Sex, Thanksgiving, and The Selfish Gene

As I head off to Maine for Thanksgiving…and a reading/signing at the Owl & Turtle Bookshop in Camden, I recall that ‘Thanksgiving’ – the word and the event – appears three times in As It Is On Earth. No biggie there; seems like it should make an appearance in a story that has a bit of fun with New England Pilgrims.

Now, I won’t spoil things for those who have not read the book, but when I looked recently at the first two of the three Thanksgiving-inclusive sentences narrated in the book:

Once, a few weeks before the Thanksgiving recess, I was sent home from my 4th grade biology class for blowing up a bullfrog…

And, a few chapters on:

 I had driven home from Hartford in an unusually early and howling snowstorm a few days sooner than expected for Thanksgiving vacation; made the mistake of not letting anyone know my change in plans…

I realized that both served to introduce a sex scene that catapults the hapless narrator headlong into his story…I had no idea, I swear,…seems like it just happened.

So what’s up with Sex and Thanksgiving?…Here’s where Richard Dawkins’selfish gene comes in.

Firstly, let me say that, thanks to sympatric proximity, a very large number of us, whether we know it or not, have a pilgrim gene in us. It’s simple math (sorry,…I know I said that last week) – exponential, for sure, but not too hard to follow – think of Darwin’s Tree of Life (or its root ball, if you’re prone to feeling like the world’s upside down most of the time).

The Pilgrims barely survived that first winter. Remember? Poor folks were in the thick of The Little Ice Age. But they pulled through. Had they not, their genes would have crystallized, and I don’t exactly mean as re-formed carbon – picture a double helix icicle. No reproductive survival. Anyway, after our foreparents thawed out, pulled in a banner summer harvest, and decided to gives thanks to their lord by offering up a turkey, perhaps they were also feeling some…well, hard-earned randiness. After all, they and their genes had managed to slip through another of natural selection’s random bottle necks. And, you know, there’s nothing like the brink of a disaster to get the blood rushing (remember that Last-Wish-Before-The-End-of-the-World you once secretly shared?).Why not, then, after the meal, slip Hester Prynne out of her coarse ‘bundling’, untie the chastity bag strings, and have at it. Next winter could be even colder.

I know that adaptations usually take…well, who really knows, but let’s just say ‘awhile.’ And let’s also say, this is how it went…down the generations, an acquired darwinian tic keeping the germ line intact. In time, it loses its original raison d’être and becomes just an imperceptible itch in the groin – found even in your distant cousins in steamy Florida.

So, when that third Thursday in November rolls around and you start feeling antsy, perhaps it’s not the dread of spending time with those you wish were swimming in a different gene pool, or having your gut, once again, feel as if it’d been hooked up to an air compressor. No, it’s something else; as if we know we’d like to be doing something else, but just can’t quite put our finger on it.

Which brings me to the third and final sentence uttered by Taylor Thatcher:

 I could not tell Bin the real reason I didn’t show for Thanksgiving…

Whatever this last lost pilgrim had in mind, you can bet it was unseemly for the occasion.

Return to Dies Iovis: Ergo…

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