Stretching To Grow


Informant is a half-white, half-Korean student studying at USC who has lived in America their whole life.

Main Piece:

“It’s literally like, when I was in Korea—I’m short as fuck—and like every morning my aunt and my mom would get all the cousins and they would pull our legs—they would stretch the shit out of our legs every like, morning or night or something, so that like we could be taller. I didn’t grow [laughs].”


This conversation was recorded in-person. I asked my informant whether they knew of any Asian customs.


Being tall is somewhat associated with East Asian beauty standards—this is often done in comparison with Europeans, who are on average taller than Asians. In my informant’s case, they experienced a form of contagion magic that acts as a folk belief (the belief that being in contact with someone’s legs and physically stretching them out would make the person taller). The act of physical contact is perhaps what continues this custom, as the person feels like there is control over the act of someone growing taller, which is always an unknown. Belief in this custom has perhaps waned, as noted by my informant who laughs at the fact that they’re still short.