My whole life, I’ve wanted an ethnic identity that goes along with being American. My friends are Italian-American, Mexican-American, African-American, Irish-American. But no glorious hyphen for me. I’m just American.   

Don’t get me wrong. Being American is great. But what’s more American than having something great and wanting even more? 

I was always jealous that my friends had an additional culture and all that goes with it. Delicious food, traditional music, unique and colorful clothes. Ancient traditions that are still alive today. Generational connections that span years and lifetimes. Challenging and dangerous liquors like Grappa, Rakija, Ouzo and Tequila. 

Though this always bothered me, I gave up hoping it would change. That is until I took a DNA test. When it came back, I scanned through all the different places my mongrel DNA is from. Nothing I could claim as my own. But then, there it was: I am 3% Neandertal! 

I remember looking at the report, stunned. Suddenly, a whole world opened to me, one that was even better than I had imagined! What’s the only thing better than being two different ethnicities? Being two entirely different species on the evolutionary ladder!  

In that moment I knew, from that day forward, I would identify as Neandertal-American.  

At first, I was bothered about how little I knew about my people. I don’t know our language. I don’t know our songs, or even if we had any. Did we dance? If we did, is that where I got my amazing moves?  

I did know a few things. I know we had stone tools. Fire. Animal pelt onesies.  

And nicely appointed caves. Like for the day, you know, really nice. Furs on the cold stone floor. Decorated with a couple of charcoal drawings of stick figures with stick spears chasing beasts. Fire pit near the cave mouth. Unlike those stupid Homo Erectus, who were wiped out due to smoke inhalation because they kept building fires deep in their caverns.  

Sure, maybe I don’t know much about our culture, but I can look in the mirror and see evidence of my heritage. Now when I see my deep, protruding eye-ridges, I’m no longer full of self-loathing. I see my reflection with pride. And the time I’m saving by not manscaping! I don’t have to shave between my eyebrows anymore, but can let them be the conjoined twins that my people would be proud of.  

But there is one question that I’d like answered. Like, why did we suck as a species? We got our butts whipped by Homo Sapiens. Why weren’t we the Alpha species, the Apex race? Why the only evidence of our existence in old bones, cave art and scraps of genetic code?  

But I’m a glass half full type, so now I can use the defeat of Neandertals to explain my failings. Like me, they must have been lazy and sleepy. Prone to anxiety. Overweight from late night snacking. Better at flight than fight, but really good at giving up. 

Still, I’m proof that our genes survived. I think a few Neandertals must have been hot. Like, attracting the humans hot. I’d like to think that 3% of my DNA came from a male with deep set eyes.  His protruding eye ridges cast mysterious shadows, which hid all but the glitter of his eyes. And above them, a unibrow that could execute complicated moves to set itself in different, intricate and attractive forms.  

The next step for me is to find the rest of my people. I’m thinking about organizing a Mammoth hunt. That’s still a thing, right? The first 20 Neandertal–Americans that register will get a gift bag with a free spear and a hot wildebeest onesie.  Sign up today! 

2 thoughts on “Neandertal-American

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