I'm a student at the university, and I have a problem you may never have dealt with before. My cousin, who's my age, has decided to transfer here next semester. We're both from New York and saw a lot of each other when we were growing up. And she and I were always particularly close. In fact, we used to joke around about how, if we weren't cousins, we would of course get married. She's very smart and funny, and I probably would marry her if I could, but she's my cousin! The thing is, I'm not sure she sees that as an insurmountable barrier. And I'm not sure she isn't moving here to see where this all might go. I've never mentioned our mutual attraction to anyone. Our families would totally flip out if they knew. So I'm wondering how to handle this whole situation. Should I sit my cousin down and have a talk with her? Or should I just wait and see what develops? Because, for all I know, she doesn't even feel that way anymore.
Her Dad's Nephew
Her Dad's Nephew: My thoughts, my thoughts...well, you could just go ahead and marry her. Albert Einstein did. So did Charles Darwin. Married their cousins, I mean. And Einstein, if you recall, came up with the Theory of Relativity, so he must have known a thing or two about relatives. Darwin? He came up with the Theory of Evolution, so he must have known a thing or two about natural selection. And selecting his cousin, in his opinion, was perfectly natural. We're talking first cousins here, not second cousins or third cousins twice removed. When you get right down to it, we're all, like, seventh cousins two or three times removed. And our kids all turned out okay, didn't they? (Don't answer that.)
The primary objection to marrying one's cousin is that the kids might not turn out okay, but that's largely - largely - a myth. When it comes to serious birth defects or genetic diseases, there's a 3%-4% chance they won't turn out okay anyway. That rises to about 4%-6% when the parents are first cousins, but the percentage is still quite low and can be lowered even further via genetic testing. As advocates of inter-cousin marriage like to argue, you increase the chances of something going wrong with your baby if you marry within your race, but no one's insisting we shouldn't do that. Marrying someone from your home town also increases the odds. Ideally, we'd all marry someone (or thing) from another planet.
Instead, we tend to marry someone from our own planet, our own town, even our own family. In other parts of the world, consanguinity - that's a fancy word for shtupping your relatives - is not only not frowned upon, it's smiled upon. Something like half of all the marriages in Iraq are between first or second cousins. That's one of the reasons the country's so damn hard to subdue: Blood is thicker than oil. But we're not just talking the Middle East here. No European country prohibits marriage between first cousins. Nor do Canada or Mexico. Only the United States, in its infinite wisdom, forbids it - half the United States, that is. Unfortunately for you, Her Dad's Nephew, that half includes the state of Wisconsin, which allows it only for women 55 or over or couples proven to be permanently infertile.
Or is it fortunate for you, HDN? I sense, in your letter, a little squeamishness of your own. Am I imagining that? If not, you're going to want to really think this thing through before doing anything, because society still has its objections. Then again, look at the bright side: If you go through with it, you won't have to argue over which grandmother's house you're going to for Thanksgiving. Here's hoping she lets you in.
For a copy of Adam and Eve's blood tests, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.