I might wish my baby was a baller too, but that’s beside the point. So.
A few weeks ago I dyed my hair with henna, in yet another chapter of my eternal quest to become a redhead. My best friend is a natural ginger and I’d make a wig from her sheddings if she’d let me. There’s just something about it. When you’re topped with that fiery light, you walk through the world like a blowtorch in a sea of unlit matches. You draw attention just by existing. It’s almost as if you’re called to greatness by your very DNA… but I digress (again).
Last night, I asked J if there’s anything he’d like to change about himself. Not something like losing five pounds, but something genetically coded. Would he switch his nose, change his chin, have slightly less of a centaur-esque appearance when it comes to body hair? (This line of questioning may not have been the best possible thing for his self-confidence.)
He said, “I’d like to be a little bit taller.”
I read an article recently about how the science more or less already exists to allow for “designer babies.” Bespoke children are a very real possibility – read more here and here. It’s apparently a simple task to choose whether a fetus will be male or female, and some IVF clinics are publicizing their pending ability to manipulate hair, eye, and skin color, not to mention height and – Coming soon! – intelligence, creativity, everything.
This biological advance has its good (avoiding thousands of diseases through genetic screening), its bad (some couples with sick kids want to create “savior children” – babies raised exclusively as healthy organ donors for their big siblings), and – of course – its ethically puzzling ugly: What happens when a deaf couple purposefully “builds” a deaf child? Is that child abuse?
In our case, J knows I want a daughter very, very deeply. Assuming we can have biological kids, we’d like two, maybe three. I’m so set on this that if we have two sons first, we may just cut our losses – Sorry, hypothetical sons! Mom loves you! – and adopt a girl. So now J asks me all the time whether I’d consider using this science to code our first kid into femaleness. My answer drives him crazy, because it’s always the same: “Hell no!” He can’t see why I wouldn’t go for it – I’d be happy, and our daughter would never know the difference. But…
There’s just something off about it. Leaving out comparisons to sci-fi novels and Gattaca, I can’t help thinking something sacred in our humanity goes out the door when we start meddling. The beauty is in our unpredictability, right?
And yet, if I were going to have a blind child and could change that fate for them, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Never the eye color, but absolutely the eyesight.
Now I’m left with more moral dilemmas than I’m comfortable pondering on a Thursday afternoon. Is it okay to manipulate nature to avoid a disability, but crass to do it for cosmetic changes? There are so many questions, when all I really wanted was captivating red hair. For the moment, though, my overriding thought is this:
If we start coloring inside all the genetic lines, trying to get the “right” qualities in our kids, humanity’s going to look a lot less like fine art and a lot more like a mass-produced poster.