I recently learned I have a better pedigree than the queen of England, if by “pedigree” we mean a pure bloodline. My red blood is so pure, the color white is turning green with envy.
Almost as if to prove I have too much loose money, I ordered one of those DNA-testing kits that are the jawn. (I use jawn to attract hipsters and other underemployed readers.) Millions of people have put themselves under the microscope in recent years, following a science-based fad. http://www.philly.com/philly/health/health-news/ancestry-dna-genes-23andme-genetics-20171012.html
You may have seen the TV commercials showing people discovering from their DNA they had ethnicities they hadn’t imagined. Usually it’s a pleasant surprise — “I am part Catalonian?” — but sometimes less so, as when white nationalists discover they have some nonwhite blood. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/08/white-nationalists-dna-ancestry/537108/ That can ruin a racist’s day.
The commercials didn’t get me to go DNA spelunking. I was following in the paw prints of my dog. Let me explain.
My dog was with a rescue group and needed a home. He is cute, in an ugly kind of way because of his underbite. (Think Bernie Sanders.)
Saved Me Rescue, in Northern Liberties, listed him as a shih tzu mix, probably because of his small size, markings, apple-shaped head, and that underbite.
I noticed he had this habit, when off leash, of circling me, as if he were a herding breed. Is it possible he has some border collie in him?
I thought it was worth the $65 to find out. (Again, too much loose money.)
My girlfriend, Half-Pint, ran a swab inside his cheeks, we packaged it up, and mailed it off. Chamorro, that’s his name, showed no interest in any of this.
A few weeks later, we got the results: He is 75 percent shih tzu, 20 percent Lhasa apso, and 5 percent Pekingese. First World problem solved, I thought. I know about him, but how about me? For $79, I would find out.
According to 23andMe, the service I used, I am 99.8 percent Ashkenazi Jewish, from Western and Central Europe. The tiny remaining 0.2 fragment was vaguely called “broadly European.”
The DNA service said it traced my stuff back to 1670. I suddenly felt connected to a clear community, albeit a very small one. I imagined long-dead ancestors in the 17th century taking bets on the Thirty Years War and wondering when the Inquisition was going to end.
I was crestfallen to find no interesting stripes running through my 23 pairs of chromosomes. No Mongolian emperors, no Christian pirates, no Islamic mathematicians, no African fashion designers.
That’s life, I thought. Some people have a need to make themselves more interesting than they are, to improve on their humanity, and that’s too bad.
My DNA “purity” is easy to explain. Throughout much of European history, Jews were outcasts, segregated in ghettos. Marrying a Jew was definitely marrying down, and there wasn’t much of it.
Those bad old days are largely done. Now, with peoples’ ease in putting down roots on almost any continent, plus rising intermarriage, we will see more diversity and less “purity” in the decades ahead.
This is something humans worry their heads about. I’ve never heard of a dog being conscious of another dog’s color or pedigree. There’s a lesson in here for us.