenever we forgot the keys inside the house.

For the time I lived in that apartment, I experienced weird, repetitive thoughts. At first, I spent my nights praying my parents would get back together. I found that opening the door to believing in God also opened the door to believing in the devil. So I also prayed to God not to let the devil show up because that would’ve been less than ideal. God did not deliver on the first request but did on the second one.


Over the years, a different thought took place; I started fearing I would jump out my window. I wasn’t suicidal. But I was deadly afraid of what my subconscious might feel like doing. I was worried I’d go to sleep, sleepwalk out of my bed, sleep climb the window, and sleep jump to my death. I can’t stress this enough: I wasn’t suicidal. But I was so afraid that this was an actual possibility in my life that it kept me up from fear of base jumping into my first-floor neighbor’s concrete pergola.

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I came up with the perfect solution. I would move my bed frame to the window so the headboard would block it. If my subconscious woke up, it would have to sleep and move the frame out of the way to sleep jump. Hopefully, by then, I’d wake someone in my house, and they would come to stop me from adrenaline and death-seeking activities. Problem solved.

My bed was no longer facing my window. It faced my door, and across from it was the window through which anyone could easily break in. My mind guarded against anyone trying to break into our house. I couldn’t relax because it was my duty to ensure no one would enter our home. I would stay up and wait for the exact moment intruders would open the window, and I’d run to push from the little platform and send them to their deaths.


I don’t know exactly when, but I had stopped having these thoughts by the time I graduated high school. I was also out of my developing years, and at almost five foot nine, I didn’t grow anymore.

My mom fell behind on the apartment payments and eventually lost it to foreclosure. That was the last place I ever lost sleep in. I lost so much sleep throughout my teenage years that I never lost sleep over anything ever again.

But that lack of sleep prevented me from growing more. It might have been a good thing, though. I don’t even want to imagine what kind of person I would’ve been with the size of my current ego and a few more inches of height. I would’ve been a politician, supported big countries in their invasion of little countries, or worse, wore a man bun.


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Carlos Garbiras is an award-winning essayist and columnist who laughs at his topsy-turvy upbringing in Colombia, life in California, and raising two amazing daughters! He's best known for his award-winning appearances at West Side Stories.