Jul. 9th, 2016

terribleturnip: (Goat)
Oh, nothing like a long weekend spent with my parents, brother and his family to get me thinking about genetics, nature and nurture!

Growing up, my brother and I couldn't escape our family resemblance -- my parents were active participants in our small town, and my brother and I looked enough alike, and enough like our father, that there was no flying under the radar. Although if you look at pictures, while you'll say that we look more like my father than we do our mother...we don't necessarily look like the spitting image of our Dad. Yet people always said we did. I think it's because I do look a lot like him -- I've got the LastNameRedacted squinty eyed smirk, that's for certain. My brother looks a bit more like my mother, getting the tall gene, damn him, but still looks enough like me, and apparently acts enough like me that people in town would say "oh, look, there's one of the LastNameRedacted kids".

I was the brainy, bookworm one, the born safety patrol and nerdish to the bone. My brother was the social one, always surrounded by a gang of friends, always the center of attention, the entertaining one. Except. When I think about it, he was the one always organizing the thing - whether it was a trip to the beach, or finding a group of friends who thought it was fun to show up at our house and do my brother's chores for him. And when I meet up again with people I haven't seen since high school, they always talk about how funny I was. (Okay, and also opinionated and bossy) I don't remember being funny, at all. But apparently I was. I also thought of myself as being on the fringe of the social circle, but then remember that "the fun" was always happening at my house. That I was usually the one driving the car to "the thing".
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It's funny how we remember things but then if you really look and analyze, it can actually be quite a bit different -- like taking off Instagram filters.

Now, I said we looked like my father mostly, and phenotype (how your body looks) is definitely mostly genetic. But when it comes to behavior, my mother got her hand in, that's for sure. There are things my brother and I say, things we do - hosting the thing, running the thing, a lifetime of being relentlessly social (Mom) and then regretting it (Dad). The thing I never noticed, though...

Our attitude to be sick. Here, my brother, my mother, myself...we might as well be identical twins. Oh, you can call it nurture all you want -- and we were raised to believe that when you were sick, if you had a fever, you should lay down until it was over, eating saltines, chicken broth and flat gingerale. Some aspirin to help with the fever. I think we got over illnesses quickly because we got hungry and craved carbonation. Anything else? Here's an aspirin, now go walk it off. We were raised to be tough, raised to keep going. Which all three of us do, sometimes to our detriment. (I will confess that I'm not sure I really believe that, but that's what people keep telling me.)

But I also think there's a strong genetic component there, as well. After all, it's a bit uncanny to hear the things you've said to other people, the very thoughts in your head "lying down and taking it easy doesn't seem to shorten any illness I've ever had, it just wastes time I could have been using to do something else" or "It goes away in two weeks whether I see a doctor or not, why bother" and "If you give in to it, it just gets worse"...to hear those same words coming out of both my mother and my brother was uncanny.

I mean, it's not like we've ever really talked about being sick before and had time to cement each other's beliefs. Another family characteristic: we don't talk about illness, it's inherently boring. But here I was, up visiting my mother who was recovering from pneumonia, something unknown and a ten day hospital stay under her belt, finally back home, and my brother, in the middle of a bout of bronchitis. And we set off this crazy daisy chain: I'd tell my brother to not be ridiculous, he should stay home and rest and he'd say he was fine and I'd tell my mother that she should go rest, take it easy, put that oxygen tube back on and she'd say Oh, I'm fine. And then the next day, they'd both be exhausted and weary, each of them telling me that the OTHER one shouldn't have overdone it like that, completely oblivious to what they'd done to themselves and me hollering "What the hell is wrong with the two of you, you BOTH need to rest and take it easy, why won't anyone in this family just slow down and take care of themselves?"

At which point, The Consort looks at me, raising his incredibly expressive eyebrows and says "Now you know what it feels like to be me."

At the time, I was only able to sputter, helplessly. Now, after thinking on it...nah, no revelation here. It's in our genes. If I give in against whatever this mystery bullexpletive thing that's wrong with me, that makes it hurt just to move, just to exist, if I lay down when it tells me I need to just lay down, expletive it, it wins. I've already scaled back what I try to accomplish in a day - THAT'S ENOUGH. That's all it's getting.

Sigh. At least The Consort has got my father and sister-in-law to commiserate with.
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