Four years ago today a young researcher at the beginning of his graduate program in primatology sat down with the most intelligent, engaging, and downright beautiful fellow primate he’d ever had the opportunity to share a beer with. Freshly minted with her Master’s degree in women’s studies (emphasizing public policy), our conversation quickly moved to a discussion of evolution and male vs. female strategies. It’s only in hindsight that it seems bizarre to be talking about theories of male promiscuity and female choosiness on a first date. I had recently returned from my first primate field research trip and at the end of our fascinating conversation I asked her, “Do you want to come over and watch my bonobo videos?” (No, they weren’t what you think, mostly just grooming. Mostly.) She did. Little did I know that, four years later, we’d have a baby bonobo of our own.
It’s often difficult for the humanities and the sciences to find a common ground and achieve mutual understanding (and Cthulhu knows we’ve had some intense arguments about the role of biology vs. culture in human life). But after four years I can honestly say that, if not for her, I wouldn’t have understood evolution’s role in human behavior as well as I do because I never would have been forced to challenge my own assumptions. And I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve never mentioned Erin in my blog before (and she doesn’t know I’m doing this now) but as she sleeps in this morning I just wanted to share my nostalgia and express how grateful I am for life’s little accidents. I would also issue a warning against asking someone to watch your bonobo videos on a first date. In a different context I think they might get the wrong idea.