America does not trust its young with anything other than controlling interest in the entertainment industry. You were young once. You remember all the rules. At sixteen there is the possibility of driving and crashing your father’s sports utility vehicle. At eighteen you can leave the country, take up arms against a people who are neither foe nor friend. You can kill someone for reasons that do not concern you. But it is not until you are twenty-one that you can legally purchase alcohol. You have been drinking since you were twelve, but you take pleasure in this new ability to do so publicly and legally. This is when the problems begin, or rather, when you stop moving toward anything. You are in fact done. There are other things to look forward to. The ability to rent a car at twenty-five. Loss of bone marrow density and greater risk of fractures after thirty. The increased probability at thirty-five that your baby will be born with down syndrome. Most of prognostications for women involve fertility. For men there is baldness, erectile dysfunction. But at twenty one there is alcohol and the ability to purchase a handgun. You could always gamble or work as a prostitute in the State of Nevada. That is if you need something else to look forward to.
Prairie voles live in the central grasslands. Highly social mammals, they have become the subjects of choice for scientists interested in the biological sources of monogamous pair bonding. This is not a popular activity. Only three percent of mammals engage in social monogamy. Voles are divided on the subject. The male meadow vole does not express the paternal devotion shown by his cousin of the prairie. This causes much family strife. The prairie vole has long repeating strips of DNA dangling like party streamers above a gene linked to vasopressin. This is the best explanation they have for the prairie vole’s uncommon dedication to his mate and his young. Vasopressin is released when a body is low on water, causing the kidneys to hold onto everything it has, constricting its volume. It is hard to imagine this as pleasurable, but monogamy does not always feel good. The meadow vole lives in moist open areas and will abandon his mate, his newborn litter for the dark call of night. But if he is injected with vasopressin, he will return home quickly, the nib of his tail tucked between his stubby legs.
Researchers have identified three neural chemicals associated with monogamy. Oxytocin is a hormone released after orgasm in both sexes and in women during childbirth. If you rub your nipples you may also trigger a rush of. Vasopressin is pressure and its absence. This too makes monogamy possible. Dopamine is that rush of excitement, the nexus of pleasure and repeat performance.
When we love we are fingering this microscopic string. Another mammalian experiment of. If the DNA snippets dangle just above, we are faithful. If the vasopressin is in short supply, or the oxytocin is depleted, we are more likely to wrap ourselves up in the nearest cotton sheet and waddle to the refrigerator for a late night snack. Before departing, we will be sure to empty our pockets of everything that was sudden or elating. The night is its own intoxicant. There is a whole world yet to explore.