Nobody can talk to teenagers, because they know it all, already. Right?
But University of Cape Town dermatologist Dr Nonhlanhla Khumalo, the mother of 3 daughters (Vuyisiwe, Gugu and Nosipho) didn’t give up. She brought out a book on DNA, entitled Genes for Teens, which uses skin and hair to explain the ‘’science stuff, the teacher stuff’’ that would otherwise get rejected by these picky creatures.
And Dr Khumalo – whose day job includes examining the damaging effects of hair straightener – used the variety of jeans on the shelves to explain genetic diversity. Of course, sex came into the picture as well.
Turns out that one 70-year-old lady didn’t realise that it was men who were responsible for the sex of their children, and resolved no longer to blame daughters-in-law for the shortage of male grandchildren.
Hormone-driven male hair loss, acne, the torture of Afrocombs on hair that doesn’t want to be flat, and the lack of hair on your lips, soles of your feet and the palms of your hands all came into her talk. Red heads are a genetic mutation, like albinism. ‘’You see how wonderful genes are?’’ she asked.
She explored the interrelationship between ultraviolet sunlight, our body’s need for Vitamin D, calcium and melanin-rich skin pigment. ‘’If you move to colder areas, the darker you are, the less likely that you will survive and your children will survive.’’ Vitamin D rich livers from seals, she explained, was the reason why the darker-skinned Inuit survived the shortage of sunshine in the frozen north, without developing dangerous fragile bone diseases such as ricketts.
She also paid tribute to Zukile Vokwana for funding the first edition of her book.
Christina Scott, SciDev.Net