1 How I got screwed over by the double-recessive ugliness gene By Nathanael W. Dungan In today’s society people are always in such a hurry to get their days going that they don’t really takethe time to look in the mirror in the morning. They look at it to make sure that they don’t have something intheir teeth, or to make sure their hair is straight, or to make sure they don’t have a booger hanging out theirnose. But very rarely do they really look in the mirror. I mean REALLY look. To look at the person thatthey really are. I don’t know the actual percentages but I would guess that the number of people thatactually take time to look at themselves in the mirror is right around 2.547%. I found myself rushing around one day as I got ready for work so I forced myself to stop for amoment and join the 2.547% and actually take a look at the person in the mirror. And when I did I wassuddenly overtaken by emotion. All I could bring myself to say was “dang, I am one ugly son-of-a-gun!” I stood for a moment in contemplation. I could not believe that I had never seen this ugliness before.No wonder more people don’t look in the mirror. I had been too blinded by the busyness of my day to daylife to realize the ugliness that had overtaken my person. Had ugliness been part of my appearance allalong or had I just recently become this hideous? I pulled out some childhood photos. I could not believemy eyes! I had been ugly all along. Why had no one told me of my anti-attractiveness? Why had I beenled to believe that I was at least somewhat attractive all my life? My parents must have realized early onthat I was destined to be ugly and had decided to do their best to keep me from the pain which is part of lifefor the beauty impaired. They must have asked friends, family, and coworkers to help them in this missionto keep my ugliness hidden. And it had worked. Until this moment I had no idea that the world of beautiful people had secretlybeen laughing at me throughout my entire existence. Now the weird looks I had received from otherchildren suddenly made sense. My parents were excellent deceivers. They would simply pretend to wipesomething off of my face and claim that is what the children were looking at. My parents had done their job.They had kept me from making the realization of my ugliness early on in life. Now as an adult, here I was, standing in front of the mirror, face to face with my ugly face. How hadthis happened? My parents were not ugly. My brother was not ugly. In fact, there wasn’t a single memberof my family that was ugly. What had made me different? It must be some were quirk of genetics. I decided that there were some things more important than work. I skipped work and began lookingfor the genetics textbook that I had from college. I was sure that the elementary school kids would be ableto safely cross the street without a crossing guard, so I began studying the book. After tearing the protective plastic wrapping off the front of the book, I started reading. I flippedthrough several chapters in the textbook but found nothing that would explain why I had become ugly whenso many others in my family had not. Perhaps if I had opened the book while in college I would have hadan explanation for this phenomenon without having to do research. I quickly realized that I had no understanding whatsoever of the material I was reading. I didn’t evenknow where to start looking for an explanation to my ugliness. I needed to talk to someone who was anauthority in the field of genetics. I called one of my former professors. One of the few who I thought mightremember me because I had actually attended his class. I had taken his class during the semester where Iwas on academic probation so my attendance was exceptional. I called the school and asked to be connected to his office phone. I was a little afraid that he mightbe down at the Long John Silvers enjoying some deep fat fried chicken, but he answered. “Hello?” “Professor?” It didn’t sound like him. There was a pause, “yes, sorry, you caught me in the middle of a bite of food.” “Long John Silvers?” I asked.
2 “As a matter of fact, yes,” he responded. After telling him who I was and making sure that he had time to visit with me for a few minutes, Ibegan my quest for understanding. “I need to ask you a question about genetics,” I said. “Ok, shoot,” He said. “Alright, can you give me an explanation of why a person might have a trait that no one else in thefamily has?” I asked. “Well, without knowing the specifics of the trait and the person involved it is difficult to make thatjudgement. It could be from a mutation of some kind…” “The specifics of the trait is ugliness and the person is me,” I interrupted. “You must have noticedthe trait when I was in class.” There was another long pause and then, “Yes. I had noticed, but I received a copy of a memo sentto the school by your parents asking faculty and staff not to talk about it.” I was shocked. Even the teachers at the school from which I had received my degree were part ofthe conspiracy. I continued my questioning, “What causes it?” “Much study has been done in the area of ugliness and it has recently been determined to becaused by something that is being called the ‘ugly gene’. It is a homozygous recessive trait only found in .02% of the world” he said. I was confused, “whoa, whoa, homozygous?” “Didn’t you say you took my class?” he asked. “Well, yes, but I don’t think I heard the definition of that word. I tend to start laughing whenever Ihear a word that starts with homo.” I responded. “Oh yes. I remember that. What that basically means is that both alleles are the same. Homomeans same….please stop laughing…do you want my help or not?” “Sorry, yes.” “So I believe your question is really, ‘why did you turn out ugly?’. The explanation is simple. Both ofyour parents must have been carriers of the recessive trait and passed it on to you. Ugliness like yours onlyshows up when it has two recessives. That explains why they are not ugly, but you are.” “But what about my brother? He has the same mom and dad as I do, I’m pretty sure,” I asked. “Genetics is kind of like horse racing, you never know what the outcome will be. You never reallyknow what traits you are going to get. Sometimes kids have a different color of hair than their parents. Inthis case you ended up with ugliness that your parents didn’t have. So I guess, in this race, your horsebroke its leg and had to be put down. And your brother’s horse won. To put it kindly.” I ended my conversation with my professor and stood in stunned silence. I wasn’t sure that knowingthe cause had made me feel any better. I had to talk to my parents. Tell them I knew the truth. Tell themthey didn’t need to carry on the charade any longer. “Mom, it’s me. Can you tell dad to get on the other phone? I have something important to talk toyou about.” When they had both gotten on the phone I began, “Mom, Dad, I know you both love me verymuch. And I appreciate all you have done for me throughout the years, but I need to know something. Whydidn’t you just tell me I was ugly as a child so I could learn to live with it instead of leaving me to find out onmy own later on?” Mom spoke first, “Son, you are not ugly!” She was still trying to protect me. “Dad?” “I really don’t know what you are talking about son,” he responded. Obviously they had been denying the truth for so long that they now actually believed it. I wasn’tgoing to get any information out of them. But I couldn’t blame them. As parents it is their duty to try tomake their children as happy and healthy as possible. They were still trying to keep me emotionallyhealthy.
3 I decided to call my brother. He had never told me about my ugliness so obviously my parents hadtold him not too. He would be honest with me and give me details about the plot to keep it from me. “Hey, it’s me. Can I ask you a few questions?” I asked. “I’ve been thinking about the deal you offered me and I’m just not sure I want to do anythingillegal…” “Idiot! It’s your brother.” “Oh, sorry, you sounded like someone else. Forget about the ‘illegal’ thing, ok?” “Ok, whatever. I need to talk to you about something. How old were you when mom and dad toldyou not to mention my ugliness?” “Four.” “Seriously?” “No. And I have no idea what you are talking about! I mean, you are ugly but they never told me notto say it.” “Not even once?” I asked. “Dude, you’re not ugly. What is wrong with you?!” He exclaimed. Obviously he had been brain washed as a child. I didn’t know my parents were capable of suchthings. The lengths that they would go to protect me were incredible. That night, while waiting for myroommates to get home I made call after call. I called everyone I could think of from my childhood andasked them to be honest with me. None of them would. My parents had obviously either paid them off verywell or threatened their lives if they told. Finally I could hear my roommates coming through the front door. I was anxious to talk to themabout everything that I had experienced that day. I needed someone to be honest with me. One of myroommates had been a friend since I was young and I knew that he would be of some help. But before Icould speak a word they were telling me about something they had heard on the news. “Three school kids got hit by a car because there wasn’t a crossing guard on duty watching theintersection,” one of them said. “They havent released the name of the guard that was supposed to be there, but school officialssaid he didn’t even call to say he wouldn’t be there,” the other roommate said. “But the guy on the newssaid that when they found out who the guy was they were going to call him for a comment.” The phone rang. I picked it up. I hung it up. “Who was that?” “Wrong number. Can I talk to you guys about something?” “Yeah, what’s up?” I told them about my day and all I had been through. I told them I needed some honesty. I beggedthem for honesty. I asked my childhood friend if my parents had bought his silence. “Well, now that I am done with college I guess I can tell you. From the time I was very little theybought me little gifts to keep me from talking to you about it. As a kid, gifts meant a lot, so I kept my mouthshut. When we got to high school I wanted to tell you. I thought that it would help you to understand whyyou never got dates. The rejection you kept getting was hard to watch. I went to your parents and said thatI was going to tell you. But then they offered to pay for my college if I would keep the secret for the rest ofmy life. College is expensive. It was the only way I could afford to go.” I turned to my other roommate. “And you?” “When I became your friend our first year of college I started to say something to you one time buthe stopped me. He told me that your parents did not want you to know. Soon your parents contacted meand offered me a car if I wouldn’t tell you anything about your ugliness. I needed a car to get to work. Icouldn’t turn that down. I love that car.”
4 I thanked them for finally telling me the truth. I promised not to make my parents aware that theyhad gone against their wishes. Moments later the emotion of the day finally caught up with me and I wasovertaken with tears. “What am I going to do?” I sobbed. “Man, it isnt that bad,” one of my roommates said. The other agreed, “yeah, there are worse things.” I continued to sob. “That is easy for you guys to say. You are not ugly. How many ugly peoplehave you seen that are married? How many ugly people have you seen that led successful happy lives?None! That’s how many!” “Hold on a second,” one of them said. “I think I saw something on CNN the other night about theugly gene. They said there is a treatment for it. They have found that something in grape jelly combats theugliness.” “Really? So maybe if I put some grape jelly on my face it will make me attractive?” I asked. “Yeah, they said that a single hour dose will cure it in most people. In those that it doesn’t there isno cure,” he explained. I was desperate. So I rushed to the refrigerator and found a jar of grape jelly. Without any concernfor my clothing or the carpeting I started spreading it all over my face. Then I grabbed some bandages fromthe bathroom and covered my face. The hour seemed like an eternity. I wanted to remove the bandages and see if I could notice adifference, but my roommate told me that I needed to keep the bandages on for at least an hour. Finally the time was almost up. I wanted to take the bandages off as soon as the kitchen timer wentoff but I decided to wait for five more minutes just to be sure. Finally, my time was up. I went to thebathroom and removed the bandages. I was almost afraid to look. I ran some warm water and placed myface down in it. When the jelly no longer covered my face I slowly rose my head to face the mirror. Myeyes were closed. Finally, I opened my eyes. Nothing had changed!! I was still ugly! My heart sunk. I was a hopeless case. The jelly had notworked and I was doomed to live my life as one of the .02%. I returned to the living room where myroommates were waiting. “So?” of them asked. “So!? You can’t see that I am still ugly?! It didn’t work. I am destined to be ugly,” I respondedangrily. “It was a good try at least,” the other said. “I can’t live this way, I am going to go far away from here. I am going to move to the mountains tobe by myself so no one will ever have to look upon my face again,” I said as I turned to go begin packing mythings. “Wait a second, man, don’t do that! It was only a joke. We were just messing around with you.” “What?!!” “Yeah. The mirror is a fake. We found it at a garage sale. It used to belong to a guy who owned acarnival.” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe I could fall for something like that. Perhaps I wasn’t ugly after all.“But what about the professor?” “We ran into him at the grocery store one night and told him you might be calling. We knew that hisscience class was the only one that you ever went to. We asked him to play along.” “So I am not ugly?” I asked. “No uglier than anyone else. There is no such thing as an ugly gene. People’s looks do depend ongenetics but there isnt one that makes you ugly.” At first I was very angry knowing that they had caused me such turmoil that day. I had gone throughso many emotions that day that I felt physically drained. But after a moment I found the humor in the
5situation and I began to laugh slightly. And my roommates began to laugh. Soon we were all laughinghysterically. But the jolly atmosphere was short-lived because at that moment I saw the flashing lights in thedriveway and heard the knocking at the door.