Have you ever wondered where some of your quirks and foibles have come from? Look to your gene-pool.

When you find yourself gravitating towards particular types of foods; have odd little quirks of character—like a typical stance when standing or tilting your head at an angle when you are listening. Or when you find yourself obsessing over things your rational mind is fed up steering you away from—blame your genetic code.

No, seriously.

The laws of genetics apply even if you refuse to learn them. ~Allison Plowden Share on X

This phenomenon gives you a cast-iron alibi for all your pet foibles. You can blithely continue behaving like a pain in the fleshy parts and no one can do anything about it! Because… well… you can’t argue with genes!

Of course, this wouldn’t endear you to others around you, but it can’t be helped. Because of you, perhaps they will learn that life is not for fun alone.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the thought is liberating. Genetics is why I am weird! It isn’t my fault I am fruit-basket! Don’t tell me you don’t find that exhilarating! If you do, I shall disbelieve you.

I came by this startling discovery in an unguarded moment of epiphany. The realization descended upon me like the Niagara had been let loose over my head. Typically, the moments leading to this momentous discovery were as ordinary as they come.

We were at breakfast. My Father, the brood and self. My father had finished his breakfast and was enjoying his cuppa. Out of the blue (it was on the floor all along but he hadn’t seen it), he discovered a polythene bag lying crumpled. Absent-mindedly, he picked it up, straightened it out and began folding it meticulously—as only he can.

“Nanu, what are you doing?” asked three dismayed voices, in unison. “That bag will go into the dustbin!”

“I know,” said my father, remarkably unperturbed. “I’m folding it because when it is scrunched up, it takes more space in the dustbin.”

With monumental calmness and intense concentration on the job, he proceeded to fold the bag, giving it a crisp edge that a military sergeant couldn’t find fault with. Then he got up and carefully put the bag in the dustbin in his precise way.

That four jaws had dropped to the floor in tandem, he neither noticed nor cared.

“Nanu, that was excruciating to watch,” declared the eldest. I had known she would. I was pretty much going up the wall myself.

That’s when the wet, rolled-up towel hit me betwixt the eyes. The brood swears my eyes turned glassy.

Why? Well, examine the evidence.

  1. I rarely encounter a plastic bag that I am not compelled to fold—even if it is to be put in the dustbin.
  2. I fold polythene bags as painstakingly as I saw the ancestor do it. And boy, did he take his time about it! It was a project!
  3. I was decidedly irritated to see him do it.
  4. My eldest gets as livid when she sees me do it.
  5. I have NO idea why she gets annoyed. No harm in being neat, is there?
  6. My father had no idea why we were frothing at the mouth. “No harm in being neat, is there?” he asked us reasonably.

I know your jaw has landed among your shoe-laces—kindly retrieve it.

As I said, it is the genes! I saw the chain travel intact from my father (and perhaps his father/mother before him) to myself before burying itself into my daughter. God bless my soul I muttered to myself before I blinked a few times. It unglassed my eyes, I was told. Like I cared!

Getting hit in the face when you aren’t expecting it, fires up your neurons it seems. I recalled another bit of minutiae I might otherwise have ignored.

A few days ago, one of my mother’s sisters told me she loves fried peanuts. She would fry a handful of peanuts on a tawa in a scant teaspoon of oil, add salt and red chilly powder and devour them every afternoon. Exactly as my mother did it… and my daughter does it now!

The best part is, none of my mother’s other siblings does it, nor was it ever a thing in my maternal grandmother’s home. And yet, the same craving reposed in the eldest and youngest of my grandmother’s lot. If that isn’t shocking, I don’t know what is!

My genetics have been in my family for generations. ~ J.S. Mason, Share on X

I wonder if this is God’s way of ensuring none of us gets too big for our boots. We are saddled with the same ways and behaviours that are demonstrated by others we share our gene-pool with. Especially the ones that we find intolerable—never realizing that the thing lurks in us too.

I suppose this is why one becomes more patient with age. One understands that there is no point giving oneself any airs. In the end, we’re much of a muchness.

Go study your parents, siblings and extended family. Make your peace with the fruitiness you find in them. You’re sure to be as fruity as you have always found them—and you knew it not!

You can inherit good genes, not greatness. ~Mokokoma Mokhonoana Share on X

On another note, there is a sense of continuity and belonging in this shared genesis. There is comfort, fostered by a nurturing sense of familiarity. Nobody intuitively understands certain things about you as well as cousins you were kids with. Even if you rarely meet them, whenever you do, their presence feels familiar and cosy. That feeling is an unmatched cocoon of solace.

Which of your quirks and foibles do you see in other members of your (extended) family? Have you ever talked to them about it? Since this revolting pandemic seems stuck to us, why not make good use of the time and do it?


Dagny Sol

book editor dagnyI am a certified editor and writing coach with a passion for playing with words and making them dance.

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