Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Chick Magnet Gene and a Less Fortunate Mutation

You know the guy. He enters a room and women of all ages begin to lean, unconsciously, toward him. As he moves through the party constellations of the bolder ones break off from their various galaxies and fall into orbit around him. There is hissing and jostling for space. Phone numbers pour from the girl's mouths and the end result usually requires a hot shower. And it all seems so effortless.

Perhaps it is. According to the Indiana Institute's Journal for Genetic Understanding, Dr. Wolfram Parky has isolated a gene, designated cm435, that she feels contributes to a male human's innate seductiveness. She studied several hundred Malaysian chinchillas, some with the gene altered or removed, and came up with some startling results. The chinchillas who had the gene removed became: "Forlorn, self obsessed, obese, lethargic, and displayed unusual aggression. That is until confronted by the unaltered chinchillas, after which they sulked off to a distant corner, nervously rocking back and forth."

In the human realm, it is interesting to note that the effectiveness of cm435 is not limited by any sociological or economic strata. Nor is it the exclusive realm of those waifish, antiseptic magazine boys who exude an aura of having, long ago, been neutered and who appear to have been carved out of bars of Ivory soap by a cabal of silken-gloved albino virgins.

I know a guy (NC) who has above average looks and a superabundance of charm, but who is unlikely to ever find himself gracing the covers of Tiger Beat or Outdoor Male. Still, he has the gene, and I have yet to enter, with him, any room in America that didn't include several old flames, a multitude of potential fires, and at least a handful of random smoldering embers that flit by merely to breath in his essence. He says things to women at bars that, were I to say them would have them frantically lunging for their cans of mace as they shrieked the word "RAPE!" He's got the gene, alright.

No biological endowment is entirely free of its reciprocal flaws, however. In the course of her investigations, Dr. Parky observed a small sampling of individual chinchillas who had a very different attractive force. They preferred to spend most of their time alone, but when placed into a group cage they would invariably elicit the attention of the infirm or disturbed chinchillas. Dr. Parky was able to identify this characteristic as being the result of a mutation in the cm435 gene. She dubbed it cm435a and noted that it afflicts approximately .002% of the population.

As it happens, I have this gene; in fucking spades. I can't so much as enter a grocery store without the eyes of the unstable being ineluctably drawn toward me. I often know that they are there from a tingling sensation that starts at the base of my spine and radiates out toward my extremities. I'll be casually thumping a cantaloupe when, several aisles away, I catch sight of a pair of pleading, misunderstood eyes. I know this person MUST speak to me. I grab my basket and circle through the store, backtracking and creating false trails, the way they taught me in Ranger school, and wend my way to the cashier only to find that he is right behind me. His hand placed upon my shoulder he begins to tell me... what? Anything.

An actual incident should elucidate this problem. I used to go to a bar on Wednesdays before a lesson I had to give. This bar has an outdoor patio for smokers and is usually filled with people. It is big enough, so I can usually find a seat at a small table, alone, and out of the line of vision of people exiting the bar. Even though it is a sweltering July day, I have on a hooded sweatshirt, hood up, gloves, a pair of dark glasses, an Ipod with the earbuds conspicuously extending from my ears, my phone open in my left hand, a book open in my right, and the body language of a wounded badger.

I see her enter the patio and my spine begins to vibrate. She is, maybe, fifty, in a full trench coat, with disheveled hair and an unsteady gait. Moving through the crowd she reaches my table and, standing before me, mouths something that I can't hear through my blasting earbuds. I take them off and say, "Huh?"

"Well? What's it going to be? You gonna ask me to sit down?"

I am neither sober enough nor drunk enough to interpret her question and so I motion for her to sit. She does so, sitting at an angle that allows her to hover uncomfortably over the table, but she says nothing. Just as I am about to reach for the earbuds she reaches across the table and grabs my hand. She starts talking, very fast, in oddly syncopated rhythms, all 7/8 and 13/2, but I can't take my eyes off the medical bracelet that is on her, now, exposed wrist.

I'm locked out of my apartment. Can you help me get in?

What about your landlord?

He hates me. They all do, really. But not you.

I don't know how I can help.

You can break the window. You can crawl through the window. You can unlock the door. You can let me in. Do you like casserole?


I won't have any of it, you know?

By this time the alcohol was doing its thing and I was beginning to appreciate her tempos. I bought her a drink and confronted her about the bracelet (gout/dizziness/misunderstanding) and sent her on her way. Not a typical encounter, but not atypical either. I've got the gene, alright.

And so it goes. Pinballing and careening through life, attracting and repelling in haphazard fashion, based on the whim of some very small chemical elements. What else are they determining? Well, like the man in the book says, they don't really determine much of anything; life is far too complicated for that. Human beings are too messy and nature is too messy and we really seem to be just along for the ride. And if that crazy woman was hot then this would have been a different story. Maybe.

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