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What do you do when a home DNA test challenges your cultural identity?


Seattle’s Alice Argosino grew up Greek. Like, “Big Fat Greek Wedding” level Greek.

“We’re Greek,” said Argosino. “Always talking about Greek history, and I really felt like I looked like the Greeks. When I went to Greece I thought, oh my gosh, that’s what I look like! We would go to Greek festivals when I was growing up. I took Greek mythology classes, I studied Greek and Greece. I went to Greece several times.”

When she had children, she skipped the baby naming books and took inspiration from Greek goddesses.

“My oldest daughter is Athena, my second daughter is Alala, our dog is Aphrodite and our hedgehog is Hermes.”

Last year, Argosino took a 23andMe and test and I think you can guess what happened next: The test revealed that she isn’t Greek at all. She’s actually British.

“I felt cheated, actually. I [always felt] I was exotic, I always used to tease that my ancestors were frisky. We were all over the place, Cherokee and Greek, and then to find out that I have absolutely nothing that seems remotely interesting as my ancestry is just unfortunate. It’s a bit depressing actually.

Argosino raised her daughters in the same Greek culture she was raised in and she hasn’t had the heart to tell them the news. She says she can’t quit Greece cold turkey.

“No, I can’t stop doing my Greek stuff because my children still believe that they’re Greek and we named them after the Greek goddesses. So I will perpetuate the myth. I will be that one parent that continues to lie to my children so that on my deathbed I can relay this earth shattering news. No, I probably won’t. But if and when they do a DNA test, they’ll find out what their history is.”

Taking a 23andMe test is a risk. You may find out information that you don’t want to find out. So think hard before you take one. Would you rather have regrets or live in blissful ignorance?

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