If you're a non-vasectomized man, there's a small-but-real chance this little sobriquet will be the most important thing you will ever read while at work.
Life is about avoiding traps. Avoiding setbacks matters quite a bit, maybe even more than taking steps forward vis-a-vis accomplishments. This is because traps can be HUGE. Make one bad decision about texting and driving and you can find yourself in prison for ten years, only to emerge with a felony on your record. Same for the poor bastard in South Carolina who was put on a sex offenders watch list for the rest of his life after being convicted of public indecency after urinating outdoors.
Other traps are more pernicious. Some of them can go off without you doing anything wrong per se. To illustrate this, I'd like to share one of my favorite scientific papers. In 2005, Mark Bellis and Co. published a review article (an article that summarizes other original research) on the rates of parental discrepancy. In it, they review virtually every study that's been conducted that aims to answer one simple question: how often is a man caring for a child that he believes is his but, in actuality, is not?
Drum role please... the answer is about four percent, with a confidence interval of 2.7 to 9.6 percent (that means there's a 95 percent chance of the actual number being in that range).
Frighteningly common, yes? Reading the paper, it seems that the authors (in my opinion) are very, very conservative in their estimate. They toss out studies where a child's true paternity is is suspicious, as well as a few other findings that skew high (incidentally, if you suspect the kid ain't yours, there's a 30 percent chance you're right). The number of "misattributions" seems to fluctuate with societal conditions; one German study taken right after the wall fell found that about 10% of German dads from that period were cuckolds.
What's the point?
Let's skip/avoid the bitter mysogynistic rant. Men lie. Women lie. Men can be promiscuous douchbags, so too are women. There's a long history of this; the first well-documented example of misattributed paternity I can think of goes back all the way to forty weeks before 0 BC.
But I digress. The point is, no one seems to care that this is going on WITH REGULARITY. This study was covered by shockingly few members of the media and it is BAFFLING why not. This is a public health problem that affects more young people than virtually any other disease, I reckon.
The other thing is how little people seem to mind the type of inherent blatant dishonesty that this article reveals. Unknowingly saddling a man with a child that isn't theirs seems, to me, one of the greatest injustices you can perpetrate on another person. I think most of us are familiar with objective studies of the emotional, physical and financial costs of parenthood (for those of you who are not, having children has one of the strongest, long-lasting impacts on happiness). To yoke someone into what, for most, is a sort of prison seems unfathomably evil. And yet there's this ill-defined blase attitude that it's somehow unimportant who the father is, because it's all about the child. For that, a man is punished merely for choosing poorly in his choice of mate. Trap, indeed.
For that reason, I propose something that would piss every mombie off: I recommend every man discreetly use the magic of genetic testing to check/confirm whether your kid is actually yours. Even if you like/love the kid, you should be aware of your partner's issues with fidelity. If I ever have a kid, you can be damn sure I'll be doing it. Trust, but verify.
One other thing...
I mentioned earlier that there's this vague favoritism towards the mother when it comes to parental misattribution. Here's a concrete example of it.
Let's explore a hypothetical situation: Imagine you're a man with a kid who's born with autism. Concerned, you take yourself, wife and newborn son to a genetic counselor to discuss the risks of having additional children. They take the DNA from you, your offspring and your wife and do some sequencing work for known autism risk genes. A few weeks later you come back to discuss the results. Before you sit down, the counselor asks to speak with your wife privately. As you sit baffled, they step out into the hall to have a chat.
Know what's going on? In all likelihood, the counselor subscribes to unilateral disclosure guidelines and, under your very nose, is telling your wife that you are not the father of her child. Based on my understanding, genetic counselors who discover that a child has misattributed paternity (that's a nice term for it, yes?) will generally only reveal that information to the child's mother. In other cases (like this article), universal nondisclosure (i.e., you don't tell the mother that the kid isn't the father's) has been recommended. This is, in my opinion, worse, because there's no private hallway conversation to tip you off.
Obviously I am a fan of full disclosure. There are valid reasons (that genetic risk stuff cuts both ways, you know), but paternity information is ultimately useful, and the decision what to do with it cannot be made by (or trusted to) an external party. Keeping this vital information private, fellow humans, is a fat sack of bullshit. Even in a worst case scenario where the pregnancy is blameless (e.g., you follow "the lifestyle" and your wife gets knocked up by Lazy Don at a swinger's BBQ) you should still be made aware of it.
In situations where a misattributed pregnancy might not be excusable (and believe that's the vast majority), a man owes absolutely nothing to either the woman or baby. That might sound harsh, but a baby's a trap that lasts 18 years and will suck a tremendous amount of energy/time/money out of you. I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to invest my limited resources in the ones I fathered. So be it if it makes me a bad person.
This position can be underscored in the case I've presented. In the genetic counseling example, you've got a kid who is likely going to be a medical nightmare that will likely - let's face it - hand like a boat anchor from your neck for the rest of your life, as well as a (again, barring extenuating circumstance) cheating spouse. You think she's gonna look at you, look at the medical mess she'll be left with and then go ahead and tell you the truth? MMM-hmmm. So remember, if the geneticist wants to speak to your wife privately, it's time for you to take a couple of swabs yourself.
My gift to new dads everywhere:
Labcorp paternity test link. Not the cheapest, but we use them for outsoucing and they do good work. Two hundred dollars well-spent.
Tl;dr: Private conference at genetic counselor? Maybe time for a divorce.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.