Secrets of the Y chromosome

September 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

Pretty much everything I know about genetics, DNA, or genome studies you could write on a postage stamp. So I figured I should read up on the subject so I could fake my way through this post. I wish I could report that I am now able to talk intelligently about it, but unfortunately, pretty much everything in the Wikipedia article on chromosomes flew straight over my head. What I think I got out of it:

Apparently, everyone has these sex-determining chromosomes that basically come in just two types. You have the Y chromosome, which triggers testicle development if present, and the X chromosome which, apparently, does nothing at all. From what I gather, the default setting is to become female unless you happen to get a Y chromosome to combine with an X. The article went on to say that certain traits are inherited via the Y chromosome.

Well, duh!

It became clear to me at an early age that there were special traits that an XY person just automatically had. Inherited them, indeed. I didn’t have to win a Nobel Prize to understand this fact of life, no siree. I suppose I was privy to this bit of insight and, consequently, was ahead of the curve because I grew up among all those boys (see On boys, baseball and bags, August 21, 2013.)

What inherited trait, you ask? An uncanny capacity to make authentic motor sounds at a remarkably early age. I promise you this is a universal trait and no male has yet proved my conclusion wrong.

Whenever playing together with cars and trucks, the boys could always, always simulate these amazing real-life sounds. If they had a truck in hand, out of their throats and mouths came all the sounds an 18-wheeler would make grinding its way through all ten gears. They could pick up a toy motorcycle and convince me it was alive. Tractors, buses, cars – ditto. Race car tires screeched as they burned rubber and squealed when they took corners too fast. The boys were always, always able to produce stunning sounds that corresponded perfectly to the real McCoy.

This phenomenon wasn’t limited to wheeled vehicles. They could convincingly replicate the thrust of a jet engine, the putter of a motorboat, or the wup-wup-wup-wup of a helicopter rotor. It was incredible.

And thoroughly intimidating. To play in the presence of such virtuosity completely undid my confidence. I must have tried once upon a time to imitate the masters and fallen far, far short. I was so sure my puny attempts would draw scorn from the Titans of Sound that I refrained from ever trying to do it myself. I was resigned to the reality that, whenever I played with them, all my vehicles would be electric they always hummed.

I was okay with this disparity because I understood there were other realms in which girls ruled (Double Dutch jump rope merely being the first to come to mind). Eventually, though, we would grow out of playing with cars and trucks and such, and I wouldn’t give much more thought to the unequal distribution of “motor skills” until….

I brought the first wheeled toy into our home for my first child, a son. It came with the Fisher Price barnyard set. I got down on hands and knees to arrange the cows and pigs and chickens in and around the barn, and my hands fell on the tractor. And at that very moment I had an epiphany: “This two-year-old will never know that my tractor sounds are dorky – they’ll be the only tractor sounds he’ll hear while we play and he’ll think they’re fine.”

So I pulled out the stops and had a blast pushing that little tractor all over the living room carpet. But I didn’t stop there. As the boy grew, the toy collection grew. Eventually there would be two boys and lots of Tonka cars and trucks, Lego spaceships and Matchbox cars. So I got the chance to practice a full range of motorized sounds; I expanded my repertoire considerably. And not once did the boys deem my efforts inept or incompetent. I had dared to enter the Realm of Male Expertise and managed to hold my own. Life was good and I was satisfied.

But I promise you I’d never try it at the auto repair shop when the guys ask if I can tell them what noise the car is making…

x and y chromosome

Xand Y chromosomes


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