To the inveterate punster, there is no terrible pun. I don’t groan when I hear one—I just wish I had thought of it first. So it was when many years ago I first heard the question, “How do you tell the sex of a chromosome?” The answer, “Take its genes off.” I also liked one that some people might find gross or politically incorrect, “How do you make a hormone?” Refuse to pay her. In my case, my love for jokes, puns and humour in general has to be genetic and recent research has confirmed it.
I first got interested in Biology when I checked out the diagrams in the “Human Reproduction” section of the textbook. This was around the same time when my friends and I scoured Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare’s plays and everything else in sight including the dictionary for sexual references. We had no internet and in terms of pornography had to make do with our imaginations, explosion of hormones and prurient interest or, as one of my contemporaries said, “We had phonographs but lacked pornographs.”
We used to joke about the young lady at the girls’ high school next door who questioned the diagram of the male sexual organ that her teacher drew on the blackboard. “Miss, you leave out the bone in the middle.” While that might still be a distinct future evolutionary possibility, and there is concrete proof that one method of dealing with male sexual dysfunction is based on a similar solution, what is absolutely certain is there are some things that are definitely in the blood and that includes a sense of humour.
In Trinidad when we are immediately attracted to someone we say, “My blood take” the person. In my case, it is literally true. Both my wife and I have the same rare blood type and our children, having no choice in the matter, possess it as well. What I did not realise is there is a story behind that story and it comes out of the research that I was referring to.
A few days ago Science Daily featured research by the University of Colorado at Boulder with the headline, “I like your genes: People more likely to choose a spouse with similar DNA.” While I have always thought that people tend to look more and more like their pets, the research shows that individuals are more genetically similar to their spouses than they are to randomly selected individuals from the same population.
There are several implications and areas for future research based on the findings of the Boulder research. The first is that if we marry people who are similar to us why do we have divorces? Is there a point of diversion where we start going off in different directions of growth or maturity to the point where we are no longer comfortable with the person we married? In a way this joke sums it up. A man and a woman who have never met before find themselves in the same sleeping carriage of a train. After the initial embarrassment, they both manage to get to sleep, the woman on the top bunk, the man on the lower. In the middle of the night the woman leans over and says, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m awfully cold and I was wondering if you could possibly pass me another blanket.” The man leans out and with a glint in his eye said “I’ve got a better idea, let’s pretend we’re married.” “Why not,” giggles the woman. “Good,” he replies. “Get your own blanket.”
Or is it that what were petty differences that were overlooked in the beginning or outnumbered by the similarities start to grow in importance or size like the pupil of the eye? As one man said, “When I got married I thought I had found Miss Right. How could I know that her first name was ‘Always’?” Then the situation deteriorates to the point of the couple in Italy who came upon a wishing well. The husband leaned over, made a wish and threw in a penny. The wife made a wish too, but she leaned over too much, fell into the well, and drowned. The husband was stunned for a moment but then smiled, “It really works!” However, you know it has reached rock-bottom when the insults become routine. For example, a husband told his wife, “Your butt is getting really big. It’s bigger than the barbecue grill!” Later that night, in bed, when the husband after a few beers made some advances towards his wife, she turned her back completely and wrapped the blanket tightly around her. The Lord of the Manor asked, “What’s wrong honey?” She replied, “Do you really think I’m going to fire up this big-ass grill for one little weenie?” This is when the genes, similarities and gloves all come off at the same time.