Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: The epigenetics of mother blame


I’m imagining the song from Frozen where Elsa sings ‘Do you want to build a snow man’.

Except in my mind, it’s not the snow, but she’s playing in one of those play parks but the climbing frame isn’t a climbing frame, it’s your DNA, and Elsa’s building a human, so instead she sings, ‘Do you want to build an Epigenome?’ DNA the musical isn’t probably going to be hitting the cinemas any time soon, but as it turns out, it’s been hitting you forever.

Because like the snow padded onto the double helix DNA code, or ‘genome’, with mittened hands of your creator the epigenome is yet another complexity responsible for creating ‘us’. The epigenome is the instructions that decide what genes get turned on and what gets turned off. Rather like selecting channels with a remote. Except you don’t hold the remote. Your mother does. And in some cases, even your grandmother. And she gets to select the channel.

No wonder I used to love watching Burke’s Backyard.

I don’t even garden. But my epigenetic preset powered that compulsive urge to buy plants, only to kill them at a later stage. Plant killing I guess is the epigene I’ll be handing to my grandchildren. That, and vagina jokes. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of previous generations, and in particular the hardships of women being carried through until now. Great. Now I not only can’t escape my own trauma, I have to live through the trauma of previous generations.

And all this time you thought you had free will. No, you’ve been prefabbed in the factory of your family dysfunction. That’s right. Violent alcoholic sociopaths still get a say on who you are, how you behave, even how you think. This all gets passed on through conception and pregnancy. My mother was pregnant at 19. Perhaps that’s why as the child of a child bride I’ve never grown up.

Bloody hell, I smoked weed when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. My hippy pothead friends said, ‘It’s cool, it’s really safe. It’s good for the nausea.’ Awesome. It certainly answers the question why a girl who doesn’t smoke pot ever has some of the bizarre thinking of a stoner.

I can’t wait to meet my grandchild one day and apologise.

No wonder humanity is doomed. We’ve all been carrying around our poison eggs, suffering the emotional consequences of traumas we never experienced, and consequently fucking up generations to come. It’s kind of a ‘Fuck them up Forwards’ approach. According to epigenetics, women are the most powerful transmitters as they have the conception and gestational time to do some serious work on your DNA. Finally there is proof that the oppression of women was bad for the whole of society. Because guess what, patriarchal oppressor? You got the pain of the oppression of half the human race smashed right on top of your DNA too.

The rapes, the beatings, the lack of opportunity, the low self-esteem. Your grandfather may have delivered suffering with his bullock whip, but you got it back, a generation or two later, straight down the line. Just like he got his. Rather like putting arsenic in your human smoothie.

Epigenetics makes sense of why your family history sits on you. Why you’re scared to love. Or why you like dancing nude on a full moon with a tea cosy on your head. (Doesn’t everyone?) In some cases I guess this would mean you get coded by people you have never met. Rather a drag if you come from one of those families that don’t tell you anything. I guess this makes adoption even more complex, in that you’re carrying genetic stories of people you have never met.

Men do have some role, though. They get to deliver their epigenetic changes through their sperm at conception, and while stressed sperm can cause changes, it doesn’t seem to be as powerful as the mother oven. That’s right. Women really do rule the world. As it turns out we decide who you are. For better and for worse. So you should all be a lot nicer to us. And you should start two generations ago. Forget counselling; it’s pointless. Damage is done. We need to start investing in some serious time travel. Or else I guess we could just drop the mother blame and get our shit together ‘BEFORE’ we have kids?

One response to “Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: The epigenetics of mother blame”

  1. It’s nice this but for real elegance Newton’s second law of thermodynamics is worth a read……He reckons all closed systems tend towards chaos or entropy that don’t have a constant energy input…….this one would assume could also apply to relationships…..

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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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