The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Leslie Goldman Headshot

Talk About A Napoleon Complex

Posted: Updated:

"Did I mention, my leg is 44 inches from hip to toe, so basically, we're talkin' about 88 inches of therapy... wrapped around you, for the bargain price of three thousand dollars."

Who doesn't remember that insightful-in-a-perky-prostitute-way quote from Pretty Woman, as sugar-sweet Vivian (aka "What Do You Want It To Be") took a hot bath with Richard "I Tear Apart Companies As A Metaphor For My Interpersonal Relationship Struggles" Gere?
I remember watching that in 1990, all 5'10" of myself, and running to my mom's closet, ripping open her sewing kit and measuring my own legs. 44 inches? Done and done. Sweet - I was semi-officially as sexy and therapeutic as Julia Roberts.

Women have always craved the long limbs of Gisele and Heidi, but who knew men were in on the body envy? I mean, I know my guy watches the NBA playoffs with the kind of fervor I typically reserve for a slice of cookie dough cheesecake or a season finale of Gossip Girl, but I never contemplated the fact he might be secretly envious of Tayshaun Prince's 6'9" gams.

But according to a press release my iVillage editor just forwarded me, apparently more and more US men are opting to undergo freaking painful and totally elective leg-lengthening surgeries. The procedure can cost between up to $200,000 and involves breaking both legs and having telescopic pins inserted that the men slowly twist to lengthen their legs over time.

I've heard of this happening - but it's usually associated with Chinese women and men. Check out this gut-wrenching description from The Guardian:

"Kong Jing-wen has paid £5,700 to have both of her legs broken and stretched on a rack. The pretty college graduate is now lying in bed, clearly still in considerable pain three days after a doctor sawed through the flesh and bone below her knee to insert what looks an awful lot like knitting needles through the length of her tibiae.

These giant steel pins are connected by eight screws punched horizontally through her ankle and calf to a steel cage surrounding each leg. Once the bone starts to heal, these cages will act like a medieval torture device - each day over the next few months Kong will turn the screws a fraction and stretch her limbs more and more until she has grown by 8cm.

Despite the agony, the cost and the inconvenience, the 23-year-old says she does not regret a thing. 'It hurts, but it will be worth it to be taller. I'll have more opportunities in life and a better chance of finding a good job and husband.'"

leglengthening.jpg

Elective limb-lengthening surgery - supply and demand at work, people!

Sweet cracker sandwich! (PS I WILL be using this phrase until it gains mainstream acceptance). Can you even imagine? I mean, I know women opt to have their breasts sliced open and augmented, to have their noses hammered and reset, to have their foreheads slit and pulled up...but this just seems to take it to a whole new level.

According to the press release, Beverly Hills-based therapist Rebecca Roy, M.A., has seen the trend happening among men and says, "Height is such a big deal in the US. Men are judged on it, relationships are based on it and careers are changed by it. No wonder these guys are going through such painful operations."

Part of me wants to faux-rub my eyes and cry, "Boo-hoo. Men have self-esteem problems in our society? REALLY? And I should care because...they somehow even approach in the most minute way the issues bombarding women and our looks?!" But I do understand that pressures to look a certain way impact guys, too. All of those airbrushed-on six pack abs magazine covers and those full heads of hair floating around Grey's Anatomy, ya know.

Do I think an alarmingly high number of American men are sawing their legs in half to gain a few inches? No. Plastic surgery procedures in general may be at an all-time high (according to the latest procedural statistics report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, almost 12 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in 2007 - a 7 percent increase from 2006 and a 59 percent increase from 2000. These include a whopping 10 million cosmetic procedures such as Botox® and Restylane®, 348,000 breast augmentations, 302,000 liposuctions, and a partridge in a pear tree with a really nice eyelid lift.

No leg-lengthening to speak of.

But we know it happens - even though China did ban leg-lengthening a few years ago (ooh - grisly pic.) I found a website called Make Me Taller where members discuss the pros/cons of limb-lengthening and discuss their procedures - one MMT member describes himself as a "Leg Lengthening Veteran (+6.5cm)"; another, named "Sir," posts a blog which begins, "I gained 11 cm in Kiev on my femors (sic). My story." The website also includes click-on ads touting "Asian Cheekbone Surgery - Work With A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Online Consultation Form! www.AsianCosmeticSurgery.com"

A poster named NapoleonBoneApart (Heh heh. Heh?) writes, in a forum on whether to tell your girlfriend/fiancee about your limb-lengthening:

"I am interested in LL but my long term girlfriend of five years is pretty set against it. Mostly she is concerned for my well being and she the fact that my height has never been an issue for her (she is 170 cm tall while I am 163cm). Being above average height for a woman, she does not fully understand my desire for LL which is unfortunate...

For me, my primary motivation is professional ,where in business there is a distinct disadvantage being shorter in the climb for upper management. I am not saying it is impossible to do at my current height [but] the effort expended to match my taller counterparts is substantial. Although I also happen to be fairly successful in my career despite my short stature I just want to push the envelope further."


OK, so this stuff really IS happening. How do we make it stop?

Or do we? Isn't it a person's choice what they do with their body, elective surgically-speaking?

This was originally published on Leslie Goldman's blog, The Weighting Game, at iVillage.com.