Of genetics, realistic expectations, and Father’s Day epiphanies

Midlife Sentence | Genetic Testing and Paranoia

We’re in the final stages of trip planning and last night Mike suggested renting a car and taking a road trip while we’re in Denmark. We could drive through a little town some of my ancestors are from. I can’t remember the name right now, but it starts with an H. And it probably has a lot of vowels in it.

… Which makes me wonder, not for the first time, whether poor Mike thinks it’s fun or exasperating to be married to someone with the memory of a goldfish. I suppose it could probably go either way, depending upon the conversation. I mean, he does repeat a lot of the same jokes. And I almost always laugh, which I think is the number one quality you should look for in a spouse.

Anyway, the fact that Mike has kept better track of my ancestors than I have is part of the thinking behind the Father’s Day gift we got him this year. It’s one of those personal genome kits where you send in some spit to find out whether you really can claim that smidgeon of Cherokee heritage you always like to mention at company barbecues after you’ve tossed back a few beers. I heard an ad on NPR and sent off for it on impulse. Knowing Mike like I do, I was sure it was going to be a hit.

It was. He was pretty stoked.

He was reading through the instructions the other day while we were getting dinner ready.

“You better take a break from the chips before you collect your sample, or the report could come back you’re forty-six percent potato,” I said. I have a lot of wisdom about these things, despite the goldfish memory-thing.

“You know, I’m kind of nervous,” he said. “I mean, what if this leads to a Gattaca scenario where I find out there’s stuff I’ll never do because genetics?”

Well, the only thing I remember about Gattaca is there was a whole lot of vacuuming of stray hairs and flakes of epidermis, which kind of sounds like the weekend I had, but I got his point.

When I was reviewing personal genome services (as if there’s more than one, and I could afford to be discerning), I ran across this article in Scientific American about how this company is collecting DNA information on us so they can build databases to use for targeted advertising or something equally as nefarious. Just like Google, which has found so much success doing the same thing that I’m constantly seeing Facebook ads for stuff like cans of unicorn meat or abacuses.

My search history is riddled with nonsense.

But there was that book he read about that woman whose cancer cells were harvested and used for scientific experiments without her family’s permission, so I kind of get that he’s nervous about some stranger’s prejudgment of what he can or cannot do. I have no idea whether he’s seeing ads for unicorn meat in his news feed, but that would just compound the paranoia, I guess.

But let’s get real, here. My husband is in his late forties. There’s a bunch of stuff we can reasonably determine – without genetic testing – he’s unlikely to do with his life at this point. Which of course lead to a list, of sorts, of what those things might be.

I do believe in setting realistic expectations. So, in no particular order, just to get them out of the way for all you sneaky advertisers out there, or anyone else collecting that kind of data, here are the Things My Husband Might Never Get to Be or Do Because of Genetics, Age, Body Type, Predisposition, or Fluke of Nature:

A gold medalist in any kind of Olympic sport (except maybe curling, I suppose)
Switchboard operator
Tom Cruise (Mike’s too tall)
Andre the Giant (too short)
Bart Simpson (not a cartoon)
Chaka Khan (can’t play the drums)
Genghis Khan
Khan Noonien Singh

… really, the list could go on from there and that’s without getting into animals or food, which is just depressing because I know there are days I would rather be a dog or a jelly donut.

I’m starting to think that, for father’s day, I should just stick to grilling accessories.





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