5 for Friday: Go ask daddy about reproductive science, canine cancer, and the power of a woman’s legs


photo credit: IMG_0541 via photopin (license)
photo credit: IMG_0541 via photopin (license)

Ah, more questions.

They never cease, from the kids; this keeps we dads mentally sharp. It’s sudoku without the math. Kind of.

One question came whistling in from left field recently – about whether girls can marry girls.

It came on mom’s watch, so she got to field that one, and did quite well.

The rest were mine:

1. Do animals ever have twins?

photo credit: david and isaac via photopin (license)
photo credit: david and isaac via photopin (license)

Technically, when I see a litter, I’m thinking, twins, triplets, quadruplets, and whatever sphere Kate Goesling and the Octomom reside. But technically, those aren’t twins, triplets, quadruplets, Goselingets or Octomomets. Twins happen only when zygotes split in half, says science. And the Internet.

See, when a critter has a litter, it’s the result of multiple female gametes being released. It’s like when they first open the doors at Wal-mart on Black Friday. Only far less deadly. Only one other animal – besides humans – gets to enjoy the feat of monozygotic twins: The armadillo.

And with the armadillo, you’ll sometimes get not twins, but quadruplets, from two binary fissions of a single fertilized oocyte. I know, I know, way technical. There’s a period of arrested development, too, just after the embryo develops to hatchling blastocyst, therefore …

Ah, heck with it. The trivia answer is armadillo. Let’s move on.

2. How can you tell if a person was a boy or a girl if all you have left is a skeleton?

photo credit: Skeleton - French anatomical engraving via photopin (license)
photo credit: Skeleton – French anatomical engraving via photopin (license)

Well, boys are tall, and girls are short, but apparently, this isn’t the fool-proof method. Plus, you know daddy’s skeleton will be shorter than, say, Kerri Walsh’s. (Let’s not think about daddy’s skeleton for now. Or Kerri’s. Or why they’d be found together.)

First, like with young, skinny Elvis, it’s all in the pelvis. We fellows have titled-forward sacrum; you girls’ are tilted back. Your ilia are also spread more, to give you a bigger pelvic outlet (presumably for birthing). Ours is all closed off, like our minds, sometimes.

So, what if the pelvis is out of the picture, and you have only a skull? (Let’s break here to hope that you’re never in a spot, unless it’s forensically or scientifically, in which you’re shifting through bones to identify gender. OK, back to the program.)

We guys have more pronounced occipital protuberance and mastoid process. Basically, thicker skulls. Also, our teeth are bigger, our jaws more square (yours are more gracile and beautiful), and our brows are heavier. This is to remind both genders that we’re more closely linked to Cro Magnons, somehow.

Man, these answers are getting heavy. Let’s just go with this: If the hips are narrow and the skull is thick and caveman-like, it’s probably a dude.

3. Can a dog get cancer from second-hand smoke?

photo credit: mom, i thought we were staying home this year? : folsom street fair, san francisco (2012) via photopin (license)
photo credit: mom, i thought we were staying home this year? : folsom street fair, san francisco (2012) via photopin (license)

Yes they can, especially pooches with long snouts (which ought to spur scientists to study whether people with big noses are more likely to get cancer this way). Dogs have other worries, too, such as toxins in their vaccines and the plastic used to make their food dishes. Not to mention electric fences and dog catchers.

(Studies are still being done on these threats, though. The food dishes, not the electric fences.)

Second-hand smoke will affect anything with lungs, and it’s a great way to spread the love if you’re a smoker. Like that lady in the car with the panting dog that brought this question up in the first place.

4. What are lightsabers like? Are they so hot they melt things?

OK, my little Padawans, I knew this question would come at some time. Every father should have the Jedi talk with his children, preferably before they’re old enough to join the Rebel Cause.

Lightsabers are plasma weapons, meaning that they are designed, in part, to cut metal. Therefore, it would be irresponsible for me to have one in the house. Despite how I vote, I’m fine with others keeping weapons in their home, but I’ll defer, especially with something as potent as a lightsaber. It’s one thing to keep the bullets to your gun in a separate cabinet; it’s quite another to have a lightsaber around kids (I don’t think they even have safety switches).

Yes, lightsabers are so hot they melt things. I was confused at this as a boy, when Darth Vader cut down Ben Kenobi in that fateful duel on the Death Star. When Vader’s lightsaber hit Ben’s cloak (Ben totally gave himself up), Ben vanished into thin air. This is a Jedi trick, not the science of lightsabers. In reality, a lightsaber is so hot that it will cut through anything – metal, marble, Jedi limbs, and, I presume, roast beef.

Did I really just spend three paragraphs explaining lightsaber safety? I did. And I couldn’t have done it without help from this very cool website.

5. How come a girl can get a taxi by lifting her dress like this, and a guy can’t?

photo credit: A Jedi stopped by my house today and forgot his thingy...  It's mine now! via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Jedi stopped by my house today and forgot his thingy… It’s mine now! via photopin (license)

Man. I think I’d rather have fielded the question about girls marrying girls.

Legs. Well, they’re sort of the universal language. Hmm. (shifts uncomfortably.)

See, I know you saw Nancy Drew on The Hardy Boys hail a cab by showing a little leg. (Grace even demonstrated the technique.)

I think I have terrific legs for a 40-year-old guy, but I know flashing them won’t get me extra sprinkles on my ice cream, let alone a cab ride. This has nothing to do with my musculature, a little to do with how hairy my legs are, and mostly to do with supply and demand.

You know how on really cold soccer mornings, you’d love to have hot chocolate? It’s appealing. So too is ice-cold lemonade on your hottest soccer days. People will do whatever they can to get it. But try to sell the chilled lemonade in the winter or the hot chocolate in July, and, well, you’re not going to beat down any doors.

So dad’s legs – and most guys’ – are like hot chocolate on the Fourth of July. Nancy Drew’s are more lemonade on July 4. I know, I know, we both need the ride, so why the difference? And why does this matter?

Nancy Drew did this in the 1970s, as actress Pamela Sue Martin, whose cuteness really tends to grow on you. To me, and to the cabbie. But in 2012, it still happens. The London Daily Mail recently ran a story all about actress Scarlett Johansson nabbing a cab by just looking fly in in a skirt. (I have a feeling you might ask me next what “fly” means.)

But because you’re 7, Grace, and because my “male feminist” card trumps any prior or expired “leg man” card in my wallet, I’ll try and be a little cautious in my response: Cabbies will break for women who show a little leg because … well, it comes down to this: You know how we saw that rainbow the other day, and couldn’t stop looking at it?

Or how kids always pick the doughnut with the brightly colored frosting?

Or how the girl bird always picks the boy bird with the flashiest feathers?

Well, it’s kind of like that.

Scarlett Johansson’s legs are prettier than your dad’s.

Hers are the brightly-colored frosting, the flashy feathers, that will stop the cab in its tracks.

She’ll win, every time.

Unless your dad has a lightsaber.

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