Have you heard about 23andMe? The popular mail-order biotech company will analyze your 23 chromosomes to reveal a complete genetic history for just $199.
It’s official. We are so obsessed with ourselves that we’re now spitting into little vials and mailing it to strangers so we can learn more about the most fascinating subject in the world: ourselves.
We can’t get enough of ourselves. I think the ultimate would be if we took a selfie of ourselves spitting into the vial (or perhaps a Snapchat). Look, I get it. I rarely get tired of thinking or talking about myself. (What do you mean, “I’ve noticed”?)
I love the perky radio commercials for 23andMe. An earnest voice says something like, “I always wondered why I loved butter pecan ice cream so much. Now I’ve learned that my genetic history proves my ancestors also liked butter pecan ice cream. I just feel like I BELONG!”
Much is made of how useful it can be to understand your genetic history’s effect on your current physical health.
“I always wondered if my ancestors had leaky gut and, now, thanks to 23andMe, I have discovered they did!” (Probably all that butter pecan ice cream, just sayin'.) There have been a few high-profile stories about 23andMe clients, including a People story about a woman who used the company to narrow the search for her biological father.
The Jewish woman, married to a black man, discovered to her shock and disappointment that she was the granddaughter of a grand wizard of the KKK.
At first, I thought it was like tea leaves and her saliva formed the likeness of a pointed hood and robe but, no, this is science. While they’re all trying to get along, it hasn’t been easy.
But like the old saying: “You can’t put the processed saliva back in the tube.”
The company can tell you what percentage of what ethnic group you are, which is fascinating.
But, in practical terms, no one but you will really care. I’d prefer a different approach that’s less, er, clinical. Why not just ask a few of your closest friends and family about what they think of you, based on your character?
You don’t have to submit spit or even pay money. They can just sit in a room and say: “Well, Biff, our findings indicate that you are 41.4 percent annoying and clingy and 58.6 percent full-blown a-hole…”
After doing a (very) little bit of research, I learned many of 23andMe’s clients are adopted and desperately trying to find birth parents and siblings. Many have been joyfully reunited with far-flung kin. But the cynic in me wonders if all those “my third cousin visits me all the time now!” will one day morph into “This fool’s trying to borrow money again. I gotta get a restraining order…”
Because, the truth is, for every aboriginal king in your past, there could be a redneck couch-surfer in your future.