I’m obsolete, I tell Bunny resignedly. She gives me a thoughtful once over. I wouldn’t quite say that; perhaps a little past the use-by-date, but not obsolete, she says. But I know she’s only being polite. For no less a magisterial authority than Science tells me that I’m obsolete. Not me qua me (I’m too insignificant an entity to attract the attention of Science), but me qua representative of the male gender.
According to Science, men, all men, are definitely over the hill, evolutionarily speaking. And apparently it’s the fault of the Y chromosome.
Unlike what they taught us in nursery school, male babies are different from female babies not because the former wear blue booties and the latter wear pink booties but because of the Y chromosome. It’s this minute thread of a chemical compound, deep in the nucleus of the human cell, which makes male, as distinct from females whose femininity is determined by the X chromosome. What began as a more or less equitable joint venture partnership between the two has over the millennia become a decidedly one-sided affair, with the Y chromosome increasingly taking a back seat in the relationship and becoming, to use the term advisedly, a sleeping partner in the relationship.
While the X chromosome over the aeons beavered away diligently, cleaning up its act, dusting under the furniture, keeping its household hisaab up-to-date, taking evening classes to hone its already formidable multi-tasking skills, and generally enhancing its chances of survival, its unreliable accomplice, the ne’er-do-well Y chromosome footed away its time mooching around street corners and bars with its disreputable Y buddies, dropping out of high school to become a loafer and an awara, living on the chromosomal equivalent of social security, leaving dirty dishes to clutter up the sink, not bothering to roll up the end of the toothpaste tube to squeeze the last smidgin out or flushing the toilet after use, and all in all behaving like a perfect slob. And chromosome karma has finally caught up. According to the latest scientific bulletin, the Y chromosome could well be headed for extinction, a phased-out product line that biology doesn’t need or want any more. The X chromosome, on the other hand, with its streamlined work schedules and high return on investment ratio has graduated summa cum laude from the school of evolutionary management and is ready, willing and able to kick out its erstwhile partner and run the whole show on its own. And high time too, considering the unholy mess of war, and bloodshed, and nuclear megadeath, environmental despoliation, and communal hatred, and gender bigotry that the Y chromosome has left in its wake.
So much for the Y chromosome collectively. Individually, I’ve done more than my bit in furthering this self-willed chromosomicide. I’m the archetypal ‘why’ behind the Y-ness of the evolutionarily selected-against Y chromosome. I don’t know how I’d have shaped up as a hunter-gather. Maybe I’d have proved a dab hand at bringing home the brontosaurus bacon and inventing a fire which was neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride out of bits of flint and dried pterodactyl dropping. But I doubt it. Anyway, in the IT age, I’m totally out of it, whether you spell it in caps or lower case. Let alone use a computer, I don’t even know how to switch the damn thing on. I did once change a fused light bulb. It took a trained electrician an hour to repair the socket I wrecked in the process. That’s the day I learnt my lesson. And so did Bunny. Best to leave things to her. Light bulbs, computers, the works. Quite finished? asks Bunny. That’s exactly it, I am finished, I’m obsolete, quite useless, I reply. Not quite as useless as you think, because without incompetent men perhaps women wouldn’t have had to be as competitive as we are, says Bunny. Maybe she’s got a point. If my being obsolete has made Bunny solete that’s answer enough to that age-old riddle: Why chromosome?
Writer, columnist and author of several books