I’m from a large family in the South; both my parents came from big families, so I have a lot of cousins spread out across the country. Recently, I met one of those cousins for the first time when my mom suggested I get together with him for dinner while I was traveling for business. I’m very confused by what happened when we got together: he’s completely charming, we had a great time, and I’m attracted to him—and I’m pretty sure by the way he was flirting that he’s attracted to me, too. At the end of dinner, he asked if we could get together again when I’m in town. Is it really weird to pursue something with him? Since we didn’t meet until our late twenties, he doesn’t even feel like family to me.—KK, Birmingham, Alabama
The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
I’m not a medical expert, but I’m pretty sure there’s a reason that cousins aren’t supposed to date that goes beyond just knowing one another as children. I think there are real medical repercussions if you guys produce kids.
That being said, one date may not lead to you guys walking down the aisle and having kids. And that being said, I have to be honest and say that I just find the whole thing off-putting.
I’m sure that you feel attracted—and he may, too—but please just keep looking around. Finding someone to date that you’re not related to will be a much easier path to follow than dating your cousin.
If you do decide to see him again, just know that you’re heading for judgment from others and all sorts of problematic issues. You might want to try checking in with your immediate family and seeing how they feel before you go any further. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, well, that’s an indicator of sorts isn’t it?
I guess you have to ask yourself if the attraction is worth all the problems. For me, the answer is a resounding no.
The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
This topic is so fraught with mystery, taboo, and misunderstanding that I thought I’d try to bring some clarity before my advisement.
First off, it is legal in thirty-one states—including the most progressive and populated states of New York and California—to marry a first cousin. The U.S. is virtually alone among developed nations in outlawing marriage among first cousins. European countries and our neighbor, Canada, have no such prohibition—20 percent of marriages around the world are between first cousins. Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin—yes, a genius and the survival-of-the-fittest guy—both married their first cousins.
But what about the two-headed babies these first cousins will have if they procreate? A recent review by the Journal of Genetic Counseling says that, on average, offspring of first-cousin unions have a 2 to 3 percent greater risk of birth defects than the general population, or non-first-cousin marriages.
Back to you, KK. You didn’t specify his degree of cousinhood, so I just assume he’s a first cousin. For the record, all states allow the marriage of second cousins.
But let’s set aside the overkill on talk of babies and marriage. You’re just talking about the possibility of pursuing something with him. My advice is no, you should not.
One, your statement of you being “in town” means this will be a long-distance relationship. No. Two, there’s no such thing as an ex-cousin. Dating and breaking up with co-workers is bad enough, but you can get another job. You can’t get another family.
I say kiss the possibility with this cousin goodbye.
The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
KK! What the hell are you doing? Southerners everywhere have worked hard to erase the stereotype that we’re all toothless idiots who walk around humming Dwight Yoakam or Billy Ray Cyrus tunes while we wait outside the outhouse to make out with our brothers or sisters, or if they’re not available, our cousins … because, of course, we want to be just like Ashley and Melanie in Gone with the Wind. Make it stop, please … make it stop!
Here’s an important question. What kind of cousin is this man—a first cousin? Second? Second twice-removed? A first cousin, in my mind, is the most flagrant offense, so if that’s the case, abort mission Date My Cousin entirely. Second cousins and beyond are, I suppose, more acceptable, but even those are still a little weird to me. (Really, are there so few single, attractive men in the Greater Birmingham Area that you need to get it on with a family member?)
Listen, I know that it’s not easy to find a good match. Add that to the fact that because you’d never met this guy until recently, he didn’t feel like family and your dinner together probably felt like one big magical blind date. But just for a second, fast forward to a little further along in your relationship, to the point when you’re taking him home to meet your parents. Hello, awkward. Aren’t regular family reunions horrible enough?
The bottom line: he may not feel like family, but he is. The good news is that I just did a search on Match.com and saw that there are 217 men within twenty miles of a Birmingham zip code between the ages of twenty-five and forty. Jump on that train, KK. It’s a lot less icky and your kids won’t have fourteen heads. Just sayin’.
The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
(Cue “Dueling Banjos” music.) KK, I grew up in Kentucky so I’m no stranger to the cousin jokes that come along with being from the South. Now, are we talking about a first cousin here or a second cousin? A first cousin could be a tad weird, but a second or third cousin? Think about how much money you could save if you got married. It’s brilliant: a wedding/reunion combo! Print up a t-shirt and send me one!
I don’t think your situation is as unique as some of our readers might think. More states allow marriages between first cousins than prohibit them. Many states, including Alabama, have legalized cousin marriage, and a handful allows first-cousin marriage under certain circumstances: Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Utah, and Wisconsin. To make things even more complicated, North Carolina permits cousin marriage, but not double-cousin marriage. I’m glad we cleared that up.
But since you’re not marching down the aisle and are just wondering if you should date him, let’s rewind a little. Are you sure you’re attracted to him or was it more of an “Oh my God, I have a hot cousin!” moment. Have you talked with him since your visit? If so, how did he act? Was he still flirty? There are a million reasons you should probably look into dating others; in the end though, none of us choose who we’re attracted to. Just think longer and harder about this one before you do anything.
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