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Thanks To 23andme My Inner Viking Roams Free

Finally Giving In To 23andme

It began innocently enough. Enticed by ads from Ancestory.com and 23andMe, my partner and I thought it might be fun to have our DNA checked out. 23andMe was running a special offer at the time, so we went with them.

We both thought we pretty much knew what would come back. My wife’s heritage was said to be 100% Japanese. In my case, I’d always been told I was roughly a quarter English; a quarter Irish, and, coming from my mom, about half German.

I Previously Dabbled In Genealogy

I had previously done a family genealogy, tracing the Waite side of things. Among other findings, I discovered a link to the Mayflower. Somewhat alarmingly, however, it was to John Howland, who famously fell overboard mid-voyage. Based on her observation of my family’s behavior, my spouse claims rum must have been involved.  

I also stumbled across Thomas “The Regicide” Waite, who had signed the death warrant for Charles I, separating him from his head. This undoubtedly explained the dearth of invitations from Buckingham Palace over the years. 

That put an end to my interest in genealogy.

Our 23andme Results

But DNA analysis, obtained by spitting into a tube and mailing it off — that seemed a much safer route to travel.

But this is a cautionary tale. The results have changed our lives forever.

My Wife’s Surprise Ancestors

My wife, it turns out, is not 100% Japanese, but sports 3% Korean ancestry and is 0.5% Sardinian. (Sardinia, for the geographically challenged, is an island in the Mediterranean located between Anchovia and Calamaria.) 

The Korean part made sense — Korea was colonized by the Japanese — but Sardinia? A closer examination of data showed that the Sardinia strain had appeared in the 1600s. This was precisely the time when the Portuguese were first allowed to sail into Nagasaki. Apparently, a Sardinian deckhand got a bit frisky during shore leave.

Armed with this new knowledge of her heritage, my wife recently came back from Costco with a gigantic tub of kimchi. She also reprogrammed her iTunes playlist to stream only K-pop and Sardinian goatherder tunes. When COVID ends, she tells me we will be wintering in Sardinia’s capital, Caliari, to learn Sardo (a language best known for its colorful ways of expressing vengeance and spite).

My Surprise Ancestors

My surprise ancestors came from far to the north: Scandinavia. To the extent that it could be pinpointed, they were likely from what is now Norway and took a dip into my family’s gene pool back in the days of the Vikings.  

23andme

The Vikings, it should be recalled, got around a lot about a thousand years ago. They colonized Iceland and Greenland… and even made it to North America to found an NFL team in Minnesota.

More to the point, they frequently raided Britain and Ireland, made incursions into what is now Germany, and even made forays down the Volga in Russia.  It made sense that I carried Viking blood.

Armed with this newfound knowledge, I have been making some radical changes. For example, I now use only Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese (none of that wimpy Monterrey Jack stuff) when making nachos. As for Scotch whisky, my previous beverage of choice, forget it; I now imbibe only aquavit.

Much like the Norwegian Blue Parrot, in the odd moment, I find myself pining for the fjords. I am also strangely drawn each year to the Leif Erickson statue on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue mall, where I leave offerings of lingonberries and cloudberries and recite excerpts from Olde Norse sagas.

And this obsession is not only affecting me in this life but shaping the next as well. I have recently contracted with the Essex Shipbuilding Museum to construct a full-sized Norse longboat and have left detailed instructions for my Viking funeral with my brother Thomas “Not the Regicide” Waite. This will take place just off Steep Hill Beach, near the sandbar, dear to our family as the place where our boat frequently ran aground.

The Boston Symphony will play Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor at the top of the Third Allay as my embers drift out over Ipswich Bay towards Bergen — and you’re all invited to join in the festivities.

So, if you are thinking of getting one of those 23andMe kits, perhaps for Christmas, be forewarned.

Who knows? You might be Anchovian, which might change the way you order pizza and Caesar salad forever.

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About The Author
Robert Waite
Robert Waite
Robert is Managing Director at Waite + Co., a communications firm with offices in Boston, Ottawa and Toronto. He also teaches at Seneca College. He has more than 35 years experience leading communications, marketing and government relations functions for some of North America’s largest firms, including Ford, IBM, CAE, CIBC and Canada Post. He served as Press Secretary to Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-MA) and Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) and in the Reagan Administration. He is a three-time winner of the New England Press Association’s Best Column Award. He can be reached at [email protected].
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