I’m all wrapped up in a spiral-helix. Biology has been on my mind of late. Namely, how important is it in a family, and why might it be important – or not so much so? Since I try to be vaguely anonymous on this blog, even though pretty much only my friends read it, you may not know that I have crazy red hair.
Though I don’t love the title, I have been enjoying the book The Roots of Desire: the Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair, by Marion Roach.
Red hair is weird thing to have. Strangers tell you how beautiful it is. One doesn’t know how to respond, because it just grows there. It takes neither effort nor intellect to grow it. If they aren’t complimenting it, the perfect stranger may be giving you a lineage of red hair in her family going back several generations or calling you a red-headed woodpecker or inquiring about the color of your pubic hair.
Roach’s book seeks the origins to attitudes about redheads. Do we have worse-than-usual tempers? Are we hot in bed? Are red-headed men not to be trusted? Apparently attitudes about my people go back as far or farther than ancient Egypt. They have roots in anti-Semitism, and have resulted in some burning at the stake.
My whole life I’ve sort-of expected to have red-headed kids. I’ve thought of my hair as a curse and a gift. I thought I’d pass it on. When I ended up with an African American woman as my partner, I basically gave up on the idea. (Though I insist that Cakie has red highlights.) It is not impossible, but far less likely that my red-headed gene will dominate when meeting up with a biracial donor’s.
Which brings me to my next biological contemplation. I also expected to have two children with different biological mothers and the same donor. I like the idea of the kids having a biological link, even though it may not be with someone we have actually met. For the past almost-two years I’ve watched Cakie and looked forward to meeting his future little sibling. How will they be alike? Will the next one look like Cakie and me? We recently ran out of Cakie’s donor’s vials. There are none left to buy. Unless somebody sells some back, or I track some down, that is the end of my little biological link idea.
In my heart of hearts I know that biology does not always make a family. My sister tried to get pregnant for ten years. Finally, three weeks after Cakie was born, she gave me my first niece. I’ll call her Doe, since that’s what Cakie calls her. Doe was born in Guatemala. My sister fostered her there for months before taking her back to the states. She was born in a different continent to a different biological mother, but no child that exists or will exist can be more my sister’s daughter than Doe. No child could be more my niece.
And no sister could be more my sister than my step-sister. I’ve known her since she was three, and I was eight. Her dad married and later divorced my mom. She’s my sister. Doe’s my niece. For that matter, Cakie is my son.
I keep thinking about the bible. I don’t know it very well, but I do know that one of the books of the New Testament begins with a genealogy of Joseph tying him back to whom? Abraham or someone? It’s an effort to connect Jesus biologically to an Old Testament figurehead. Joseph, he’s the guy who didn’t have sex with Mary.
Maybe biology adds validity to relationships deep in our ancestral minds. It can be fun (or scary) to hear your mother’s laugh come out of your own mouth or see your toddler make the same face your brother makes when he laughs. I can’t say biology means nothing. I can’t say it means everything. I just can’t say.