On October 6th, the next in the fascinating 7 Up series by Michael Apted arrives in North American theatres.
Anyone who's seen the first 6 in the documentary film series will no doubt go racing to the theatre when the 7th, 49 Up debuts.
The films are fascinating, often deeply moving and surprisingly tremendously honest and revealing studies of the fourteen individuals (now 12 – two have elected to end their participation) chosen back in 1964 to be the human embodiment of a social experiment that sought to test the real-life truth of the Jesuit motto: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man”.
Astonishingly, it appears the Jesuits, for the very most part, were right. If not in some of the childhood dreams and ambitions of movie stardom and marriage, at least in the truth of the character of most of the participants who even with 42 added years of maturity remain at the core, pretty much the same.
Every time I see any of the docs I am amazed at the capacity each of the participants has for self-examination and brutally honest reflection. I wonder how it would be to have such a personal record of my life and times, and in the next moment, I thank God I was never invited to take part in such a project. How much stark reality can anyone cope with when attempting to reflect on the truth of self-perception?
For instance, even on the fairly empiric subject of size, my personal perceptions are pretty much completely off the charts.
In a riff on the ‘how old would you be if you didn’t know how old you really were’ (no mirrors allowed) dinner party game, I ask you, how tall would you be if you didn’t know how tall you really were?
(You say you haven’t wondered how old you’d be if you didn’t know how old you were? I have to ask then, “Eat out often?” because this is a classic and a pretty interesting question. It goes to how you perceive the world and how you perceive the world perceives you; people’s answers are always fascinating and, I think, pretty revealing. I don’t see this as a question of youthfulness per se; personally, I think it’s more of a how you see the future – how much of it you feel you still want to experience and where you place yourself on the continuum. I see myself as 18 – most everything still ahead of me, attitudes and opinions still not entirely fixed, legal in most, but not all states and provinces.)
If I didn't know how tall I really was, I'd have to say I'd be pretty short.
Even on the subject of love, I always thought the most romantic thing anyone ever said to me was size-related... cell-sized. They said that they wished they were an amoeba and I was a paramecium so that they could surround me, engulf me, absorb me, and carry me with them always.
If you put aside the singularly unattractive notion of cannibalism, not to mention the distressing image of the inevitable digestion process, what you come up with is someone who in another place and time might have said: “I just want to put you in my pocket.” Sweet.
I like that. But then I would, as I always sort of fantasized about dating Stewart Little (being Stewart-sized myself naturally) and living in a doll-house for the rest of our lives, dining happily on crumbs the size of wedding cakes and making a strawberry last a week.
I had it all planned out.
Our doll house would have been placed in a window to achieve maximum sunlight – when the sun was out – and access to the moon and stars when those elements were similarly available. I never thought about the problem of electricity and flush toilets and hot and cold running water being installed in our dollhouse home (where would you buy the tiny pipes and fittings?) deciding that Stewart would unquestionably be handy and thoroughly capable of devising ‘ways and means’ of achieving the ends necessary, as any mouse who could make money out of tinfoil, sleep in a cigarette packet bed (next to a spool-sized bedside table) sail a model schooner and drive a toy car cross country would probably be up to the challenge.
Interestingly, for all this fixation on miniaturism, people are usually surprised when they learn I am a shade under 5’ 3”. And I mean people who have met me – standing up even. They think I’m tall, and it’s not just that they’ll usually meet me when I’m wearing heels – I always wear heels.
Always. I used to joke that I wore them even to bed on the off-chance that someone might come along and measure me in my sleep.
(And for all those people who look at me with a certain withering contempt, clearly indicating (even without saying) that anyone who daily slips into 3 or even 4 inch stilettos, must needs be a vain, impractical, pointless person to go on a walk with, all I can say is, I could probably beat you all in the high hurdles, as long as I wasn’t wearing mules or wedges. Just so long as I was appropriately buckled up and strapped in, 20-something years of high-heel wearing has made me fit, agile and ready for virtually any challenge the urban landscape has on offer.)
But it’s not the heels that make people think I’m tall. And I don’t think it’s the deep voice or even my rather large head (not that it’s freakish or anything, just large) I think it’s my demeanor which says ‘tall’ and my shoes that likely shout ‘short’.
And I’m a little size-ist myself. Not that it’s conscious – it just happens that way. Most of my girlfriends are tall, or at least tallish. I don’t think I have single friend shorter than I am, at least not since Emma Thompson-Murphy swept past me sometime around her thirteenth birthday.
As for men, just so long as they’re 5’ 6” or larger (me in heels plus a hair) I’m satisfied. I once dated a man who was 6’ 5” and I’m here to tell you (the details being unimportant) that it simply doesn’t work.
But the perception on this side of the equation is unequal to what’s going on outside. However tall people might think I am, I myself feel small and sometimes nearly invisible. I just happen to be almost the only person that feels that way. Like the Emperor and his non-existent clothes, I tend to go about my business as if no one can actually see me. But perhaps that’s a little disingenuous, because even so, I always wear heels.
Give me the child until she is 7 inches tall and I will show you the woman.
Whatever my perceptions, the truth is I remain resolutely a solid, unabsorbed by any other larger cell structure, I live in a normal sized home – married to neither man nor miniature beast – and the only nod I make toward my fantasy of a tiny life is possessing a dog the approximate size of a rat or a largeish guinea pig. It is a compromise to say the least, or since we’re talking life-size, possibly the most.