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a new bio frontier - The Literary Exhibitionist
a new bio frontier

-- चार हजार एक सौ एक --

Something happened this morning that feels a bit extraordinary to me. A biological family member I had no idea I would ever meet in any way suddenly came out of the woodwork -- a cousin I had only a cursory knowledge of since I was a teenager, someone raised outside of the extended family I grew up with and knew. There are definitely people in the family who know what the real story was here, but no one wants to tell me what the fuck went down. Grandma used to say to me something along the lines of, "It's not my place to say." Um, okay. Bear in mind that I have another cousin who both molested children and went to jail for shaking his own baby. I also have an aunt who married her ex-husband's uncle, rendering her daughter's (also my cousin) first cousins once removed also her stepsiblings. I can still remember Grandma trying to explain that one to me when I was around 16, looking at my confused face, and saying, "I'm My Own Grandpa?"

But even though those things are fairly common knowledge within the extended family, this story -- this is the one family secret that seems to have been most closely guarded over the years. Just because it seems prudent, I won't get too more specific than to say this: one of my dad's siblings has a biological daughter who was not only not raised by said sibling, but was raised by her other parent and that parent's spouse, with no connection with the family that I grew up with. I only learned, directly from her this morning, that she found out she had a biological sibling of her own only through court documents when she was 18! It only just occurred to me that this would mean, actually, I knew of her existence -- with almost no information beyond that she existed -- many years before she knew of mine. As in, it would have been 1998 when she was 18. I was 22 then, and I knew of this "lost cousin" when I was a teenager -- if I remember correctly, anyway. Memory alone is notoriously unreliable, I suppose it should also be noted.

Suffice it to say that I have known about her for a long time. I have also known people in my family know things about her that they have refused to tell me. My grandparents, who clearly knew the story, though, are both now passed on. As this cousin -- I'll just refer to her as H -- said to me on Facebook Messenger this morning:

Yet more secrets that have died with those who keep them (my [late parent] had some [they] took with [them] regarding [their] side of the family as well). Even [parent term / bio parent name that is my dad's sibling] (? Still trying to find the term that's comfortable, I'm sure it will take time...) seemed to have a different take on the story as compared to when I had contacted [them] when I was 18. Although at that time I really wasn't ready to hear any other side and was actually just more interested in finding [her sibling / my cousin]. I had discovered [they] existed through court documents and was quite upset I was allowed to forget [their] existence.

Sorry to make that more confusing with the redactions regarding identifiable genders, but at this junction I just think it best to make it as difficult as possible to identify exactly which relatives of mine H is directly related to. I feel like the stuff she and I could learn from her are potentially in bombshell territory -- I could be wrong, but also maybe not. I mean, even in this initial exchange she referred to "my specific history and abuse allegations surrounding that" -- abuse by whom? I really don't know. This particular sibling of my dad's, I presume? I don't know why else she would be raised so deliberately away from said parent.

This part was rather interesting, though: in referencing when she met my cousin and said cousin's parent who is also her biological parent, she added, "I can't say if your orientation was an intentional oversight or not. You, and your interest in me, were mentioned to me though." The reference to orientation was the fact that she was surprised to discover on my Facebook I was gay, a detail apparently not mentioned when it apparently was mentioned that they knew I had been interested in learning more about her. As in, "I can't say if not mentioning your orientation was an intentional oversight or not." But, to be fair, it wouldn't necessarily make sense to say "By the way, he's gay" for no apparent reason without relevance to whatever topic was at hand. As for their knowledge of my interest in her, I only have the vaguest memory of bringing this up with them at one of the few family gatherings I have seen them at, but can't remember which one it was or how long ago.

There's a lot I find interesting about this woman irrespective of mysterious family history details, as it happens. I went looking at her profile details almost immediately after she sent me the friend request -- after which I messaged her: Wait. Are you who I think you are?? Are we cousins? (Yep.) To my moderate shock, although she lives in a very conservative part of the country, she's listed on Facebook as "in an open relationship" with her husband -- and she told me in our message exchange, "And bi to boot!" This is significant to me, as until now, biologically speaking, I was the only openly queer one of us among the 11 grandchildren -- 12 if you count H.

Now, I do feel compelled to clarify that I absolutely regard Angel and Gina as sisters, and at least for the past eight years or so, Gina has been openly gay as well (interesting that the only two of us who are gay are part of the same immediate family). But there are still conversations to be had regarding sexuality and genetics, and genetics shifts the conversation a little. Gina is not genetically related to me, and H is.

H told me also that her husband is an atheist, and she herself is Pagan -- but she's not brave enough to list that on her Facebook profile, which she says is even more controversial in her area than being polyamorous, which she specifically identifies with rather than just "open relationship," but Facebook doesn't yet offer it as an option. She told me another thing that appealed to her when looking at my page was that I list my religion as "secular humanist," a phrase she really liked. I had totally forgotten about that. I would still stand by it as a descriptor, but I do think of myself now as much more of an overt atheist.

Anyway. Say what you will about Facebook -- we are actually products rather than customers, etc etc -- but things like this would just never happen without it. Or maybe they would, but it would occur with less frequency and more difficulty. It just allows for all sorts of surprising ways to connect with people. Some don't want that, but the way it has facilitated things like this actually works for me. I usually don't accept friend requests unless I have met the person offline, in person, with just a small few notable exceptions. This seems like a pretty notable exception to me.

-- चार हजार एक सौ एक --


-- चार हजार एक सौ एक --

Not a lot to tell about last night, which was pretty low-key: bike ride home, then another unusual evening when I came home to an empty condo because Shobhit was working for another couple of hours. But! He made dinner before he left for work -- I forget the name of the dish, but it had hard boiled eggs in it, which he hasn't made in a long time. I quite liked it. It was further enhanced by the Annie's Homegrown BBQ Cheddar Squares that are way better than they sound, which a broker sent the office a whole case of, so Scott suggested I take some home. There was also a case of the White Cheddar flavor so I took one box of each. (These are clearly very new flavors; the Annie's Homegrown website is not yet listing them.) The BBQ Cheddar Squares were gone by the end of the evening last night, between Shobhit and me -- sort of: I brought to Ziplock bags of about a handful each back to work today, to go with the two boxes of lunches I packed of the dish Shobhit made. So that was lunch today.

I worked on some info for the next posting of the Social Review, which is to happen on the 21st, until Shobhit came home. I was able to tell him, though, that he will likely get 45 points this quarter -- by far the highest he's gotten since he moved away in 2010, and his second-highest score ever: he got 45 once before, and the very first full quarter we knew each other, summer 2004, was the one time he exceeded it, at 49 points. Barbara exceeded 45 points herself twice before (46 in fall 2006 and 48 in winter 2007), but Shobhit's 49 in summer 2004 remains the all-time record. I think both he and I had long since forgotten about that, particularly since he moved back home last December and has since been deliberately making efforts to pad his score, even though with Barbara many years gone now, he's in no danger of losing the #1 ranking no matter what his score is.

Then we watched Veep -- the best episode so far this season, I thought; I laughed a lot -- and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and then did the crossword.

Oh, and while Shobhit was gone I also finished the Hasan Minhaj standup special on Netflix, which I thought was truly excellent. It was rather fascinating to get the perspective of a first-generation child of immigrants from India -- but, unlike Shobhit, who grew up Hindu (which means he has his own specific prejudices that persist to this day), his family is Muslim. But they speak Hindi too, and he occasionally breaks out in Hindi in his performance when quoting his parents. But the whole show was largely about American prejudices and racism and was a tightly polished performance that was both thought-provoking and hilarious. I busted a gut a bunch of times, which is much more than the more typical consistent giggling most of these standup specials elicit.

-- चार हजार एक सौ एक --

Oh, and I almost forgot about ballot counting yesterday! I had even forgotten about it yesterday, reminded only by Outlook that I was to join them in the conference room in 15 minutes at 11 am. Lunch had been provided -- another delightful fact I had spaced. So the frozen lunch I brought yesterday won't be needed until Thursday now.

I've volunteered to count ballots every year for many years now, but a lot was different now, not least of which was the absence of Janice, who used to just email those of us she knew she could likely rely on to volunteer. With her, we usually started late afternoon and would stay an hour or two later than the work day typically ended. This time it started at 11 a.m. I got a nice lunch out of it, of half a caprese sandwich, kale salad, macaroni salad, and a cookie.

Most of the other volunteers were newbies. Maybe one or two people had counted in the past. My partner this time was Marie from IT, who only just had her one-year anniversary. This time the Executive Assistant to the CEO and Board of Trustees had sent out an office-wide email calling for volunteers.

There was something a little bogus about it this year, actually. We elected both Board of Trustees members and Nominating Committee members: three Trustee candidates for three positions available, and four Nominating Committee members for four positions available. I didn't actually vote this year, which was very unusual. I said to Marie, "I didn't vote. Don't tell anyone." But then we figured out it really didn't matter. All these people were in regardless.

Some curious changes this year: I guess they changed the rule regarding the necessity for a quorum, which partially explained why we had about half the number of ballots as usual to count, but there was also the clear argument of pointlessness given they were all essentially running unopposed. But the weirdest difference was in the Board of Trustees section, which included boxes to vote both "for" and "against." Why the hell are we bothering to cast -- and count! -- "against" votes when none of these people are possibly going to lose? Just so we can actually quantify the specific dislike for these people?

I actually asked, "I have a kind of philosophical question. There are three candidates and three open positions, correct? What is the purpose of 'against' votes?" The only explanation I would get was "Because we have to count 'against' votes." Um, okay, but why? We never did this before. For a minute or two this just went around in a couple of circles until I basically just gave up. I then turned to Marie and said, "I don't think that made it any clearer at all." She replied, "I agree with you completely."

I did notice something else while Marie and I were counting votes. She was way slower than I could have been, both reading votes for me to mark, and marking votes when I read them. She works in IT and often works directly with me on stuff and so far as I can tell she does a great job, but it did make me wonder if she works that slowly on other stuff. And do most people? When I'm working on virtually anything, I work comparatively super-fast. Honestly it kind of made me think, perhaps it hardly matters how much time I often waste at work. When I'm "in the zone," I go fast, which it could be argued easily makes up for it. On average I am just as productive as anyone, and perhaps more than most. So there!

And yes, going too fast can sometimes cause avoidable mistakes, which was once a problem for me, years ago. But I rarely make stupid mistakes anymore. So there, again!

By the way, a broker was coming into the office today and said hi to me when I walked past her. But this was how she said it: "Hi Matthew. You are so wonderful!" Shen then complimented me -- again -- on my communications with her and others at her brokerage. These brokers love me so much it's almost ridiculous. And I say this with all due humility (which, okay, I have none of), but I honestly don't feel like I'm exactly going "above and beyond" -- I'm just doing my job. To my way of thinking, it just reflects poorly on the other apparent dipshits they work with who evidently aren't as good at what they do.

-- चार हजार एक सौ एक --



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