You like to think they get the best of you, and I’m not taking eyes or jaw-line. I’m both interested and disturbed by how much of myself is blood, DNA, my body. (This veers dangerously close to the theme of my blog, which could mean a ten thousand word tangent, but for the sake of all of our busy schedules, I’ll resist that tangent.)
Take the Minnesota Twins study, for example. (If you took Psychology 101, you know I can’t mention genetics or nurture versus nature without referencing a twin study.) Thomas J. Bouchard’s 1979 twin study was basically a long and vigorous assessment of different twins separated at a young age and reared apart.
Like twins Gerald and Mark Newman.
“Neither know of the other’s existence until a shared acquaintance brought them together. Upon meeting for the first time each saw his own reflection. They had grown the same mustache and sideburns, and each wore the same glasses. As the brothers talked,they discovered they had more than looks in common. Levey went to college and graduated with a degree in forestry. Newman planned to go to college to study the same subject but opted to work for the city trimming trees. Both worked for a time in supermarkets. Levey had a job installing sprinkler systems. Until relatively recently, Newman had a job installing fire alarms. Both men are bachelors attracted to similar women– “tall, slender, long hair.” In addition to being volunteer firefighters, they both share favorite past times of hunting, fishing, going to the beach, watching old John Wayne movies and pro wrestling, and eating Chinese food in the wee hours after a night on the town. Both were raised in the Jewish faith but neither is particularly religious. Both men drink only Budweiser beer, holding the can with one pinkie curled underneath and crushing the can when it’s empty. In becoming acquainted, observes Jerry, ‘we kept making the same remarks at the same time and using the same gestures. It was spooky…He is he and I am I, and we are one.'”
Obviously, this is just one example. Some of the similarities are pretty amazing, while some are, well, not. (e.g. bachelors attracted to similar women– “tall, slender, long hair.”) The debate over nurture vs. nature remains without conclusion, and yet I can’t help acknowledge that much, if not most, of who we are is inherited.
I grew up seeing my father no more than twenty or so days a year, and yet, I often gesture like he does. I argue like he does. I adopt vocal tones and attitudes that are my dad. I didn’t know this growing up (though my mom would often allude to how much it freaked her out) and now that I live closer to him, I can see it for myself. In fact, I can quite easily pick out traits of mine that come from the Webster side of my genetic pairing, but maybe I’m making it too simple.
“They” say you see yourself in your children- and that you have to often step back and remind yourself they are separate from you. Still, even with forewarning, I struggle with what to say as my nearly three-year old son sits apart from story time festivities. The other kids dance, clap, and laugh, meanwhile Henry stands to watch, an intensely serious expression expanding all over his face. He sits apart from the group, and I ask him why, later in the car.
-Why didn’t you want to dance with everyone?
-I don’t know.
-Didn’t you think it’d be fun.
-Because I don’t.
And it’s difficult to keep it about him when I’ve got all of these old spook memories laying around, like how I spent most of my kindergarten and first grade recesses sitting by myself, waiting for the bell to ring, or how, in second grade, the kids at the bus stop referred to me as “the girl who doesn’t talk”–and it would really feel like I couldn’t talk, like there was something blocking my throat, a great sorrowful clot that I couldn’t understand, and definitely couldn’t maneuver.
Oh, I eventually figured it out. I’ve had social periods in my life–extremely social periods, in fact–and I’ve had long stretches where I mostly kept to myself (or a very small amount of people). I’ve developed and lost a stammering problem. I’ve blushed my way through entire years, and yet I’ve frequented social events like a butterfly. What I mean to say is that I’m not afraid for Henry, really. I know he’ll figure it out.
It’s just–I’ve always imagined it to be easier for the people who can just glide into the group, the people who don’t feel apart. I’ve watched, and it seems like, the people who can quickly lean on one another, laugh with one another, and call out to one another find life to be so much friendlier, a little more palatable. They have less fear, or so it seems, and I wanted that for Henry.
I want for him to be able to shake of the weight of thought so that he can leap into the parade of fun. (I’m not being metaphorical. Story time regularly has Parades of Fun.)
And if he can’t, I want to figure out a way to make it OK, because when I think about it, all of this “apartness,” all that sitting to the side and observing, only felt bad when it felt wrong, when I became conscious, self-conscious of my body as being odd and out. I liked to watch, and maybe he does, too.
So, maybe I can sit back and watch him sit back and watch (without oddness or pressure) and that will be the way he participates, or maybe I’ll have weak moments and nudge him forward just a bit. Or maybe I’ll do a little of both, flip-flopping between them like a nervous mother, trying her best to protect her son from the hardness in his blood.