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What Happens to Lanky Guys as They Get Older?

If you’re coasting on your tall privilege, science says you’ll eventually fall short

The day has officially come: We must acknowledge that Kyle MacLachlan is aging. Don’t get me wrong, the chipper Twin Peaks actor still looks good after nearly 40 years as a leading man. At the start of the month, MacLachlan showed up to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party as the dapper silver fox we know and love. Special Agent Dale Cooper proved yet again he’s an agent of graceful aging. 

Unfortunately, it seems that MacLachlan has internalized a different character of his past — the insecure, lofty Trey MacDougal on Sex and the City. An Instagram post from earlier this week shows MacLachlan on the back of a truck in Walla Walla, Washington, opening a bottle from his wine label Bear Wine. 

MacLachlan is certainly in shape, but the unfortunate thing that caught my eye was his hair: a freshly dyed dark brown, new enough that it looks like someone stroked a paintbrush above his forehead. It’s one reason the photo feels jarring — not to mention the awkward posing and the ill-fitted (and untucked) gray T-shirt, a style better fit for a workout than a vineyard tasting. It even looks like MacLachlan maybe altered his hairline? Is that a widow’s peak I see, unlike in his previous Instagrams? 

Whatever the case, I can’t stop staring at the photo. I feel like I’m looking at my own future as a once-slender young man, slouching into Wine Dad-dom. Seeing the six-foot MacLachlan with a slight curvature has me in a bit of a panic. Sitting hunched over with my nose inches away from a computer screen, I’m perpetually worried about the long-term impact a desk job will have on my body.

My worry is not entirely unwarranted. Surprisingly, height is a major factor in how we grow old, and years of physically stooping down — like, say, to my bullshit level — can accelerate a man’s aging process. Bad news for the lanky gays who have to put up with me. 

Aging’s biggest impact on tall men? The spine — but not due to height itself. “Most of the time, back pain develops not from acute injuries, but from the strain of everyday activities and the improper use of body mechanics,” Dr. Neel Anand, director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, writes for U.S. News & World Report.

Looking down at your phone and sitting for hours hunched over at your desk will affect your spine more than back length. In fact, a 2015 study in the BMJ Open medical journal outlined that there is no relationship between height and a lower-back-pain medical condition among men. So if your back is spazzing out while working, blame your boss, not your genes.

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There are, however, other risks associated directly with height. Six feet is the closest we have to a universally accepted metric for being tall. (Unless you’re one of those guys who calls himself six feet tall — in which case you’re certainly 5-foot-11.)

But if you’re a true lank, you better go get your thyroid checked out. A 2018 study published in the Royal Society Journal notes that height is directly correlated with a few cancer risks. The very basic explanation is that the taller you are, the more cells you have and the more likely it is that a few of them turn cancerous. Specifically, thyroid, melanoma and lymphoma cancers are most closely associated with height. 

The thyroid connection is unclear, though. A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Cancer affirms the association between height and thyroid cancer risk, but the researchers say the biological cause remains unknown. 

Above all, though, lanks better prepare to stop coasting on their height privilege. Across race and sex, aging is universally associated with getting shorter. Researchers for the U.S. National Library of Medicine claim the average human loses around a half-inch every 10 years after age 40. At age 70, height loss is accelerated. In total, most people lose one to three inches. 

Alert all the tall men in your life: Science says height is not a lasting personality. Meanwhile, my 5-foot-11 ass will stay cute and funny.