Friday, January 9, 2009

Coming to Grips with Myself

Now that I am retired, I have more time for navel gazing, although in my case I need a mirror in order to gaze at my navel. But today in the shower it occurred to me that I am spending far too much time worrying about the width and circumference of my body rather than its proportions.

I thought of this because I caught myself gripping the shower floor with my toes as I shampooed. Until I married Linda, I had not been aware that I spend much of my time gripping floors with my toes, holding on fiercely as if I am unconsciously afraid that gravity might stop unexpectedly and I could end up floating away.

I now find myself doing it quite often, but there are definitely certain times I grip with my toes - brushing my teeth, loading the dishwasher, chopping food. I don't know why I do it, and I don't even know if other people do it. It's not like I am going to be at a dinner party and say to the table, "Hey, do any of you unconsciously grip the floor with your toes like I do?" Actually, given what most people think of me, there isn't any reason not to ask.

My personal hunch is that I am a toe-gripper because my body is just plain out of proportion, and not just around the waistline. For example, we were in Paris once and a street artist yelled out at me, "Monsieur, vous avez un tres grand tete." I then made the very big mistake of translating for Linda who to this day reminds me that my head is very large.

But it's not just the head that's big. My arms are very long. In fact, my shirt sleeves are 25% longer than the inseams of my pants. So the combination of short legs and long arms overall contributes to a pretty good sense that I am more directly descended from tree-dwelling apes than, say, almost everyone else in the world.

Take a look above at the Vitruvian Man that Leonardo drew. If you were to draw a circle around me standing in that pose, it would end up shaped more like a lightbulb, with another somewhat smaller lightbulb at the top. And the box he's in would definitely be more of a trapezoid than a square.

Leonardo made lots of notes about the proportions of the human body. Here's how I rated with some:

The length of a man's outspread arms is equal to his height.
This means that I should be about 7 foot 6. Which is pretty good news because it means that according to the charts my weight is correct.

The distance from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin is one-eighth of a man's height.
That's a tad more realistic. Now I should only be 6 foot 10. But at least now I will be going to the Tall side of the Big & Tall Shops, not the section that screams lack of willpower to the world.

The length of the hand is one-tenth of a man's height.
Unfortunately, with my stubby fingers I now should be 5 foot 6. Back to the diet and the other side of the store.

But my favorite is this one.

The distance from the hairline to the eyebrows is one-third the length of the face.
Given where my hairline is today, this means that I now should be roughly the same dimensions as the Charlie Brown balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. I guess that artist in Paris knew what he was talking about.

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