July 27th, 2004


A Particular Set of Physical Characteristics

I didn't have to speak to the girl I saw in the Chinese restaurant today, to know that she was mentally retarded. I'm not sure what variety of retardation she had--probably Down's--but she had all of the external characteristics of whatever her type was: a pear-shaped torso set on wide hips, a sway-backed spine, such that her legs seemed to propel her upper body forward from behind as she walked, a childlike appearance to her face. She had very pretty dark, staight hair cut into a pageboy style, and she was very high-functioning, as far as I could tell.

I didn't even question myself. I simply glanced at her, thought, Oh, there's a retarded girl here, and I think her father is, too, then dug into my eggrolls like a wolf in the sheep pen.

After I devoured my eggrolls, I paused long enough to be a bit stunned that I had come up with this very casual assessment--not at the assessment itself, but at the casualness, the unquestioning certainty of it.

Then I asked myself, Why does it manifest this way?

I believe that very little happens in nature without there being either a very good reason or a need for it. I might be completely wrong in this hypothesis, but it's my starting point.

Now I would think, if you're going to have external physical signs of an internal physical problem, then the internal problem would not manifest itself until after the age of reproduction--thus, a need to warn others of the species beforehand, "Don't reproduce with this person."

Why would nature bother with external physical characteristics for a type of mental retardation that is evident from childhood? They're not necessary, yet they exist--for a number of different conditions, not just mental retardation.

I don't know if the physical characteristics of Down's are simply a domino effect from having the third 21st chromosome, or what. But the why of it interests the heck out of me.
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