Too Much Information

Prompt Me! Sherry Becker unexpected DNA test results.

Mary Jane and Brett had been dating for eight years before they decided to get married. They were older, approaching 30, and figured it was now or never for the two to get hitched. Mary Jane had been working at Target as a merchandising manager when she met the tall, dark and handsome Brett at a company networking event for the department. She had seen him around the eighth floor, but their paths had never crossed. He had preceded her by two years on the sought-after Target hiring program and at first they just shared war stories at happy hour. One night out with their co-workers, they discovered they were the last two standing at the bar. That turned into dinner and a relationship that lasted.

Brett was the quieter of the two, more reserved, thoughtful. He was steadily rising in the company, as much because of attrition as on merit. Mary Jane, outgoing by nature, fit in well with the Target culture and had a knack for anticipating the needs of her bosses. The two exuded a corporate presence, Mary Jane just a few inches shorter than Brett but with similar dark features and brows like Brooke Shields. They were, in the vernacular, a “power couple,” often working a room of business associates like politicians.

Their wedding was extravagant by the standards of the day, and many in attendance were fellow Target co-workers. Both had attended graduate school—Brett at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business and Mary Jane at the University of Minnesota Carlson School—and received their MBA’s. Their classmates from business school were like a “who’s who” of industry in the upper Midwest. Theirs was an upwardly mobile career track that was soaring with no end in sight.

Mary Jane had been adopted by a family from Wayzata who were unable to have children. As an only child, she felt torn taking on a new last name, but it was important to Brett and she liked his name—Brunsfeld—so she became Mary Jane Brunsfeld after she and Brett were married. They were comfortable with their work, their social status, their travel and friends. Children hadn’t emerged as a need yet.

Mary Jane and Brett had been married about five years when they decided to jump on the bandwagon and get their DNA tested through the popular DNA testing kits that were advertised throughout the holiday season. They debated about which kit to get and finally decided they were more interested in health than genealogy, so they ordered their kits from the testing labs that touted the health angle. It was going to be their Christmas gift to each other. So on Christmas morning, before drinking coffee or opening their other gifts, they spit into their respective little tubes, followed the directions and dropped the completed kits into a mail drop on the way to Brett’s parent’s home for Christmas dinner.

Three weeks later their results came. They were almost breathless in anticipation. The initial information was mildly interesting—they knew they were western European, with their ancestry primarily England, Ireland, Germany.  They took a few research questionnaires and then filled out more detailed information on DNA relatives. Nothing earth shaking presented itself. There were no indications of dread diseases on the horizons. Mary Jane had a marker for celiac disease. Neither were likely to have dimples. Both were likely to have brown eyes. Both were more likely to be afraid of heights, yet neither were afraid of heights. They compared reports, discussing the similarities and differences.


A week later, an email arrived from the testing company promoting new reports that had come out. Brett checked his out at work. As he was scrolling through the reports, he clicked on the header, Family & Friends. And he stopped dead.

He picked up the phone and called Mary Jane.

“Hello, Target Corp. Mary Jane speaking.” She said curtly.

“Mary Jane. Check your DNA site. Click on Family and Friends. I’m not sure I believe this. It’s. It’s… It’s outrageous.”

Mary Jane, realizing the call was from Brett, said curtly, “Brett, I’m in the middle of a meeting here. I’ve got guys in the office. I’ll call you back.”

Brett just said, “Make it quick.” He hung up.

Mary Jane was just finishing her meeting 15 minutes later when she looked up and saw Brett. “Hey!” she said and wrapped up her conversation with a colleague. “I’ll be right with you.”

Brett was visibly agitated. He was pacing and avoiding eye contact with the executives leaving Mary Jane’s office. Normally he would be glad-handing them as they passed through the door.

As her office cleared out, Brett moved in, and sat in a chair across from Mary Jane.  He took a deep breath, lifted his eyes to meet Mary Jane’s, and said, “You won’t believe what the DNA testing says.

“You’re my sister.”

Mary Jane jumped up like a snake had just struck. “NO!” she shouted. “No! No! Why would you say such a thing? Brett, NO!” She took on an athletic stance, ready to fight or flee, it wasn’t clear which.

Life was never the same. That moment, in Mary Jane’s office, was the end of normal. That evening, Mary Jane moved to the guest room.

They both went through extensive testing. They cross examined their parents, Mary Jane her adopted parents, Brett his birth parents.

Brett’s parents broke down, sobbing, distraught, remorseful. Shortly after he had been born, they had approached a fertility clinic. They were deep in debt from school loans and a business deal gone bad. They had sold fertilized eggs to the clinic for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They dug themselves out of debt, never imagining the eggs would come back to bite them.

Brett eventually transferred to a Target regional office. Mary Jane moved to Atlanta. Both cut off communications with Brett’s parents and each other. Their divorce was finalized 10 months later.

They never spoke to each other again. Mary Jane remained Mary Jane Brunsfeld.


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