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November 19, 2007

New Gift for your Mother: A Genome Kit!

I am a WASP.  (White Anglo Saxon Protestant.)  At times I have argued in favor of being called a WASA (sub "agnostic" for the Protestant), but the lineage remains the same:  I am descended from hordes of light-skinned, sun-challenged people, many of whom probably have depressive tendencies, lack a predisposition to "let loose" in public, and like to lounge around the sidelines socially, cracking jokes and quaffing alcoholic beverages.  The wildest bunch is the Norwegian relatives, although if you've ever been privy to any of the Lutheran joke websites, you'll just roll your eyes at that one.

I tell you this because, while I am tempted to generalize and say that MANY mothers in their fifties like to work on the family tree and genealogy-type stuff, my husband has admonished me clearly about this.  "In my (Jewish) family," he said, we don't HAVE a family tree.  They were all killed.

Stops me cold, every time.

But a part of me still has a sneaking theory that family-tree research is a type of late-life nesting activity in older women.  Perhaps from the hind brain?  Something uncontrollable, like small animals digging nests

in newspaper, their feet flying as they dig?  Hard to say.  And of course don't even get me started on how the bizarre scrapbooking phenomenon (Amazing video - excuse the ad) might be subliminally tied into the hampster-type family nesting urges.

Today, though, I got an earth-shaking email.  My husband forwarded me the website of 23andme.  Have you heard of them?  It's what vulcan chess is to checkers, my friend.  It's ... your own personal genome research service! Seriously, this is perfect for the extremely self-interested, overly-indulged, with $1K to spare on gifts for themselves person in what is politely called the "family tree" stage in life.  Yes, folks, I think that 23andme has developed (repeat after me) THE PERFECT BOOMER GIFT.

I have long nursed the opinion that the boomers personify narcissism. I mean, seriously.  Their Generation ... defined the new world order! Or something like that.  It certainly defined a new era in the perception of self as center of the universe.  And how nice to know that the boomers need never let their clutching hands relax from their life focus: themselves.

Let us imagine some day in the future:

A querulous old-lady boomer, sitting at her computer, checks in with her "save the whales investment community" website.  Afterwards, she decides to go onto her latest Web 2.0 site and meet new friends.  She clicks on "GenomeFriend.com" and checks to see with whom she has the most matches. Sure enough, it's "Guy545." From yesterday, she already knows that she and Guy545 share 72 SNP's (single nucleotide polymorphisms, pronounced "snips").  Some of them are kind of ... weird, like the one for wet earwax, and the ability to taste bitter flavors, but others are fascinating, like good verbal memory, tendency to gain weight when eating fatty foods, and... oops, I'm running out of examples from the New York Times article by  Amy Harmon.

After discussing themselves for a while, old-lady boomer logs off.  She wanders in and plays virtual shuffleboard on her 3rd-generation Wii for a while, and then settles down to her favorite toy.

Just kidding.

The point is, though, that we're opening the doors onto entire new obsessive landscapes with this product.  For some people, the self has always been more fascinating than just about anything else.  What do you bet we start hear about Genomefans Anonymous meetings in a few years?  Buckle up.

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