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Jewish World Review April 25, 2000/ 20 Nissan, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports


From here to paternity --

Look no farther than a billboard near the Charlotte, N.C., airport that nearly caused me to swerve off the road: "Who's the Father?"

That was it. Three words followed by a Web address and a toll-free number.

What did it mean?

Naturally, I thought of the film L.A. Story, in which G-d speaks to Steve Martin's character through a billboard. Then, I thought, maybe this is one of those clever, ecclesiastical signs I've noticed lately, such as: "Loved the wedding, now invite me to the marriage. Signed, G-d."

Or maybe this was the mother of all questions, and by calling or logging onto the Web, I would receive some insight into the meaning of life or even a clue to the identity of the Big Kahuna. So I went to the Web site and discovered ... a DNA-testing laboratory. Turns out it's an advertisement for women who aren't quite sure who Mr. Wonderful is.

Excuse me, but don't people ask each other's names anymore?

We exchange business cards with strangers in the airport. Yet we go to bed with people, conceive little human offspring and have to ask: Who was that guy, anyway?

The casual nature of the question -- and the casual nature of the relationship implied -- ought to disturb our sleep.

Billboard advertising is expensive, so I have to assume that there's a market out there. A big market of women giving birth without knowing exactly who whatshisname was. Or a big market of women who permit random sperm donors to make a deposit and skip town. Or a big pool of men who can't remember where they left their DNA.

I suppose one could view the billboard message as good news for both men and women. All those men who want to be responsible providers for the children they helped create now can prove that they're the actual dads. Imagine the stampede.

Women burdened with a child and no daddy in sight can pop off a DNA sample and collect child support for the next 18 years. Everybody's happy, right? Especially the DNA-testing lab owners who, given the epidemic of promiscuity and the rising rate of children born out of wedlock, can look forward to early retirement. The young'uns should be happy, too. No more who's-daddy questions.

I imagine a conversation in America's modern home.

Toddler to Mother: "Mommy, who's my daddy?"

Mother: "Well, honey, I'm not sure. But if you'll let me rub this little cotton swab on the inside of your cheek, we can find out!"

Toddler: "Oh, goody, Mommy. I really want a daddy. Let's do it now!"

A cotton swab is all it takes, apparently. According to the Web site, one of several boasting DNA testing, the daddy-identification test is simple and painless, accurate and legal, and inexpensive. All you have to do is type www or dial 1-800 to discover the identity of your child's bio-dad. While you're at it, you can find out if your beloved is having an affair. All you need is one garment section from each of the two suspects.

And, as we learned from the White House, sperm detection is a cinch. One garment sample will do the trick. (It doesn't even have to be navy-blue.)

Call me a radical, but wouldn't it be even more simple and painless to resolve these paternity issues pre-offspring?

I realize that it's Paleolithic to suppose that one might actually marry before creating a child; and I'm aware that some babies are products of passion rather than planning.

But perhaps a better billboard for our times might be something like this: "Just Don't Do It." But if you do, at least get his business card.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
01/13/00: Fools in love: Premarital counseling could help school kids
01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
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11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
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10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
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09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
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08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
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07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
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06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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