Thursday, February 18, 2010

She's in the Basement

I’m still excavating, digging my way through the mess I’ve made of the basement. I keep telling myself you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet, right? Or cupcakes. Sweet, sweet cupcakes. I’ve got cakes and cookies on my mind now and certainly will for a few more days but that’s another hardship for another time.

I plowed through the books I’d stacked up on the couch and found plenty I’m willing to part with. I hope what’s left will fit the bookshelves but I sort of doubt it. It’s not so bad though; I enjoy finding books I might like to read again. The book pictured is a dictionary I got for Christmas from my parents in 1987. You can imagine how pleased I was with that, being a fairly normal 18 year old. I love the inscription: “Good luck to you with your future education, use this book to the fullest extent.” Mom didn’t even sign her name which is pretty strange. My parents are BIG on writing inside of books they're given and if I ever accidently (on purpose) “forget” to do this I get the book handed back to me for an inscription. I can’t say I used that book to the “fullest extent” unless you take into consideration all the drawing I did on the outside of it. For some reason I drew a picture of the watch John and Julie gave me for graduation, random fruit, and a particular boy’s name. Do people even use dictionaries anymore? I also found several grammar and style guides and clearly I didn’t use those to fullest extent; while I was sorting I found my thesis and for the first time noticed a glaring error on the title page. Lame.

I flipped through it but forced myself to put it back on a shelf instead of sitting down and reading. Maybe I’ll write about it here some day. I guess it might be a little boring but I enjoyed the research. It was a comparison of the Menominee of Wisconsin and the Klamath of Oregon and how each tribe coped with the loss of tribal status. I used to find all of this sort of thing endlessly fascinating but for the life of me I have no clue what made me think it was a wise choice educationally speaking as far as getting a job went. It’s not like I was interested in teaching it or working for the Department of the Interior or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Still, Dad said these years were for their own sake. Wasn’t that the truth.

Despite having most of my Anthro classes with the most closed-off professor I’ve ever encountered (probably the only Whitman professor who with a Questions Only After The Lecture policy), I loved this stuff.

This afternoon while I waited after school I had the radio on and I heard something that brought back memories of an Anthro class I took—probably Kinship 101. Apparently there’s this Maryland delegate who feels it’s time for his state to put an end to marriages between first cousins. That is unless both parties are over 65 and/or one of them is infertile.

Henry Heller (D) wants to bring Maryland "into the enlightened world of other states such as West Virginia and Arkansas'' where these unions are already prohibited. I guess this guy is a retired special ed administrator and he’s quoted as saying that when first cousins marry they’re “playing genetic roulette” because of the increased odds of having a child with birth defects. I thought about that for a minute and wondered if it was his background in special education that was coloring his thinking. Because honestly, there’s really not much to his argument.

Right now we’ve got about half of the states prohibiting marriage between first cousins but the truth is, there’s little reason for it. The feelings against it aren’t strong in other parts of the world and probably because it was practiced by the elite and it played a role in keeping family fortunes intact. On the other hand, in America it’s seen as something that hillbillies do.
I’m not sure where the idea came from that first cousin marriage would lead to rampant birth defects (“Deliverance”?) but it’s something a huge portion of the population “knows” to be true despite evidence to the contrary. The truth is, when first cousins marry and have children, there’s a 2 to 3 percent greater risk of birth defect then the general population. That would increase if you’re talking about folks with pathological recessive genes but honestly, if the people involved have a fairly clean gene pool, the risks are low.

I’ve heard it sited that past high incidences of hemophilia in European royal families was an example of why this is such a bad idea but according to anthropologist Martin Ottenheimer, this wouldn’t be a classic case of inbreeding. Hemophilia is an X-chromosome-related characteristic so it’s passed on only through the female line. It didn’t much matter who the royal mothers married, cousins or someone else entirely.

I know I mention that I digress. A lot. But seriously friends, this is one for the record books. How did I go from cleaning out the basement to advocating first cousin marriage? Not that I do, mind you. I just think it’s kind of interesting how many things we Know. And how much we totally don’t.


  1. You blog a lot about cleaning. Does anyone even help you????

  2. George, I helped move a lot of the stuff around. But, when she gets into one of these moving stuff around/reorganizing/cleaning, yu need to get out of her way.


So, what do you think?