By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
What a distant 'cousin' taught me about family
Audience members hold up signs so that A.J. Jacobs can take a selfie with them in the background during his keynote speech at RootsTech at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. - photo by Amy Choate-Nielsen
As I listened to one of the speakers at the RootsTech conference a few weeks ago, I was enthralled by what he was saying.

Were all cousins, he said. (Thats true, I thought, keeping right with him.)

Were all cousins and it is great, and there is going to be a giant party in New York City on June 6 for all of us cousins and well get together for a grand reunion and it will be wonderful, he said. (What a great idea, I thought.)

And the concept of cousins is not only the key to peace and tolerance, but even famous people are on board with the idea and willing to pose with a paper that says, I am a cousin, as are thousands of people who held up signs with the same words in the Salt Palace Convention Center.

"Huh," I thought as the presentation ended. "Im kind of surprised so many people are embracing this, but maybe its because the speaker is New York Times best-selling author A.J. Jacobs. Hes given TED talks. Hes on NPR. Hes met Oprah. Hes cool. And his cousin idea must be cool, too."

And then I realized I was standing in a credibility gap.

My husband first told me about the credibility gap shortly after we purchased our first car together.

At the time, we had just barely gotten engaged. In fact, he started helping me look for a car when he was still my boyfriend, and when he called my parents to ask for their blessing to marry me, they thought he was calling about the car, not a wedding. But of course they said yes, and, now that I think about it, Im the one who got the better end of the deal, because he was the one with the actual money to buy a car.

So we were shopping around, looking for something that would be reliable, not too expensive and, we hoped, air-conditioned. There werent a lot of options in our price range.

Eventually, my husband then fianc finally found and liked a blue Oldsmobile Intrigue that had pretty low mileage, air conditioning and cruise control. Everything looked pretty good in the engine, and it was a good price. So he said, Lets buy it.

I was fine with the color, the price, the air conditioning, the mileage and the cruise control. I was even fine with the fact that it was kind of a granny car but, in my heart of hearts, I was looking for something a little more, shall we say, Japanese.

I had never driven an Oldsmobile, and I had some reservations, which I told him about. He reiterated all of the good things about the car, the price and the cruise control. But I resisted until I asked the opinion of my boss at work, who also knew about cars, and he said it sounded like a good deal.

So I told my husband, Hey, lets get that Oldsmobile.

We were married about two months later. We called the car Goldy, and it was a great car for years. But my husband took note of the fact that I needed a second opinion, and he called it a credibility gap. He said I give more credence to other peoples opinions over his own, even if they are the same.

I deny it.

But on the day of the RootsTech conference, I knew it was true only in this case, I gave my dad the gap and A.J. Jacobs the credibility.

My dad has been calling our long-lost ancestors cousins for as long as I can remember, and I not only dismissed his desire to link us to any stranger on the planet as a distant cousin but also found it irritating. It bugged me when he called my great-uncles-sisters-husbands-mother or some such ancestor a cousin. It was too succinct and embarrassing when he offered to figure out how my boyfriend was also my cousin.

But I was wrong, and it took the credibility gap and an at-large Esquire editor for me to realize it.

Genealogy puts the world in perspective, Jacobs said in his presentation. Its my hope that the global family will lead to a kinder world. Once it sinks in that we are all one big family, I hope it makes us realize we need to be kinder to each other. We tend to treat family with a little more kindness than a stranger.

Hes right, I thought. Family should receive our kindest treatment and our highest credence. After all of these years in the credibility gap, I know the truth. Ive got it backward.

Then again, we are all cousins.