by | Oct 31, 1999 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Traditionally, the first thing you say about a newborn baby is how much it resembles the parents.

“Look, she has her father’s eyes.”

“Look, she has her mother’s chin.”

But if a certain fashion photographer turned genetic manipulator has his way, people will soon be saying, “Look, she has Naomi Campbell’s lips.”

That’s because Ron Harris, who has been photographing gorgeous women for years, has decided to make a buck off people’s insane desire for beauty.

His idea is simple: Eggs. Human eggs. From fashion models (or more like wanna-be fashion models). By clicking on Harris’ Web site, you get to check out these women, pick the one you want and make a bid.

If your offer is the highest — and some of these models are seeking more than
$100,000 — you get her eggs, which you are then free to fertilize (perhaps with sperm you purchased from a cast member of “Baywatch”).

And ta-da! You make a beautiful baby! Daddy’s little Barbie.

Shopping on the Web

Naturally, an idea this disgusting immediately made national news. Stories about Harris and his egg-selling beauties got more attention last week than the Gore-Bradley debate, East Timor, Chechnya or the stock market.

Never mind that some already question whether the whole thing is a hoax, or that before this, Harris operated soft-porn Web sites, which makes him a businessman, not a biologist.

Nonetheless, he was everywhere last week, defending his right to be a beauty broker, defending the asking price for eggs that ranged up to $150,000, acting as if buying your children’s genes is as normal as buying your children’s jeans.

“This is Darwin’s natural selection at its very best,” Harris says on his Web site, which opens with the phrase “Come Up to Beauty. Come Up To Ron’s Angels.” (Gee. They’re pretty and they’re angels. Next we’ll be told they’re virgins.)

Harris collects an additional 20 percent commission on the eggs — not to mention the $24.95 a month you have to pay for his Web site. You really ought to read this thing. It’s hysterical and frightening at the same time.

Other parts of Harris’ sales pitch:

“Beauty is its own reward. This is the first society to comprehend how important beautiful genes are to evolution…. Just watch television and you will see that we are only interested in looking at beautiful people…. If you could increase the chance of reproducing beautiful children, thus giving them an advantage in society, would you?”

I don’t know. Let me finish throwing up first.

Another status symbol

Now, whether Harris is a fraud or not, this whole thing does raise some important issues. Like, what should matter when having a child? And how much further will our obsession with beauty take us?

Do we really want a world where anything less than beautiful is a sign of poverty, like driving a broken-down car or wearing torn clothes? Isn’t the joy of the human race its diversity? What are we saying to children when we’re only happy if they look like a little Brad Pitt or a tiny Christie Brinkley?

More importantly, what does it say about prospective parents who might take the money for a child’s college education and spend it instead on trying to get a cute smile and blond hair?

Never mind that genetically, the whole thing remains a crapshoot. Just because the eggs come from a pretty woman is no guarantee the child will be the slightest bit attractive.

Still, the sickest part of this whole thing is that some people think it’s a pretty good idea. “Why not get the best for my child?” they say. These are the same people who pay $10,000 a year for an elite nursery school or hire Olympic skating coaches.

People decried Hitler’s plan to create a so-called master race. Are these the same people who now say, “Let’s go for a Cindy Crawford type?” What’s next? You pick sperm from a Rhodes scholar? Eggs of an Olympic athlete?

Infertility is difficult enough. It shouldn’t turn into a shopping trip. And did anybody consider that while you might get Kate Moss’ looks, you could also get her personality?

I think I’d rather trust Mother Nature than a guy like Harris, who lives in Malibu (strike one), has no medical background (strike two) and has bred Arabian horses (strike three).

Besides, when they wrote that song “(She’s Got) Bette Davis Eyes,” they didn’t mean, you know, literally.

MITCH ALBOM can be reached at 313-223-4581. Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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