Monday, August 22, 2005

Old hairy arms is here to stay

In Hanoi Teddy de Burca Jnr. can stop the traffic, not with his looks, but merely with his shaggy-haired arms. But will his descendants be able to “hang on” to this eye catching feature?

The first time it happened I was at a red light. The throng of motorbikes sat behind me. My eyes were fixed on the light ahead, and, like everyone else in this city, I was impatiently waiting for it to turn green. That’s when I felt a slight tug.

I could feel a pair of naughty little fingers pulling the hair on my arm. My head rolled around, I like to think, with the air of Schwarzenegger’s terminator, what with the shades, the motorbike, and the bad-to-the-bone attitude.

But no one cowered. No one became embarrassed. A young boy sat on the back of his sister’s bike, and the two of them continuously giggled, as the boy tugged on the mane of hair that covers my left arm, as though it were just too silly to be true.
“Like a monkey,” sniped the boy, as the light went green, and the girl zoomed off, leaving me behind, lost in a din of horns and revving engines.

The very same day, I found myself at a petrol station, and I could see the squat woman, from behind her handkerchief, was grinning madly. As she filled my bike her dainty little hand brushed down my arm.
“Beautiful hair,” I heard her say, and it can’t have been my head hair, as I was wearing a helmet.

Since then, my arms have been admired by men at the bia hoi, I’ve been asked if I wanted them shaved in a hair salon, told the hair was like golden tobacco by a flirty waitress, asked if they keep me warm in winter by a thoughtful mother; shoeshine boys, grown men, girls, mothers, fathers, beggars, doctors, urchins, even the boy marking me in a game of football – all and sundry have had a little inspection.

And as much as my dear partner may pretend to put up with my Celtic body’s peculiarities, she takes glee in the fact that if we had a child, as she’s Asian, all of my reddish hair, hairy arms, freckles, blue eyes and pasty skin wouldn’t stand a chance against her, rather unfairly labelled, dominant genes.

But she’s as wrong as she is right. Any offspring I produced would undoubtedly appear more Asian – black hair, brown eyes, sallow skin – and they would live happily as sleek and aerodynamic drivers, zooming through red lights without any fondling or derision for gross hairiness.

However, thanks to an Augustan monk, Gregor Mendel, we know a thing or two about genetics, as the big-bearded fellow was the man who married smooth peas with wrinkled peas and discovered that the next generation had no wrinkles.

Now, placing my partner and myself in that context, I would be the wrinkled pea, so if we had kids, would that mean the end of the line for me, my hairy arms and sun kissed-pasty looks?

Hardly, as the third generation of peas, grown by brother Gregor, proved that there would be a one in four chance one could return completely wrinkled.

So, I like to picture a scene, years from now, when I’m an old senile nonagenarian, or worse, and the fruit of my loins, a beautiful Asian-looking woman, is starting a family with a carefully selected other, and on a summery day, in a quiet maternity ward, in a bed surrounded by curious heads, a wailing little red-faced-red-headed boy with hairy arms will pop out from the belly of his mother into the hands of the black haired and baffled father, and the nurses will gasp, and the doctor will raise an eyebrow, and the mother will shrug, and that’ll be my way of saying, old hairy arms is here to stay.

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