Hiccups, hernias and hemorrhoids are all caused by an imperfect transfer of anatomical technology from our fish ancestors.”–biology professor Marlene Zuk in The New York Times (1/20/09)

Don’t let’s go there. We all have our instinctual phobias and obsessions, a fear of sharp-beaked shadows, or a scarcely controllable urge to upgrade that in-home lap pool, again.

Maybe I should have paid more attention before clicking “accept,” but I can never remember whether to stream downloads sequentially or fluvially. No excuses, but I was a botany major. And anyway, anatomical transfer was not part of the core curriculum at my school. It was just assumed that you were comfortable with it, that members of a certain socioeconomic class could discern piscine from avian. What more can I say? I was a scholarship kid, and I winged it.

But hey, really, I have no regrets. I have progressed farther than my parents ever dreamed possible. Like my behaviorist says, individual evolution is not a mad dash to the finish line. It’s a process. You want to have the sense to make a lateral move, if you catch my drift.

Nobody’s happy with the status quo. We all want to become someone or something else. We are all struggling to leave the primordial ooze, but only some of us have the lungs for it–only some of us have the ambition to truly succeed, to shout out to the world, “I am part halibut and proud of it!”

I admit that I am still working on that. Problem is, after twenty-three hours at the office, going flat out the whole time, there’s only so much memory left in my limbic forebrain [hic]. It’s a strain; I won’t deny it. I start to doubt my ability to migrate anatomically. A self-defeating thought, I know, but just the type of self-defeating thought that can swell painfully, that can burn, and itch . . . and, well, you know what I mean.

We all have failings. The difference is that I’m trying not to bust a gut over it. The people who are already there will tell you it’s easy, but I know better: gene transfer and gene expression are two different things entirely. I mean, look at Dick Cheney. OK, yes, he does reveal a certain squat, predatory glee, but that is merely a superficial resemblance to an anglerfish, a trait that might inspire a playground nickname, but no more. What you see is what he’s got.

And then there are the overachievers, like my ex, Felicia. When we met, she was a nobody, hopelessly mono-specific. Now she tells everyone who’ll listen that there are only three degrees of separation between herself, personally, and a race of riverine dolphins–and a scant four to Michelle Obama.

Tell you the truth, I miss Felicia. We had this post-mammalian attraction going big-time. I mean, I really thought the relationship had legs. And then I come home one day totally parched and she says no, she’s moved on, she needs someone with vision, someone who can see eye to eye with her, another panopticon and not some binocular loser like me.

After the initial shock wore off (me, binocular?), I understood that her argument didn’t hold water. Felicia has this way of moving when she knows you’re watching, a slippery sort of grace I thought only I was susceptible to. But, as it turns out, others were watching just as closely, and one of them got a hook in her.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of belief. I believe I am becoming more adaptive every minute of every day. Sometime in the not too distant future, I will find true love, achieve neutral buoyancy, and sleep with my eyes open. Better that than to tell myself I’m destined to a life of synchronous diaphragmatic flutter and peritoneal rupture. Some beliefs are a prop, others a truss.