My daughter's father might be the other guy

I never gave it a second thought until somebody said she looked Czech

Published September 1, 2009 10:20AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

In 1990, I was in the military at a foreign base. I slept with one man named X of Czech ancestry, and another one named Y who is Mexican, Irish and Polynesian. This sounds like slutty behavior on my part, but trust me, it was standard operational procedure for either gender at that base. Drinking and sex were the only effective forms of stress relief available to us. Hell-raising was an essential part of a tour, although it often cost dearly.

I left that post in 1990. Two months later I learned I was pregnant. I gave birth to my daughter a few months later and married Y, the presumed father. Y was hesitant to get hitched, but has never questioned our daughter's paternity and has always been a devoted daddy. X has been totally forgotten about. Until now.

Flash forward to 2009. Our daughter is a college student. One of her professors looked at her and thought that she was from the Czech Republic. She laughed, as there is no Czech anywhere in her dad or I. X, however, was 100 percent Czech and proud of it. Could he be her biological father?

I don't wish to contact X and disturb his family or mess up mine. Especially since our daughter is so proud of her Mexican heritage, and always enjoys Cinco de Mayo. But I wonder if she should have a DNA test done for health reasons. I have mixed emotions. I totally believe that we should all treat each other fairly regardless of race or ethnicity. But disease can be related to genetics. Is there any illness that is common among Czechs? X was physically healthy, but he had an alcohol problem and frequently drank until he blacked out. My mother is also an alcoholic. Presently, our daughter is straight-edge. However, she has been known to change her mind. If she takes up drinking later on in college or grad school, it seems to me she might be especially prone to alcoholism if X is her biological father.

Confused Mamma Mia

Dear Confused,

Basically the question is, should you investigate the paternity of your daughter?

I say no. Leave well enough alone. No one directly concerned in the matter has expressed a desire to know.

If the man who might be her father came to your door and said, "I think I am the father of your daughter, I want to see her," that would be one thing. His desire to see his daughter would be a desire for the truth, for knowledge the lack of which caused him pain. It would be a genuine problem that needs solving. You would have to know the truth in order to judge whether his request had some basis in fact. And you would have some compassion for his position; finding the truth would serve some purpose.

But no one concerned has expressed a desire for such knowledge. They do not appear to be suffering because of their lack of knowledge. So I think you should leave the status quo alone.

If your daughter should at some future date come to doubt her paternity for some reason, then you might want to take up the matter.

But that hasn't happened. This whole matter arose because of a stranger's offhand comment. 

It's true that certain diseases have a genetic basis. If X had a serious genetic defect that can be passed from father to daughter, and/or to her children, and if knowing about this might help her make better decisions, or live a healthier life, that would be something.

But that is not the case, either, as far as you know.

As to alcoholism, I don't agree that if X were her father, then she would be "especially prone to alcoholism." There seems to be some relationship between genetic makeup and alcoholism. But it is not a cause-and-effect relationship. It is a matter of statistical probability. Alcoholics seem to cluster in certain genetically related populations, but one cannot say with confidence that one certain individual is "especially prone to alcoholism" because of her parentage. She might have parents who are alcoholics but exhibit no tendency toward alcoholism at all. On the other hand, she might become a raging alcoholic all on her own, without the benefit of  any family  history in that area.

So I think you should basically leave this situation alone. It wouldn't hurt to talk to a doctor about any genetically transmitted diseases that appear prominently in people of Czech descent. But apart from that, I would leave well enough alone.

Families keep secrets. Sometimes for good reason. Read all about it

Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?

By Cary Tennis

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