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DIY DNA: Who's your daddy? Add to ...

Now, don't get me wrong.

I trust my wife, Pam, implicitly. She is known everywhere as a pillar of probity, the apotheosis of virtue and trustworthiness. No one coming away from talking to her could have any impression other than that she is as faithful to me as the day is long.

My spies even tell me (of course I have spies: I trust her, but she's not unattractive and I'm not stupid) that at parties where I am not, she dances mostly with other women.

My sweet, virtuous angel.

But she's only human. And it's been bugging me for a while: Our youngest, Adam, is just so damn different from me. He's so optimistic, so positive. So even-tempered, handsome and well-knit. A real ray of sunshine. Ask him how his day went and he'll say either "Great!" or "Perfect!"

Nothing like his self-doubting, dyspeptic, sarcastic and unlovely alleged father, a man perpetually labouring under a cumulonimbus of anxiety and pessimism. Like Woody Allen, I see the glass as half full - of poison. Ask me how my day went and I'll say: "Horrible. Pointless and dumb. I fought battles on numerous fronts and lost them all. I'm doomed!"

And where'd he get that blond hair? To tell you the truth, he reminds me more of this hale, hearty, happy-go-lucky Big Lebowski-type guy that used to be on Pam's Ultimate Frisbee team than he does me.

And they could easily have slipped off after one of their games ...

So, I'm not proud of it, but one morning recently, after Pam left for work, I whipped out my Identigene DNA Paternity Test Collection Kit and gave Adam a little swab.

Just to be on the safe side. I mean, I'm pretty sure he's my son. But with Identigene, I can be 99.97-per-cent sure.

Based in Salt Lake City, Identigene has been in the DNA testing game for years, catering to mostly governmental clients, such as courts, the police and child social services.

But chief operating officer Doug Fogg says that for the past 10 years or so, the company has been seeing quite a demand for private DNA testing.

"A lot of people just want the answers to these types of questions, and to deal with it on their own terms," without involving the courts or police or indeed anyone else, he says.

So Identigene developed a home DNA testing kit. It's available in drugstores in the United States, right next to the pregnancy tests, but only online here. The cost for the kit is about $30, with a processing fee of roughly $150 (it's a little more expensive online). Some people are using it to trace long-lost relatives, to establish ancestry - and, yes, fidelity and paternity.

It can bring good news as well as bad. Recently, a B.C. man noticed on Facebook that the 19-year-old son of a woman he dated in his teens looked an awful lot like him. He ordered the Identigene kit online, his long-lost ex-girlfriend agreed to the test (she thought her son's father was another long-gone dude, but wasn't sure) and boom: father and son reunion.

Of course, it can go the other way, too. Adam submits with his usual equanimity and cheerfulness to the swab.

(So unlike me.)

"Aggressively scrape the inside of the cheek wall for at least 30 seconds," the instruction booklet says. ("Cheek cells are needed for this test - it is not a saliva test.")

A lot of people, when I told them I was doing this, wondered about the legal and ethical issues, such as: Could you extract a sample from someone without their knowing - say when he/she was asleep - and would that be legal?

But with all this "aggressive scraping," it'd be tough. Plus, the home-test get is not legally admissible (Identigene does offer a legally admissible test, but it has to be supervised). It's just for "peace of mind."

And who wouldn't like a bit more of that? With a different swab, I, the man the instruction booklet persistently refers to as "the alleged father," rub the inside of my own cheek, aggressively scraping. Then drop the two swabs in the envelope and send them off to the lab.

Once Identigene has received your sample, the results are delivered in three to five business days.

Which gives a man a lot of time to think. It'll be hard to strike that "light-hearted" note I've been asked to deliver if I'm filing my story from a cheap, ratty fleabag where I've repaired to lick my wounds after receiving news that, to say the least ...

No, banish such thoughts! Think positively, the way Adam or The Big Lebowski Frisbee guy might.

Still, it is with warm palms and slightly arrhythmic coronary fibrillations that I find myself, a few days later, cradling the phone and listening to Identigene's New Age hold music.

It's quite soothing. Of course, it'd have to be.

Finally, the Identigene rep comes back on the line.

"Sorry for the wait. We have the results. Do you have your password?"

I tell it to her.

"Now, I can just tell you the results over the phone or you can check them on the website."

"You post the results on your website?"

"Well, you need your password, the same one you just gave me."

"Oh. Okay, let me go to the website. But could you stay on the line? There's an outside chance I might need someone to talk to when I see the results."

She laughs. I check the website, pull up my "Personal Paternity Analysis Report." There's a bunch of numbers and mumbo-jumbo, then:

"Conclusion: David Eddie is not excluded as the biological father of Adam Eddie."

Phew. It also says it's 99.97-per-cent certain I'm Adam's father. "Why is it only 'not excluded?' " I ask the Identigene rep.

"Because we haven't tested everyone, there's a tiny chance someone might be a better match. And there's twins."

Hmm? What's that?

"Twins have the same DNA. The test results would be the same."

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Even in the era of Identigene, you can still cheat on your husband and have a child that's not his and get away with it - as long as it's with your husband's identical twin (and he's able to keep the secret, which is apparently hard for twins).

But for the rest of you adulterers and adulteresses fathering and mothering children of uncertain parentage, it's 2008, babies. You'd better start thinking about cleaning up your acts.

To put it another way (and here's a free jingle suggestion for you, Identigene, sung to the tune of those old Pepsodent commercials:) "You're better off coming clean/Or you could get caught with Identigene."

Special to The Globe and Mail

 

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