Heredity Borrowed

I am not an avid reader, but when I do crack open a book, I try to ensure it’s a piece of literature that will imprint 3 or 4 lasting ideas in my brain.  That may be a modest goal, but it’s one that I have resigned to accept after years of forgetting everything I have ever learned.  Also, and this is true for any of us, I find that repeating these 3 or 4 ideas to other members of society later in life is, assuming they are said with a confident, bordering-on-arrogant tone, enough to make people assume that you know what you’re talking about.  I guess most people are the same type of intellectual nomad, casually absorbing information in a variety of subjects with mild interest, doomed to remember just a few concepts; we are all masters of bullshit.

(WARNING: if you happen to find yourself in a pseudo-intellectual conversation with an expert on an academic topic, having that type of moment where you realize it was only ‘pseudo’ on your end, I don’t recommend panicking. Just realize that they’re a nerd and throw in an excuse like ‘it’s been so long since I’ve looked at it, I don’t know’ or my personal preference, switch the subject matter to something you are well-versed in, like ‘can you name the bench for the ’97 Bulls’ or ‘Spankwire vs. Pornhub: go!’)

I am currently reading Genome, a non-fiction bestseller from 1999 by Matt Ridley, which breaks down a lot of stuff that a bunch of scientists seem to have figured out about human genetics. It is written for the layman, and I think was fairly popular when it came out, so I can only assume it must have done for genetics what the “Planet Earth” mini-series did for biology, or what The Bible did for paganism. Ridley goes on and on about chromosomes, genes, proteins, RNA, DNA, how important and neat it is that we are all outfitted with a specific, indeterminate genetic recipe that required years of research to decrypt and hinges on different social triggers to even reveal itself … Look, if I had any background in science, I am sure these 300 pages would get my rocks off. I would be able zoom through it in a matter of days and marvel at the different studies that debate nature over nurture, that prove my personality is nothing more than inherited brain chemistry, and that evolution is a thing.

Unfortunately, my academic background is not in science, it is in bad romantic comedies.

Last night, I (intentionally and excitedly) watched “Something Borrowed” for the third time, the two previous viewings having been on an airplane. Please note that I do not mean to make excuses for why I watched this film a third time. In truth, I believe  “Something Borrowed” to be the best kind of romantic comedy.  Three reasons off the top of my head:

  1. It stars two women that I can see myself with sexually: Kate Hudson (romcom Hall-of-Famer) and Ginnifer Goodwin (typecast as the ‘cute, but not hot’ girl-next-door seen most famously as Justin Long’s love interest in “He’s Just Not That Into You”)
  2. It is written by a woman, therefore it is unclear what portions are intended to be comedic
  3. It has a delightful musical number, in this case, a dance routine set to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” by the pajama’d main characters

As you can see, there is a lot to like.  As far as the plot goes, here is what you need to know:  Hudson and Goodwin are best friends since birth— Hudson (the blonde) is not as smart but sure is purty and knows how to have fun (read: alcohol). Goodwin (the brunette) is more serious, responsible, and according to movie synopses I researched online, a “talented attorney at a top New York law firm.”  (Tangent: there are no scenes/allusions in the actual movie that display or mention Goodwin’s job performance, so calling her ‘talented’ or saying she is at a ‘top firm’ is so superfluous, I am stunned. The film is exactly the same if she is an average attorney at an average firm, but thanks anyway, movies.) 

Years back, Goodwin became law school best friends with a hunky douche known as ‘Dex’ (who we will refer to by character name only because the actor’s performance warrants no specificity).  Dex and Goodwin keep their moronic feelings for one another a secret while in school, leaving the door open for Hudson to Hot-Girl-Venus-Fly-Trap him as her new beau, and subsequent fiancé.  And so our love triangle is set!

The romance between Less-Obviously-Attractive Goodwin and Hot-Accomplished-Guy-Dex starts finally coming to fruition just as he is set to marry her best friend, Hot-Girl-Hudson.  How will our ne’er-gets-what-she-wants main character Goodwin ever balance her feelings for Dex with her loyalty to her best friend?  And what could ‘Something Borrowed’ symbolize as a title? Oh, wait, that one I finally get. I’m no expert on wedding tradition, but I don’t think the groom is what is supposed to be borrowed, Ms. Goodwin!

Last mentionable subplots: oh, okay, Jim from The Office is in it, playing a ‘writer’
who also grew up with these two ladies and is (maybe) around for comic relief and to be Goodwin’s closest confidante.  Also, Hudson is pushing hard for her straight-edged Goodwin to have sex or maybe even babies with Dex’s family friend Marcus, who loves women, pizza, partying, and has the type of short ponytail you would expect from a lacrosse player in college.

Deeeeep breath, you still with me?  Awesome. I knew you would be, Mom.

Today, I took another stab at getting through Genome, and it all. suddenly. made. sense.  Seen through the context of “Something Borrowed,” this book, chock full of polysyllables, started speaking a language I understood! Every sentence popped off the page and was sucked into my bloodstream. Had I taken Bradley Cooper’s pill from “Limitless?”  Or more relevantly, did I always have this comprehension inside of me, buried within some nonsensical string of DNA code, just waiting for this movie to come along and trigger its onset, much like how asthmatics have the ORMDL3 gene in their bloodstream but won’t develop the disorder until a specific allergic response is elicited?

  • Page 163  “Dopamine is perhaps the brain’s motivation chemical. Too little and the person lacks initiative and motivation. Too much and the person is easily bored and frequently seeks new adventures.”

I cannot tell you how helpful this was to finally understanding the volatile dichotomy separating Goodwin and Hudson’s characters.  I mean, when is Goodwin going to finally start standing up for herself and tell Dex that he is making a predictable error by marrying Hudson?  (editor’s note: about 100 minutes in)  If our heroine understood neurotransmitters, she would realize that she is genetically pre-disposed to submitting to other people’s will, and that Hudson, clearly pushing the legal limit when it comes to dopamine, is inevitably going to cheat on Dex (which she does!) and seek a mate for pro-creation as fun-loving and vapid as she is (ponytail-Marcus, come on down!).

Frankly, I just don’t get it. I mean, Goodwin cannot be said to have a complete absence of motivation — she did make it through countless years of NYU Law School, after all. But when it comes to her love-life, she is perfectly copacetic with selling herself short as a potential mate for Dex, choosing to defer to the bleach-blonde, amazing-ass’d Hudson.

  • Page 149  “Cortisol is used in virtually every system in the body, a hormone that literally integrates the body and the mind by altering the configuration of the brain. Cortisol interferes with the immune system, changes the sensitivity of the ears, nose and eyes, and alters various bodily functions.  When you have a lot of cortisol coursing through your veins, you are–by definition–under stress.”

After the initial tryst between Goodwin and Dex, the two forbidden lovebirds cannot seem to get a moment alone to discuss the sex-sesh that happened and where to go from there, instead resorting to eye-locks across the table and several missed calls Dex makes to her house phone, because you know, it takes place in 2010 and everyone uses those.  Eventually, they decide to spend July 4th weekend together, letting all their friends (not to mention the rest of the city) vacate Manhattan for the Hamptons. Left in a deserted New York City, Dex and Goodwin start their weekend alone by going for a walk together.  He even turns off his cellular telephone out of respect for this opportunity to speak to her sans fiancé, sans technology, sans ‘life’ as it were.  Though only a few seconds in, Dex proclaims “this is already the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.”

Well duh, Dex! It’s because your cortisol levels are probably much lower than normal. You’re not thinking about work, or the wedding you’re planning, or the typical NYC hustle-bustle– you’re just focusing on banging that Maid of Honor again. With a lowered stress level, every sensory detail is that much more vivid; the innocent, understated beige of Goodwin’s sundress, the misty, floral odor of her stride– these things come alive (!) when you are just strolling through Manhattan on an apparently non-humid, July afternoon. Goodwin and Dex can finally let their guard (cortisol) down, and talk about the good ‘ol days in law school, or about how they are going to have sex on her roof later.

  • Page 75  “You had better get used to such indeterminacy. The more we delve into the genome the less fatalistic it will seem. Grey indeterminacy, variable causality and vague predisposition are the hallmarks of the system… simplicity piled upon simplicity creates complexity.”

Boy, you just said a mouthful, Ridley. And that’s the thing, I truly don’t believe Goodwin had any malicious intentions. No home-wrecker can be innocent if you ask me, but it’s not like she set out to sleep with Dex and start this chain reaction and ultimately extinguish her friendship with Hudson. She is a girl of typically responsible morality, who usually has her wits, but we all know it’s hard to keep your closed-toe lawyer shoes on the ground when you are being swept off your feet!  And the more she hides this from Hudson, including the Bachelorette Party sleepover (where Dex tries to visit at 3 a.m. to see Goodwin and NOT Hudson), the worse and worse it gets for her. She has to make up a story about sleeping with their mutual friend Ethan, a.k.a. Jim from The Office. Up to this point in the film, Ethan has spent the movie avoiding the romantic advances of a different bridesmaid, but thennn decides to drop an atomic bomb on us near the end by saying that he has always been in love with Goodwin, too!  God, I’m out of breath. Truly, simplicity upon simplicity does indeed yield complexity.

Without equivocation, the sexual web that these 5 or 6 white people weave throughout “Something Borrowed” has enough misdirection and misunderstanding to give any geneticist vertigo.  I can only hope that Mr. Ridley has an ending for Genome that leaves me as on the edge of my seat as the movie does.  I’m satiated, sure, I mean why wouldn’t I be, now that who-should-be-together is now together?  But how much time will pass before Hudson and Goodwin can be best friends again?  Are there some wounds too deep to heal?  Will Dex be able to maintain that tight abdomen, or that chest, as hairless as it is defiant?

Love, it seems to me, can be as messy to explain and explore as the human genome. Both have an obstacle course of variables in front of them, whether that be the environment they inhabit, the disease that can be triggered, (a.k.a. heartbreak), and of course the greatest x-factor of them all:  fate.

I think I can finally put this book down.  I got what I needed from it.