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I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: the news that babies are born with 300 bones and yet as adults, we only have 206; or the fact that I learned that from a Snapple cap.
But as a man of science, I had to find out why. It freaks me out to think that as I watch Lev, he is simultaneously growing and losing bones. (Mystery solved: it’s not that bones disappear, but they fuse together. Ergo, one has to mind junior’s fontanel — it’s still soft. Which is why babies shouldn’t do headstands.) If you’re like me, you spend most of your time sitting around pondering such mysteries. How did life originate? What is the identity of dark matter? Why do humans have chins?
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Since both Lev and I were born with Kirk Douglas jawlines, I tend to focus more on life’s chin-related questions. Not because it’s easier than figuring out the meaning of quantum entanglement or how dark energy drives cosmic acceleration, but because a chin says a lot about a man. For one thing, it says you are human. Next time you’re at the zoo, notice that no other animal, other than the elephant, has a chin. Why is that?
An anthropologist in the Department of Orthodontics at the University of Iowa’s College of Dentistry came to the conclusion that we got our chins as a leftover result of our faces getting smaller as we evolved from archaic Homo sapiens to hipsters. Of course, this also happened to correlate with the rise of Brooklyn as a brand and the trend towards everyone growing a lumberjack beard, which has obscured many chins. But not Lev’s. As he doesn’t shave yet, I am able to observe his chin carefully, and notice how it looks like a Xerox of mine.
It freaks me out to think that as I watch Lev, he is simultaneously growing and losing bones.
Some people say that the love you feel for your child is the ultimate form of narcissism, to which I say, “I’m sorry, did you say something? I was just distracted by my reflection in the mirror.” As a species, we got our chins as a result of our head size shrinking, but Lev’s chin is growing (along with the rest of him). At this rate, by the time of his bar mitzvah, Lev’s jaw should be roughly the size and shape of a Christmas ham.
While I may not leave Lev a mansion and a yacht, perhaps I have endowed him with something more valuable. According to scientists who study attractiveness, strong male chins both attract mates and predict future professional success. On the other hand, if you’re one of those chinless wonders, keep your chin up. Darwin may be dead but evolution hasn’t stopped, and who knows what our chins will look like in a few millennia?
In the meantime, one of the cutest things Lev does is to grab my chin and squeeze it. Perhaps he does this out of the unconscious recognition that we have very similar looking chins. Regardless, until you’ve had your chin massaged by your own personal mini-me, don’t knock it.
On the other hand, sometimes in the midst of him rubbing my chin, I close my eyes in a state of bliss and then he reaches out and whacks me in the face. As a boxer, I try not to take anything on the chin, because, like falling in love, it’s the punch you don’t see coming that knocks you out.
But even if his tiny fists manhandle my face, these are fascinating, profound, intimate moments: he reaches out and beats me lightly about the jaw line, and I smile back at him. He’s exploring the movement of his hands in space, his depth perception, hand to eye coordination, and perhaps working out his unconscious oedipal complex. He hits hard for his size, but I wouldn’t trade these gleeful beat-downs for all the tea in China.
Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.