Mixed Race: What Does a Person Look Like Who is Mayan, Aztec, Spanish, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian, Baltic, and West African?

Undeniably, my mom’s MyHeritage DNA test results were all over the place: Literally, all over the globe. It took a lot of ancestors from a lot of different places to get my mom here… and me, as well.

So now that we know my mom’s ethnicity mix (as well as half of mine), let’s take a moment to assess the situation by asking this question:

Can you see the following ethnic backgrounds in my mom and me? These are my mom’s MyHeritage DNA test results:

32.9% Central American (Mayan/Aztec)

22% Iberian (Spanish/Portuguese)

15.2% Sephardic Jewish (via Spain)

14% Middle East/West Asia (Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Palestine and Georgia)

7.8% Greek

4.5% Italian

2.6% Baltic (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia)

2.0% West African (Benin, Burkina Faso, the island nation of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo)

It could be easy to say, “Well, you’re barely African.”

True, I am only 1% African and my mom is 2%. But without that one African ancestor, somewhere in our family history, even if it were nearly 200 years ago that they became part of it, my mom and I would cease to exist.

Granted, I’m not claiming to be an African-American. But at the same time, I can imagine how my 1% and my mom’s 2% would have been a whole different issue back when “The One Drop Rule” was still in effect in America. After all, I have “one drop” of African blood in me.

I am proud of every bit of my DNA.

It’s especially interesting that my mom and I are nearly equal parts Jewish and Middle Eastern.

From the best my mom and I can figure, this is how it happened:

Her Italian grandfather, Giuseppe Metallo, who moved to America from southern Italy, was barely Italian; which explains how he had an Italian name and only spoke Italian, yet why my mom only showed up as 4.5% Italian. Instead, I theorize he was actually mostly Middle Eastern; with a little bit of Italian and Baltic thrown in there.

He married Maria Vite, who was a Sephardic Jew whose family had moved to America from Italy, as well. (Vite is derived from Vitalli; a Sephardic Jewish last name.)

So in theory, my mom had two “Italian” grandparents, one of whom was mainly Middle Eastern and one was mainly Jewish.

I think that’s just fascinating.

Some people could care less about their ethnicity, but I am not one of those people.

Instead, I think it’s one of the coolest things in the world.

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did, here’s the link to MyHeritage.

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MyHeritage DNA Test: Comparing My Mom’s Results to Mine- We’re More Jewish and Middle Eastern than Italian?!

Despite growing up “half Italian, half Mexican”, my mom learned about a month ago after I took a DNA test through MyHeritage that the Italian side… well, wasn’t so Italian after all.

I showed up as 0% Italian, despite my great-grandfather immigrating to America from Italy over a hundred years ago; having an Italian first and last name, as well as speaking only Italian. Turns out, like America is now, Italy served as a melting pot; as did Spain. So while my Italian great-parents were from Italy and were culturally Italian, they weren’t necessarily Italian by ethnicity.

To make things more complex, these DNA tests don’t measure the exact percentage of your actual ethnicity, but instead, they reveal the more dominant genes that you adopt from both your parents. Therefore, for example; siblings can take a test and one can show 12% Irish but the other doesn’t show any Irish.

After finding out I showed up as 0% Italian, my mom got too curious and decided to take a MyHeritage test as well. Unsurprisingly, knowing what I know now, my mom’s test shows some decent percentages that didn’t show up at all on my test. I’ll place in bold font the ones that largely matched mine:

32.9% Central American (Mayan/Aztec)

22% Iberian (Spanish/Portuguese)

15.2% Sephardic Jewish (via Spain)

14% Middle Eastern/West Asian (Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Palestine and Georgia)

7.8% Greek

4.5% Italian

2.6% Baltic (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia)

2.0% West African (Benin, Burkina Faso, the island nation of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo)

Thanks to my mom’s test results, I learned, in theory, I am about 7.6% Jewish, 7% Middle Eastern, 3.9% Greek, 2.25% Italian and 1% African.

Those particular ethnic traits didn’t show up at all on my DNA test; other than mine showing up 0.8% Middle Eastern. But clearly, my Middle Eastern DNA is very weak, whereas my mom’s is very strong.

So as for my mom, my sister, and me, we are definitely part Jewish, Middle Eastern, Greek, and even African.

If it weren’t for my mom’s MyHeritage DNA test, we would not know this.

Of course, that’s in addition to knowing we’re more Mayan/Aztec and Spanish/Portuguese more than anything on my mom’s side.

But the story doesn’t end here, because now, my sister has ordered a DNA test. In a another month or so, we’ll learn if there are other parts of our DNA hiding in there somewhere.

And if you interested in taking a DNA test like my mom and I did, here’s the link to MyHeritage.

Dear Jack: No, the Nurse Didn’t Inform Us You are Mexican…

5 years, 5 months.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2016/05/12/dear-jack-we-saw-captain-america-civil-war-on-opening-weekend-bought-mothers-day-gifts-in-the-2016-lexus-is-200t/

Dear Jack,

This past Saturday as we were driving back home in the 2016 Lexus IS 200t after buying our Captain America: Civil War tickets ahead of time for the matinee, we somehow ended up talking about Mexico; maybe it was in a Jimmy Buffet song we heard on Sirius XM.

Dear Holly: Our Family’s 1st Ride in the Same Car (2016 Lexus IS 200t)

I ended up mentioning that you, your sister Holly, and I are all part Mexican; whereas Mommy is not.

You then cautiously and curiously asked me, “Daddy, did the nurse tell you I was Mexican when I was born? Is that how you knew?”

I love that. I love the concept of the nurse in the delivery room announcing to the parents what the ethnicity of their newborn child is.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2016/05/12/dear-jack-we-saw-captain-america-civil-war-on-opening-weekend-bought-mothers-day-gifts-in-the-2016-lexus-is-200t/

Doing my best not to laugh at your truly sincere question, I explained that my grandma is full Mexican, Nana is half Mexican, I am a quarter, and therefore you and your sister are an eighth.

I can tell you’re still trying to sort out what it means to be Mexican. You know is that we eat a lot of Mexican food at our house.

And you know that the main language that Mexicans speak is Spanish. You surprised me a few weeks ago when we were at the Franklin Main Street Festival and you announced to me, “Hey Daddy, look- those people have a perro!”

You said it loud enough to where the man and his wife heard what you said. They both turned around and glanced at us for moment, as we walked behind them on Main Street.

I was very confused, myself. “Parrow? Jack, what’s a parrow? Do you mean parrot?”

Then you very matter-of-factly explained to me, “Perro is dog in Spanish.”

You taught me a Spanish word. I took like 6 years of French between high school and college, so it was lost on me.

So to some degree, maybe you’re even more Mexican than I am.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2016/04/29/dear-holly-mommy-gave-birth-to-you-with-no-epidural/

Love,

Daddy

Why Tap Dancing is Officially Masculine (And Most Other Kinds of Dancing are Feminine)

Le tap dance; la clog.

Unlike the French and Spanish languages, English doesn’t have masculine and feminine nouns.  Yet still, there are subtle gender clues and accents if we look closely enough for them.  Like the way that Coldplay is masculine, while The Fray is feminine (because they got famous by having their songs featured on Grey’s Anatomy). And the way a Dodge Dakota is masculine; while a Nissan X-Terra is feminine (this was referenced in an episode of The Office).

During dinner a few weeks ago I happened to catch 20 minutes of So You Think You Can Dance.  It was a results episode so they were mainly filling the air time with professional tap dancers, all of which were male.  Mainly dancing solo, but there were a few duos.  Interestingly, after each of them danced, they were briefly interviewed.  I couldn’t help but notice that none of these male tap dancers were the least bit effeminate or sexually questionable in any way- they were ordinary, straight dudes.

I’m okay with being politically incorrect in stating this fact that we already know and recognize: It’s common for professional male dancers (especially on reality TV shows) to not be straight.  Which is ironic because as we watch these couples dance, the male is being represented by a man who in reality may not be sexually attracted to women.  Typically, straight men are not the ones representing the guy in the relationship in these dances.

Why are straight men typically inclined not to be good dancers?  Because group dancing and dancing in pairs, as a whole, are more of feminine acts.  Dancing as we know it today is free-spirited and emotionally expressive.  It often shows the ups and downs of relationships and/or life in general.  That doesn’t work for most men, because a man’s mind is wired to be formulaic and often emotionally repressive.  Most men have to “learn to dance”.  Tell me what to do so I can get this right. It’s more about straight memorization for a straight guy to learn to dance.  He’s learning to dance to make his girlfriend or wife happy- not to express himself in a new exciting way.

When I think of famous tap dancers throughout American history, I think of classy Italian, Jewish, and African-American men wearing black suits like Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Hines, and of course, the legendary Tony Danza.  Although, this isn’t to say that all or even most tap-dancing men are straight.  But what I do recognize is 1) that because tap dancing is simply based on rhythm and formula (which are masculine elements- famous female drummers are a rare thing), and 2) that tap dancing only really evokes one basic emotional feel, which is always positive and upbeat.  I never remember seeing a tap dancing routine which went from happy, to sad, to angry, back to happy, to a feeling of loss, to happy, to acceptance of grief, to contentment, the way a typical 2 minute dance song on Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance typically does.

Clogging, on the other hand, though similar to tap-dancing, is not masculine.  It often involves groups, costumes, and festive music- therefore making it a feminine art form, since there is room for “artistic expression”.  But square dancing is masculine because, like in tap-dancing, the mood is always the same (upbeat) and there is no guesswork on how to do it, since the instructions are typically spoken to music.

So how could a man and a woman dance to music and it realistically represent them and their relationship?  I’m picturing a guy tap dancing in his own little world while the woman ballet dances around him, and the guy is seemingly oblivious to what is going on.

Hall and Oates are Officially Cool Again, Says Me

They make my dreams come true.

Yesterday my wife and I were hanging out at our new favorite brunch spot in Nashville, The Perch.  As we were waiting on our crepes, we both had our laptops up and running (she was working on stuff for her Master’s program, and I was catching up on burning about a dozen CD’s that I’ve bought since last December).  An energetic couple sat down at the table across from us; as she walked past, the wife snuck a peak at the pile of CD’s I had laying on the table.

“Just checking out your musical style”, she said with a curious smile.

I lifted up Landon Pigg (a local Nashville artist recently featured on an ATT commercial) and Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson to give her a good idea of exactly was is music to me.  She approved.

But then, I pulled out the one she couldn’t see because it was currently being burned.  And that definitely got her attention as well as her husband’s: The Essential Hall and Oates.

She eagerly told me about Daryl Hall’s current website, in which he invites special guest musicians to play concerts in his house.  Within a minute, she had emailed me the link.  http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com/index.php?page=ep30

As if it wasn’t obvious, being that I’ve referenced Hall and Oates in the last couple things I’ve written, I’m a little bit obsessed with this feel-good duo.  Maybe it started when they performed on the recent American Idol finale and I realized they not only are still performing but also haven’t changed who they are one bit.  Because there was John Oates bouncing and bopping around on his electric guitar and Daryl Hall running the show in all confidence.

Some musical acts could have only been popular during the time they were popular.  Hall and Oates is the epitome of them.  The late 70’s and early 80’s were the only time that a male duo singing group looking the way they did and performing the way they did could not only get away with it, but have six Number Ones and have 34 singles to chart.

The duo of course is comprised of  Daryl Hall (of Scottish heritage) and John Oates (half Italian, a quarter Spanish, and a quarter British English).

Hall and Oates is also the kind of musical act that sings so many more songs than I ever realized.  I’d been hearing their songs all along, assuming it was a random one hit wonder.

If I was asked two weeks ago (before I bought their 3 disc greatest hits set) which songs Hall and Oates sang, I would say “You Make My Dreams”, “Maneater”, and “Out of Touch”.  Just the tip of the Oatesberg:

Here’s a brief looks at their credentials:  Their six Number Ones were “Rich Girl”, “Kiss on My List”, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”, “Maneater”, and “Out of Touch”.  A few of their 34 singles that charted include “You Make My Dreams”, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feelin’”, “One on One”, “Say It Isn’t So”, “Adult Education”, “Method of Modern Love”, and “Sara Smile”.

But after listening nonstop to the 40 plus songs on the 3 disc set I bought exactly a week ago, my favorite song of theirs, to my surprise, is not “You Make My Dreams” (which hilariously leads into the guitar solo with the lyrics “well listen to this”).  It’s instead one that I truly never heard prior to seven days ago.  A song that peaked at #6 in June of 1983.  The song is “Family Man”.

Complete with a grungy guitar riff reminiscent of Weezer’s 2001 hit “Hash Pipe”, perfect back-up vocal spurts, and the off-beat subject matter (for a pop song) of a faithful husband and father basically saying “skat!” to a temptress.  And best of all, it was a hit in 1983.

As I recently explained to a friend who was much less familiar with Hall and Oates as I made him listen to them in my car, “They’re the kind of music you should listen to if you’re considering suicide.  You’ll change your mind by the end of the first song.”

Now Simon and Garfunkel, well, that’s a different story.

LOST Recap: Season 6, Episode 15- “Across the Sea”

Biblical Esau losing his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup

I refuse to refer to Jacob’s twin brother as “The Man in Black”- I will only refer to him as “Esau” until I am given an actual name from an upcoming episode, if that even happens.  To me, the struggle we see between Jacob and Esau on LOST is at least 50% familiar from the Biblical book of Genesis.  So that’s why I call “The Man in Black”, Esau.  Here are some comparisons:

In the Bible, Jacob and Esau were twins, like on LOST. 

In the Bible, Jacob was smooth-skinned and Esau was hairy.  On LOST, Jacob dresses in white, Esau in black.  They are physically opposites in both instances. 

In the Bible, Jacob was his mother’s favorite.  On LOST, the mother favored Esau.

In the Bible, Jacob took Esau’s birthright.  On LOST, Jacob took Esau’s destined role as the island’s protector. 

The greatest thing I learned from watching “Across the Sea” is this: Jacob and Esau are not the original “eternal life” cursed inhabitants of the island.  The woman who raised them (the stepmom from the movie, Juno) had been cursed before them, evidently from drinking what I am currently calling The Fountain of Youth, making her (and eventually Jacob) the protector of the island. 

By drinking the water, a person gains eternal earthly life.  And apparently a person once a person does that, they can only die if someone who hasn’t drank from The Fountain of Youth or is The Smoke Monster kills them.  That is the “loophole”.  The only way to lose eternal earthly life after drinking from The Fountain of Youth.

Going back to the Season 5 finale, Ben killed Jacob.  And Ben had never drank from The Fountain of Youth and he definitely wasn’t The Smoke Monster. 

And of course that’s why Juno’s stepmom (the lady who killed Jacob and Esau’s real mother, who was evidently Spanish, like Richard) thanked Esau when he accidently stabbed her to death.  Because he freed her from having to live forever on the island.  Though it meant she could no longer be the protector of the island, she had at that point already given the water to Jacob and he drank it.  Perfect escape for Juno’s stepmom.

So who was the first person to drink from The Fountain of Youth?  Mysteries…

After Esau lost his human body by becaming The Smoke Monster, he decided to take on the form of his now dead body by default.  That’s why he appeared to still be alive in the Season 5 finale as Richard’s slave ship was coming up in the distance. 

I predict that Jacob and Esau had been playing their “I’m trying to kill you” game for a decade or two before Richard arrived, because they were both familiar that the fact that men come to the island to destroy and that it always ends the same.

Jacob reading Everything That Rises Must Converge

I will close with notable quotes from “Across the Sea”:

“It’s inside of every man but they always want more.”  -Juno’s stepmom referring to the light that turned Esau into The Smoke Monster.

“If the light goes out here, it goes out everywhere.”  –same thing

“One day you can make your own game and make up your own rules.”  -Esau to Jacob

“I needed you to stay good.”  -Juno’s stepmom

“I’m special, mother.”  -Esau

“Promise me you’ll never go down there… It’s worse than dying.”  -Juno’s stepmom warning Jacob about the light that turns people into The Smoke Monster.

Quad Cities Proximity Initiative: Pretending You Know Where a City Is

Most Americans don’t know the capitol of Vermont or which states border Colorado, without cheating and looking at a map. Because like taking French or Spanish in high school, if what is learned is not applied on a semi-regular basis, then that knowledge disappears. Especially when it was just rogue memorization for a test we took a long time ago.

Since we don’t really know much about American geography, we use a system that gets us by. It gives the illusion that we are experts, when really we are just BS-ing our way through the conversation. I call it the “Quad Cities Proximity Initiative”. Most states consist of a minimum of four cities that we’ve at least heard of that pretty much cover the 4 corners of the state, even if we’ve never been to that state before; here are a few examples:

Ohio (Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland).
New York (New York City, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany).
Florida (Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee, Miami).
Georgia (Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, Savannah).

Here is an example of how this system works. The other day at work a guy from Indiana was trying to tell me where his hometown is. He said, “It’s about 50 miles south of Indianapolis…” Immediately I started shaking my head with an enthusiastic “oh yeah, yeah” which unabridged, it literally conveyed this message, “I am very familiar with the city you are talking about. I’ve been through there several times. Of course I know that place…” All because I have obviously heard of the state’s capitol, Indianapolis.

There are exceptions to the Quad Cities Proximity Initiative. Texas is huge and has more than 4 familiar cities; it has about 7. And there are those bite-size states like Delaware, where it doesn’t matter what city the person says, because the state only has 3 counties anyway.

When a person names a city I’ve heard of (even if I have no clue where in the state that city is) I give them confidence in me that I am following their lead in the conversation. It’s that simple. No need to stall a conversation because I can’t visualize where the city is. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Unless I’m driving there.