As you may recall, a few weeks ago we had a family reunion.
Not meaning to brag or anything, but I’m related to the coolest people ever. On all sides of the family – they’re smart, fun, quirky, cool people to be around and I love, love, love them!
My kids do, too. That gives me great joy but Uno’s pronouncement this afternoon made me wish my family members weren’t quite so awesome.
She and I were hanging out together. It was a quiet, Mommy/Oldest Child bonding time.
“Mommy, I’ve decided maybe I will get married after all.”
“Oh, really?!” This is a big deal. She’s usually completely certain she won’t get married because she doesn’t want to have children.
Scratch that… she wants to have children but she doesn’t want to give birth. Uno has requested I birth her children for her and I’ve very explicitly told her she’s barking up the wrong tree.
“Yes, I think I will. I’ve decided I want to marry my cousin, P,” Uno says.
Oh. This is murky water we’re treading. Is 5 years old too young to get her to understand the dangers of inbreeding? I mean, she could birth kids with three eyes or two heads!
Then I realized the cousin in question is way farther apart than even second cousins… their great-great-great grandfathers were brothers. So maybe there wouldn’t be three eyes and blood incompatibilities after all.
All these thoughts erupted in a split second. My brain was analyzing while my mouth said, “Why do you think he’s the one to marry?”
“Well, we already practiced being married.”
Oh, my Lord, what were they doing?! raced through my mind, along with some awful slang I’ve heard before like, “Nothing beats lovin’ like marrying your cousin!” and, even worse!, “If you can’t keep it in your pants, at least keep it in the family.”
“What exactly did you practice?!” I said.
“Oh, we were husband and wife and Dos was our baby. So we practiced being married.” She went on to tell me all about their special time as a couple and I relaxed. They’d been playing pretend and were completely supervised the entire time. Whew.
Once I knew the whole story it became pretty funny. Because as a child I, too, wanted to marry my cousin. I liked him fine, but mostly I didn’t want to change my last name and I realized if I married him I’d have the same initials forever.
That’s true love.
My cousin romance didn’t work out.
I’m ok with that.
Later, as I was animatedly telling Lizard about this discussion with Uno, I made several comments about inbreeding and intermarrying and cousins and the South. It made me wonder, why do we have a strong association with Kentucky (for example) and cousins marrying one another?
So, I googled it. Because that’s what I do since my weapons of mass destruction are a love affair with words and a MacBook Air with internet accessibility. This is what I discovered:
- Though the jokes abound with different states associated, the Appalachian Mountains seem to be the root cause of concern about “kissin’ cousins.”
- In fact, a gene has been isolated to a specific area of the Appalachians that produces blue humans. Really. I’m not talking about the Blue Man Group. These people are blue – not a shade of brown that looks blue, but actually blue. Think Avatar.
- First-cousin marriages are banned only in the U.S. but are actually encouraged in other countries, especially within Muslim families. In the U.S., the bans came shortly after the Civil War when several – highly flawed – studies associated “idiocy” with first-cousin marriages.
- Today cousin marriages represent 10% of all marriages worldwide.
- Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma, were first cousins. (How’s that for natural selection?)
- The risk of birth defects between first cousins is only 1%-to-2% higher than non-related couples. (This one shocked me. I definitely had it as a higher number in my assumption before tonight.)
- Typical consequences of inbreeding (in all things, not just humans):
- Increased genetic disorders
- Fluctuating facial asymmetry
- Lower birth rate
- Higher infant mortality
- Slower growth rate
- Smaller adult size
- Loss of immune system function
- Many first cousin couples are sterile.
- The population in Finland, with its maze of extremely isolated villages, exhibits so many rare genetic diseases that doctors go there to study ailments difficult to find elsewhere.
I feel smarter now, having spent an hour of my life searching the internet on this strange topic!
I also feel bad for the people of Appalachia (and Finland), who seem to get the bad end of the stick all the time, although they probably are so isolated they could care less whether people make fun of them or feel sorry for them.
So, now that I’ve shared what information I have that made me feel smarter today, I’ll go talk to my child about how she’s going to have plenty of time to think about whether her cousin is really the man for her because she’s not going to date until she’s 32.
And I’ll leave you with this quote: “If you’re tired of beating around the bush, why not shake the family tree? A hot cousin might fall out.” Stephen Colbert
Did you ever have a crush on a cousin?