Look, I’m quite aware that what I find fascinating might very well make someone else’s eyes cross with confusion and boredom. Or I might get lucky and find someone to babble at who shares my passions. My husband and I mesh fairly well in that regard – this morning’s porch conversation ranged from my efforts to talk to my gas chromatograph at work, to the sexual habits of ancient Chinese empresses. I think you had to be there…
But that’s the best conversations, I think. The ones where later you try to explain why they were so great, and words fail. You truly had to be there and experiencing the moment to fully partake of the joy of communicating with someone(s) who were in the same category of weird as you are. Sarah Hoyt calls it being ‘Odd’ which resonates well with me. I’m odd, and always have been. Not in the sort of way many of my friends had to endure – bullying and ostracism from schoolmates because they did not and could not fit in. But I have always been a bit of an outsider in my own world, because my parents decided early on to set us aside from Mainstream American Culture. So I’m odd. because of just that, or some combination of personality and nurture, I’m not fully sure.
The whole debate of nature versus nurture doesn’t really help with knowing which kid is going to be weird, and which isn’t, either. I have four, and they run the gamut of personalities. When I’m writing, I have to make an effort not to make all my characters the same flavor of weird I am, but with my kids, I just sit back and enjoy them at this point in their development. As teens, they are much more ‘nudge here, nudge there’ than full-on molding of their character the way I tried to do as toddlers. You know what I mean: please, thank you, teach them to read, etcetera. I have gotten to watch the nature/nurture up close and personal with my husband and his two brothers. He has a half-genetic brother he grew up with (same maternal DNA) and a half-genetic brother he didn’t meet until he was 40 (long past the malleable stage, and shared paternal DNA). The two who shared a nurturing environment? Nothing alike. They don’t look alike, they don’t behave remotely similarly, and although they love one another, they aren’t best buddies. The two men who met as adults? Had they met as complete strangers at a SFF con – a likely probability, given their proclivities – they would still have become friends, I think.
It’s fascinating. The more I learn about the extra genetic contributions we get, the more I wonder how much, and how little, we really know about how inheritance works in humans. I learned recently that the epididymis contributes to the genetic makeup of offspring. As the sperm travels through this tiny convoluted duct, RNA transfers to it, and is incorporated into the genetic makeup of potential offspring. Through this mechanism, the genetic ‘memory’ of a man is passed on to his children. It’s easy to see how this impacts adaptation in subtle ways, both positively and negatively. It’s not something most people get taught in elementary biology, though… we learn about basic phenotypes, eye color, hair color, height. My son’s feet at 13 are bigger than mine, and the First Reader’s and well on their way to even bigger, because his father has big feet. But what else might he have that was passed on through epigenetics? Hard to say. His own personal category of weirdness, half mine and half his father? Possibly. Wholly his own, given enough time and space to build his own voice, is my hope.
Family is far more than shared sSNPs and STRs. Connections are forged through conversation, and shared oddities, and the mutual weirdness that draws us together even as it pushes us away from the normalcy (or anti-weirdness?) of other groups. They might be weird in their own way. Probably are, because normal isn’t really a definition, so much as it is a state. But they aren’t our kind of weird. So they don’t mesh with the Odd, and we find ourselves on the fringes looking in, and gravitating toward others who can keep up with our conversational leaps and bounds.
I’m happy here.