The most important battle of anyone's life is when sperm meets egg. It's Darwin at its most elemental, your genes vs. hers. One person goes on to the next round of the species, and the other goes to the grave a loser for all eternity. This is why sex is practiced in the style it often is.
It did not look good for me when our son Laszlo came from the womb all blond, blue-eyed and generally un-Jewy. In an earlier century, I would have had no choice but to trick my wife Cassandra into a best-of-three contest using a method that depends on my genetically inherited lack of rhythm. But with just a vial of spit each from Cassandra, myself and Laszlo, I could find out with DNA-lab-tested certainty which of us had influenced our child more. And for those of you worried about our putting him through this, know that the one thing babies look kindly upon donating is their drool. Especially when your last bodily request was for their foreskin.
For $499 a person, 23andMe, a genetic-testing service, takes your spit and, from my understanding of the science, puts it into some kind of machine. That machine tells you your genetic makeup and lets you view your results online.
Cassandra's results came back first, because of the fact that, genetically, she's more likely to remember to mail stuff. We were both shocked at the amount of information contained in her spit, which heretofore had revealed only how recently she brushed. Her spit knew stuff about her she didn't know, like how sensitive she is to pain (average) and whether her IQ would have been higher if her mom hadn't given her formula (yes).
To any normal person, Cassandra's genetic results are excellent: a very low chance of getting Parkinson's, breast cancer or ovarian cancer and a good chance of becoming a professional sprinter. But there was one recent study that implied that one of her DNA sequences might signify a slightly higher risk of obesity. This meant that for a week, my very thin wife walked around the house throwing away various items like cookies, which she called obesity makers.
A few days later, I got the results for Laszlo and me. It turns out that while Laszlo and Cassandra's genome-wide comparison is 83.82% similar, he and I are 83.95% alike. Which means he is 0.13% more like me than he is like her. Which means that despite appearances, I totally won the Gene Bowl. And that's not even counting the fact that unlike her, Laszlo and I both have penises. So more like 0.14%.
When Cassandra saw the results, she was upset, although not in the way I had hoped. "God, I hope he doesn't have Asperger's," she yelled at the screen. Some people, apparently, learn to compensate for weak genes by developing their trash-talking skills.
I called Joanna Mountain, Ph.D., 23andMe's senior director of research, so she could teach me how to brag more effectively. Mountain explained that Cassandra and I had each contributed an equal number of chromosomes to Laszlo's genome but that I possibly had a greater influence on the 583,000 genetic markers that 23andMe has decided are more significant.
Unfortunately, Mountain informed me, no one has yet mapped the gene for awesomeness, but she was able to look up a bunch of stuff. And when she looked more closely at the data, she discovered that the traits Laszlo inherited from me kind of sucked.