Brother From Another Father

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By now you’ve probably already seen the news story about the New Jersey woman
who gave birth to twins with different fathers
. It’s a phenomenon called heteropaternal superfecundation, a phrase which will surely impress the guests at your next cocktail party, if only you can find a way to work it into the conversation. Anyway, it happens when a woman releases two eggs during ovulation and then a different man fertilizes each egg. An uncommon event, perhaps, but not unpossible.

Of course, in order for heteropaternal superfecundation to occur, you need a confluence of events: failure of birth control, two ovum, and willing guys. Put this way, it doesn’t seem too difficult to achieve and I’ve got to wonder why it doesn’t happen more often (and perhaps it does). Birth control fails, as any parish priest will tell you (6% of the time, on average). Twins account for 3.37% of live births in the U.S., so that’s very doable, as well. And willing guys? I expect that percentage hovers around 100.

Unlike New Jersey Mom, my dance card only ever held one name at a time, with the single exception of a brief period where I dated two guys who were both named John. I don’t think I could have pulled it off otherwise, say if one was named Kevin and the other one named Doug.

As so often happens in dating, the one I really liked–to avoid confusion, let’s call him The John I Really Liked–didn’t like me as much as I liked him. We hung out at the student café for weeks before he ever asked me out and then we went to dinner that one night and to the movies another night. I spent more time waiting around for him to call than I ever spent being with him.

And, as so often happens, The John I Didn’t Like So Much liked me more than I liked him. He bought me flowers (a handful of not-quite-dead-yet daisies he picked up at a convenience store) and planned a picnic in a park that included the foresight to bring both a corkscrew and bug spray, but inadvertently excluded wine and a blanket. We ate very dry crackers and cheese in the grass and every so often squirted passing ants with Off! A week later, he named one of the rats he took care of in the biology lab after me.

One night, as we strolled around campus together, he asked me if I wanted to visit his work-study job. I figured, why not? I’d never been inside the Biological Sciences Building, even though I’d taken Biology for Dummies Biology for Non-Science Majors. That class was held in the basement of the Performing Arts Center,  in case any of us liberal arts majors needed to break out in song or recite poetry while learning about how cells grow, develop, and reproduce.

With The John I Didn’t Like So Much as my guide, I found my way across campus to the science building. He unlocked one of the laboratories with a key from his shirt pocket. Inside, he showed me a bunch of test tubes and petri dishes, a slide he prepared and then invited me to look at under a microscope, and, lastly, a row of metal cages that held a series of white rats. He pointed at one scurrying around its cage and called it by name: “Karen.”

I considered this dubious distinction for a moment before my brain returned to brood over the question that had preoccupied me most of the evening.

What was The John I Really Liked doing on this Saturday night?

Karen, the voyeur rat

Karen, the voyeur rat, is watching what you’re doing with that guy you don’t even really like that much.

As I tortured myself with the possibilities (I’d seen him talking to another girl outside the library the day before), The John I Didn’t Like So Much made his move. He pressed me up against the far wall of the room, my back uncomfortable against a row of clipboards that hung there, and we made out, in full view of Karen The Rat, among the reams of data the biology students collected. I responded, not so much because I liked The John I Didn’t Like So Much, but because I was thinking about The John I Really Liked.

So I’ve got to wonder about our New Jersey Mom, the one with the twins that have three parents. Do you think she was thinking about Guy #1 when she was with Guy #2? Or was she just killing time with Guy #1 while she waited for Guy #2 to call?

Royalty free stock photos, including the image of the hamster (it’s a hamster, not a rat!) in this post, can be found at freeimages.com. The Minnesota Twins logo is trademarked by Major League Baseball and its use is believed to comply with fair or acceptable use principles established in U.S. and international copyright law.

Even Our Beavers Are Different

I’m a fan of a bunch of ex-patriate blogs here on WordPress (check out Ellen Hawley’s blogroll on Notes from the UK for a great list of bloggers straddling cultures), and after years months of reading these blogs study, I think I’ve stumbled across the difference between Americans and Europeans: it’s all about beaver.

See, there are only two varieties of beaver in this world, the European Beaver which looks like this:

677480_44997684and the North American beaver, which looks like this:

677480_44997684
As you can see*, they’re a lot alike, and, according to the scientific journal Mammal Research, both European beavers and their American cousins inhabit similar ecosystems and lead similar lives, dividing their time between chewing down trees and building up dams.

Except there’s this one perhaps not inconsequential difference: European beavers are monogamous, while American beavers sleep around.

I’m an American who writes about science law Dr. Ruth Westheimer beavers sex, so this bit of information absolutely delights me, because of course American beavers are out there slutting it up. I’m sure there’s a few whole bunch of Europeans who read this blog and are nodding their heads right along with me, but for different reasons.

“Isn’t that just like an American?” I imagine them saying. “Even their beavers are vulgar.”

Since my knowledge of Europeans comes mostly from watching Masterpiece Theater, I could be wrong about what they might think. Perhaps when they hear about our sexy beavers they’ll think something like “How wonderful!” or “Isn’t that interesting?” rather than express disgust at our aquatic mammals who are unable to resist their baser instincts.

I guess I’ll never know for sure what Europeans think unless I travel outside the US. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been contemplating a trip to Great Britain where I could observe the inhabitants up close in their natural surroundings, just like the scientists who researched the mating habits of beavers, rather than long distance, via an episode of Downton Abbey.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading all these ex-patriate blogs, trying to prepare myself, and I’ve come away with the distinct impression that the rest of the world has a few problems with Americans. And South Americans have a problem with us even calling ourselves “Americans” because aren’t they Americans, too? What’s with these self-centered, self-absorbed, conceited, narcissistic  norteamericanos thinking they’re the only Americans that matter in the whole entire world?

Anyway, if you Google the phrase “American stereotype” you’ll find out what much of the world thinks of us. To them, Americans exist as a dazzling array of unpleasant characteristics.

  • We’re violent. We all carry guns and shoot one another at random.
  • We’re loud. We talk loud, we laugh loud, we breathe loud, we just have to announce our presence everywhere with noise.
  • We’re obnoxious/rude/uncouth/arrogant. Take your pick. Or all of the above.
  • We’re ignorant about the world, and most everything else.
  • We’re obsessed with money.

And maybe we are all of those things. All I know is that when I travel to Europe, I want to make sure that no one ever says after I leave a room, “Of course, she’s American.” Instead, I want to absolutely explode the stereotype of Americans in the minds of the Europeans I encounter. When I leave the room, I want them to say, “Can you believe she’s American?”

I'll even eat French food.

In my effort to prove that not all Americans are provincial, I’ll even eat French food.

I haven’t yet figured out how I’ll do this. Maybe I’ll wear a beret. Maybe I’ll chain smoke cigarettes out of a skinny cigarette holder. Maybe I’ll drop the names of world capitals into conversation. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to lose my accent, which sounds like I’m from New York to people who have never been to New York (I’m actually from Connecticut originally), but I’m thinking I might have to pretend to be mute, which would at least solve that “Americans are loud” thing, too.

So I’m prepared to do all that, and explain our lecherous beavers to them.

*The actual title of this photo, and I swear I am not making this up, is “Wet Beaver.”

Royalty-free stock photos, including the images in this post, can be found at freeimages.com.

I Could Be Blogging About Sex Among the Demented in Nursing Homes

At the risk of turning this blog into something that is read only by science nerds who have absolutely no chance of ever getting laid, I’m going to write again about some interesting (at least to me) scientific studies that were recently published trying to explain how monogamy evolved in mammals, even though monogamy is not widely practiced among mammals (only 3% of species) but is ostensibly the goal of humans, or at least that’s what we claim in our Facebook profiles.

I can hear you whining right now, “Oh, no, not more science!  Where are the dick jokes?” so just let me say this: Consider yourself lucky to be reading about monogamy and primates because I was this close to writing about sex among the demented in nursing homes.

Plus, I'm always talking about monkeys fucking.

Maybe I never get laid because I smell like chemicals all the time.

So why did marginal minuscule inconsequential some mammals decide to practice monogamy? Two theories are proposed. The first, outlined in the paper, Male Infanticide Leads to Social Monogamy in Primates, published this past week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (how’s that for a magazine title?) argues that monogamy developed in some primates because a male would impregnate a female and then go off to impregnate more females and while he was gone, his progeny would be born and promptly murdered by another male, who then hoped to mate with the single and newly unencumbered female. Eventually, the first male realizes, “Hey, my babies keep getting killed when I wander away.  Maybe if I stay here I can fight off these motherfuckers and put a stop to that shit.”

Thus we have monogamy.

If only I could get her to engage in a little dirty chatter!

Sure, she won’t go down on me anymore, but the dragonfruit here is so tasty!

The other theory, put forth by researchers at Cambridge in the article The Evolution of Social Monogamy in Mammals and published this month in the journal Science (a less intimidating title I’m much more likely to read, because while I am a science nerd, I do hope to get laid) focuses not on the violent behavior of horny males, but on hostile and solitary behavior of females, who may or may not be horny, but who are definitely hungry, and work to keep other females away from the most desirable feeding locations, usually by chasing and biting and making horrible, scary noises that encourage the other females to go a ways down the road to eat.  So this angry, solitary female is out there guarding her good food and the horny male wanders into her territory to mate and thinks, “Hey, the food is pretty good here, and the other female I’d like to screw is way, way over there down the road, so maybe I should just stay here and eat the good food and wait around for this female here to screw again rather than expend the effort to screw that other female, where the food may not be as good.”

And thus we have monogamy.

These two competing theories were rattling around my brain the other day as I’m standing in my kitchen cooking dinner.  At the exact same moment, my husband is sitting at the dining room table, scrolling through his iPhone.  A generation ago, he would have been sitting there, a knife clutched in one hand, a fork in the other, and  a napkin tucked in his collar.  A millenium ago, he would have wandered into my territory and thought, “Hey, the food is pretty good here.”

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG

The Key to Monogamy is Cooking a Really Good Chicken Piccata

You'll never get me out of this scarf and hat!

I’d love to have sex! Oh, wait.  Do you mean with you again?

As a long time practitioner of monogamy (10 years.  OMG, ten years!), I recognize that there comes a point when the response to the sexual advances of your partner changes from “Again!  Again! Again!” to “Oh, no, not again.  I wonder if I can fool him into thinking I’m asleep if I fake snore.”

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog considering the issue of desire, and I have a peculiar particular fascination with the concept of polyamory, which I’ve written about in an embarrassing number of posts for a married lady.  At least, I should be embarrassed, but I have no shame.  Anyway, a quick search of this blog will show that I wrote about polyamory in Surviving Polyandry and in The Pros and Cons of Polygamy and Turkey Leftovers and in Polyamory: Married and Dating.  My interest in polyamory doesn’t stem from the fact that I want to participate in a triad or a quatrain* or a quintuplet** or sextet (get it, sextet?) or an octane***, but rather because I’d like to know if monogamy inevitably leads to monotony.

Let me add that while the idea of seeing the sexy UPS driver out of his brown uniform holds a certain appeal for me, the thought of my husband with another woman turns me into a feral beast who growls and hisses and is ready to claw out the eyes of any female who wanders too close to him.  He’s mine and while I don’t always want to have sex with him, I don’t want him to have sex with anyone else, either.

So polyamory is not a viable option for my relationship and I’ll have to look elsewhere to figure out this whole passion thing.  While I’m looking, I often find myself reading marital self help articles, like this one at Salon.com, titled The Key To Monogamy.  Ah, a key!  Just what I need.  I read on, and here are some suggestions for keeping the passion in your marriage.

  1. Maintain distance
  2. Put sex on the calendar
  3. Validate your own damn self
  4. Open Eyes Sex
  5. Candor and Caring

I can vouch for 1. Maintain distance.  While I was attending law school, my husband received a fellowship that required him to temporarily relocate to another state and we lived apart for about six months.  We saw each other most weekends and all I have to say about that is this: Best. Sex. Ever.

Always fuck the guy with the nicest car.

The key to monogamy is parking validation.

The other four tips are so much bullshit, especially number 3.  I’ve read that bit five times now, and I have no idea what it means, other than whenever anyone uses the word “validate” all I can think of is parking garages (yes, I’m a city girl).  I don’t think the author is talking about that sort of validation here, but she might as well be.

Get oil changed.  Pick up dry cleaning.  Have sex.  Defrost hamburger.

The key to monogamy is treating sex like a tedious chore.

I’m particularly mystified by the idea of scheduling sex, as though adding fucking to my long list of To Do’s will somehow get my engine revving.  Part of the fun of sex is when it springs on you spontaneously, so that I’m left wondering if that rerun of Justified was particularly arousing or if he just really enjoyed the chicken piccata I served for dinner.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG

*not a sexual dynamic, a quatrain is a poem or stanza of four lines.

**also not a sexual dynamic, a quintuplet is one of five children born to a mother all at the same time.

***octane is a rating of gasoline.  Not a sexual dynamic.