Thursday, May 22, 2008

...Get a Toaster Oven

I've said it before and I'm saying it again now: If you want guarantees get a toaster oven.

The question has come up on bad4shidduchim's blog about health issues and making shidduchim. Most of the commenters are younger than I am and their comments and attitudes worry me--no, let me be frank and honest; they scare me to death and they piss me off like almost nothing else. A lot of what I hear online and in the "real" world represents misinformation and disinformation. In particular, people are worried about genetic diseases. Going to the government and medical research websites which talk about genetic disease in particular can be enlightening. The following is a short excerpt from one of those sites.

Hereditary Diseases

There are about 5,000 human genetic diseases, including muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, and Tay-Sachs disease. Genetic disease take a particularly heavy toll among the young, resulting in one-fifth of all infant mortalities, half of all miscarriages, and 80 percent of all cases of mental retardation. Genetic disease afflicts perhaps 15 percent of the general population, but if one considers diseases which are polygenic or have a strong genetic component (such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease), then they account for fully 75 percent of all deaths in the United States.

Although medicine was helpless for thousands of years against these ancient diseases, molecular medicine promises us new therapies and strategies in the battle against them, and possibly even cures. However, it is a battle that must be waged indefinitely, because there is a never-ending struggle between evolution (which gradually eliminates these harmful genes by natural selection) and mutations (which are constantly being replenished by random errors, cosmic rays, toxins, environmental contaminations, etc.). In each generation, a few hundred mutations occur in the DNA of each one of us. If we assume that a small percentage of these are harmful, then perhaps two or three harmful genes creep into our bodies by mutation. Thus perhaps 10 billion new harmful genes enter the human gene pool every generation. As a result, the battle against genetic disease will never end.

Yes, there are 5000 specific genetic diseases that we know of right now. In addition, genes are involved in other diseases which we do not think of as being genetic, such as cancer and Alzheimers.Those are only the genetic diseases that we know about right now. Nor does that 5000 number represent all diseases possible in a human being. There are environmental factors that influence the prevalence of disease as well. And then, as the article states, there are the constantly mutating genes that occur in all of our DNA in each generation.

Some of those diseases and medical conditions which the frum population worries about so much are not genetic in nature; some are. A few are avoidable through careful selection of marrying parties (Tay-Sachs disease for one); most aren't. Some of what we label disease could rightly be labeled as a medical condition instead, present in one person but not genetic.

Health questions have become legion in the shidduch process. Let someone have a sibling with Downs Syndrome and shidduch prospects plummet. Let someone have a parent or grandparent who has had heart disease and the prospects plummet. Hay fever? Don't advertise it--it's bad for shidduchim. Hearing loss? Don't admit it. You needed speech therapy before? Forget you had it.

Because of this "fear of the fatal," people are lying about any and all conditions that they personally may have or that may have been in their families. Medical histories are being hidden or re-written. Why? Because it's all bad for shidduchim. What's really bad for shidduchim is the fact that people are turning into liars.

Common sense is one thing--think Dror Yeshorim. But the vast majority of things that can afflict human beings are not things that we can predict with any high degree of accuracy nor assurance.

None of us were guaranteed by our Maker to be perfect, and yet we insist on that illusory perfection in those we are looking to marry. As the article states, mutations occur in the billions in each generation. You cannot possibly know what to look for or to watch out for.

The "imperfect" in Klal are redt shidduchim, by and large, only to others with such "imperfection" in their families. "Regular" people turn them down. Regular people? Do you really know what's going on in the deep recesses of your body, of your genetic code? Do you know what mutations might as I write this be taking place in your body? What makes you think that you are not the next ticking genetic time bomb? Or maybe you are going to be the next victim of environmental influences.

And if a "perfect" person who marries another "perfect" person happens to come down with some kind of medical condition or disease, does the non-afflicted partner get to ask for his/her money back? What balderdash! Be sensible, yes; insist on "genetic purity"--wasn't that the Nazi's party line?

Yes, Ribboneh Shel Olam, Your chosen people here on earth are conducting one big genetic screening test; they call it making the perfect shidduch. Yes Tate, they shame people and cause them public embarrassment in doing so. Yes Tate, they shun Your children for being as You created them. Yes Tate, some of Your children believe that You created them better than other of Your children. And please Tate, have rachamim when You show them the error of their ways, when their burden to bear arrives for them. Please Tate, be merciful in their afflictions. And please Tate, help us to see, before it is too late, the error of our thinking, the error of our ways.


Anonymous said...

Really only one thing to say-----APPLAUSE! As one among the ones that are less than perfect, thank you.

SaraK said...

What's really bad for shidduchim is the fact that people are turning into liars.

Be sensible, yes; insist on "genetic purity"--wasn't that the Nazi's party line?

Bravo! Bravo! EXCELLENT post.

Anonymous said...

The fear of the shidduchim consequences of disease has even worse effects. often people do not get adequate medical screening and treatment, for fear it will effect their kids shiduchim. For many cancers early detection and treatment is crucial; this fear causes death.

Bas~Melech said...

I'd like to add one thought to the excellent points made already:

One thing that should affect the sensibility rating of any precaution is its reliability. For instance, Tay Sachs, Familial Dysautonomia, and other predominantly Jewish diseases can be nearly 100% prevented by genetic screening (which is why the incidence of both of the above has drastically fallen since Dor Yeshorim came into favor).

Compare to Down Syndrome, which is MOST often not hereditary at all. "Current research (as of 2-19-8) has shown that Down syndrome is due to a random event [ed: read, "act of God"] during the formation of sex cells or pregnancy." (Wikipedia) Other conditions, too, are at least as likely to happen to people with no hereditary predisposition.

I think shadchanim owe it to their clientele to do a bit of research on this and related subjects in order to present people with a well-rounded perspective. We as a klal also need to do our part to educate ourselves and each other so that we can be more understanding of fellow Jews in all different situations.

Anonymous said...

It sometimes looks to me like people are looking for a reason to turn down a shidduch instead of accepting it so they bring out some medical reason that "proves" that the shidduch is wrong. My grandfather died of a heart condition at a pretty young age (46). This scared off lots of shidduchim for my brother. Because one person died from something all the men in the family were going to die young too? Can anyone say Auschwitz? Can anyone say starvation and deprivation that did horrible things to the bodies of the men and women in the concentration camps? He got married anyway because his wife's family was looking for a husband for their daughter. They weren't looking for a medical statistic. They were smart enough to know that everybody has a something in their history.

ProfK said...

Just a small comment here to "lighten" things up a bit. Beware of following medical statistics slavishly. People look at the numbers presented and all too often base a shidduch on whether the numbers are favorable or not. A friend called me all excitedly. She announced with glee that she was going to go back to smoking cigarettes. I asked what ever for. She answered: "They just came up with a study that shows that 60% of all cigarette smokers die. Since 100% of the rest of us die, I want to be in that 40% that won't die. Better odds of living forever by smoking." She was tongue in cheek when she said this, but so many others see a number and never bother to actually look at what that number is saying. As Joel Best warned: "some statistics are born bad."

G said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again. Going to the extreme in either direction is no good for anybody.

What's really bad for shidduchim is the fact that people are turning into liars.

Everything else is commentary.

-I'm not sure how happy I am about the fact that I predicted this little diatribe...don't know that I want to be that dialed in;)

ProfK said...

I'm not recommending extremism--see the note on Dror Yeshorim and on having common sense.

Everything else is commentary? If by commentary you mean explanation and further elucidation and a differing of opinion on how to look at things, then let's hear it for commentary. We already had the Mishna--what did we need the Gemorah for if not for commentary? And was it not you who "insisted" on commentary on the Donne poem?

As to your predictive state, perhaps you will sleep better if you put it down to recognizing that some topics fall into a general area of interest of mine.

G said...

Jesus H. really need to relax.

ProfK said...

G, this is relaxed.

Anonymous said...

It's part of human nature to be afraid of the unknown. We hear about a medical condition somewhere in a possible shidduch's family or maybe in the person themselves and we get frightened. We starting asking ourselves "what if this should happen to my grandchildren?" What we don't do enough of is educate ourselves on what that condition really is and how it can really affect the future kids.

One of my nieces is only 4'11" tall. Her parents are very tall people. When she went into shidduchim people would hear her height, ask how tall the parents were and then assume that something must be wrong with her if she is that short. One possible shidduch was turned down because the boy's parents were worried about dwarfism, and since people lie about shidduchim, they assumed the worst and wouldn't go forward with the shidduch. If you are going to worry about genetics then actually learn about genetics. We had a very short grandmother, far more common in her day. That short gene is still around and shows up sometimes. Nothing to do with dwarfism and everything to do with ignorance on the part of others.

And if one of her children should turn out to be short? What does that have to do with anything that should be important to marriage?

Anonymous said...

ProfK = While I agree with your take on the issue, I don't like your tone. It is too resigned. To accepting.

Where is anger that I expected, frustration, disgust?

On a side note I have a big problem with "Dror Yeshorim" and I think you should start another post on that. My problem is the fact that results of the test are kept secret from the girls and boys themselves. When my daughter was of age we opted against "Dror Yeshorim" and just went to the doctor for a test. Doctor gave her her results and that was the end of a story. My youngest will be taking the same route, and if her school insists on "Dror Yeshorim" I will call them and give them a piece of my mind on this issue.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree mlevin. There is plenty of hysteria in discussing this already. What is needed is some logical, calm discussion on what really can be guarded against and what can't be. The posting pretty much does that. And if you are looking for outrage, read the last paragraph again.