Eugenics on a tiny scale

You maybe didn’t know this because why would you? but there’s a virus called CMV that infects 85% of  adults. It doesn’t do anything; it just sits there being herpes’ harmless second cousin forever BUT, if you’re a woman using donor sperm AND you’re CMV-negative, you can’t use a CMV-positive donor because of risk to the baby.

I’m negative. Goodbye, 85% of donors! Goodbye, Mr. Sensitive Multiracial#2882! Goodbye, gay rower (who claims to be straight after all)! My choices have narrowed and narrowed again — no blondes; no hunters; no undergraduates — so I’m zeroing in on “Saul,” a CMV-neg Jewish doctor. Great save! I am made entirely of win: Despite the lesbian/late-bloomer/downwardly-mobile factors at play here, I can still have a baby with a Jewish doctor!

And Saul is…so Jewish. He has mold allergies and a 4.66 valedictory GPA and a mother he describes as “a nightmare.” He’s a nebbish like you’ve never seen. I will call the baby “Kreplach Punim.”

This is quite serendipitous, because I was raised in a Jewish neighborhood with Jewish friends and thus developed a Jewish soul. If I had long-term amnesia and didn’t remember anything about myself, I’d worry that I’d missed too many Hadassah meetings during my fugue state. I can Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu melech ha’olam well enough to make Saul’s mother proud, even though she’s probably more appalled by sperm donation than by Jews For Jesus.

I wonder if she knows that Saul is on sale. A twofer deal. I can buy four vials for less than what it cost to fix the weird idling noise my car made last spring.  The mind reels.

Coming Up Next: What Happens If I Have A Boy?

Mani-pedis with my gay son

I found a donor I like as much as #2882, and he comes from a better sperm bank — they don’t charge $75 for silhouette photos and other extraneous ripoff jazz. This new guy, “Bruce,” is the right size, the right coloring, hella smart and a funny writer. He’s an “elite-level lightweight sculler” who participates in “regattas” and other biased-SAT word type activities. When my mother saw his baby picture, she cried because he looked like me. The sperm bank lady said he has a great personality with no signs of creepiness or sociopathy. I decided Bruce was my guy.

But then I played Bruce’s 20-minute audio interview for my best friend. Halfway through it, she smiled meaningfully; the way she smiles when I’m missing something.

“What?” I asked. “Isn’t he great?”

“I’m getting a…seriously gay vibe here,” she said.

“Cut it out,” I said. “Why?”

“Well, his favorite movie is ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ He gave up singing in a men’s chorus to pursue rowing full time. And now he’s talking about sperm donation as a way to continue his family line because he isn’t sure he’ll ever have a ‘full-time partner.’ A straight guy would have said ‘wife.'”

“Nooooo,” I said, as I realized she was right. You can see Bruce’s gay from space, but I missed it specifically BECAUSE I try to live in a gay bubble as much as possible. “Full-time partner” is normal, familiar language to me; not a a Giant Big Gay Red Homo Flag.

So now I have questions: How strong is the genetic component of homosexuality? Am I doing my child a disservice by giving her/him TWO gay parents? Isn’t doubling up on the gaygredients a needless risk? Am I increasing the possibility that my kid’s life will be harder than necessary? Wouldn’t it be safest to go with my second choice; a man who didn’t knock his math SATs out of the park but who does refer to his partner as “the wife”?

Also: Does my reticence to use gay sperm stem from a good place; e.g. wanting to protect my child from the slings and arrows of flamboyant faggotry, or is this actually about internalized homophobia? Am I a self-hating queer? (I mean, I do hate myself, but I never thought it had anything to do with being a lesbian).

I’m much more worried about having a gay son than a lesbian daughter. I’m thinking about AIDS and anal prolapse and poppers making him retarded and no one thinking he’s attractive after he’s 30. Lesbians don’t make as much money, but I find we age better in terms of general happiness (albeit invisibility). Our ratio of joy to tragedy seems…more favorable.

My friend told me not to worry. “That stuff is cultural,” she said after I stopped rambling on about popper retardation. “It’ll be a different world in 20 years.”

“Well, sure,” I said. “We could be living in the  post-apocalyptic Former United States of Romney, being kept by middle-class Asians as remote-controlled pets and fighting the Water Wars. It could be worse by the time this kid grows up.”

She said I was worrying about the wrong things and smiled meaningfully again.

I’ve decided to trust her. There are so many ways for life to be difficult that it’s madness to try to avoid them all. And the whole thing about having a child is: You don’t know who you’re getting; not at all. You issue an invitation to a stranger, and 40 weeks later that person shows up at your door. Hello, you say, and after a couple of years, they say hello back.

Dear Sperm Donor #2882,

I’ve taken to calling you “Andrew.” I don’t have any particular attachment to the name, which is why I chose it. “Andrew” is a friendly blank slate; the flavor-absorbing tofu of names. I can project anything onto an “Andrew.”

I know only a few things about you. You weigh 150 pounds and stand 5’9″ inches tall (a fact that made my dad lobby for Donor #1794, who’s 6’3″*). Dad is 5’6″ and says short guys have problems, but I consider your height a plus. The tall donors get snapped up fast, but really, must everyone be a hulking giant? I’m 5’2″ with the shortest torso you’ve ever seen outside The Learning Channel, so I don’t want a 9-pound, 22-inch-long baby. I’d prefer a 6-pound, 19-incher, even if I get a boy, which I probably would. (Most lesbians seem to have boys, whether because the XY’s thaw out first or because of our extra testosterone? Is that a thing?) Anyway, in your profile here you make a little joke about your height that shows me you’re comfortable with it. You make a few jokes, actually, and they’re not the lame ones the other donors make. The minute I see the phrase “but hey, that’s just me lol” or “baby batter,”** I stop reading. Ditto for guys who list “hunting and fishing” in the Interests and Hobbies section. I’m looking for gentleness here. I’m looking for empathy. I also avoid any profile in which the clinic staff calls the donor “charming,” because “charming’ has a sinister subtext. Charm is often premeditated; a strategy designed to get something from someone else. Charm is overrated.

What else. You have blue eyes. Which is…whatever. I’m not fussed about eyes as long as the baby can see; besides which, my brown eyes will kick your blue eyes’ asses. Gregor Mendel says so. I like the idea of two different-colored eyes, but the only donor who has those is blonde, and a blonde or bald baby wouldn’t seem like mine even if I saw it come out of my vagina with my own eyes. It would feel too Aryan and Luftwaffe-y. A fat baby would be just as odd. The babies in my family are lean and brunette, with long fingers and toes. It’s not like I wouldn’t love a fat baby, but since I have a choice — and I do; it’s one of the graces allowed a woman in my situation — compact and brunette it is. The Scandinavian guys don’t need any help. Everyone else loves their lanky Nordic asses.

You’re a working, touring musician. What a badass, Andrew. And it’s how I’m sure you’re not a sociopath or a narcissist who’s donating sperm to spread his genes — you need the money and you’re the laid-back sort. I’ve dated musicians, so I’m familiar with the type (it’s entirely possible I had sex with you for free sometime between 2002-2009;  the whole period is fuzzy and there were a lot of folk festivals in there).

You have a wacky, 21st century genetic mix — Scottish/Welsh/Irish/French and 1/16 African-American. The face of the future!

You believe in God. Oddly, I’ve been rejecting atheists and agnostics out of hand. I want my child to have some capacity for faith. (Jewish would be fine, but do you have any idea how fast these sperm banks run out of sons of Abraham? They can’t keep Jews on the shelf).

You’re a Gemini. Which is, I guess, auspicious for twins if I believed that sort of thing. Twins would be an adventure: Two for the price of one and all that.  Speaking of which, I clicked on “Add To Cart” just to see how it would feel to have $1170-worth of you in there. It feels as right as I thought it would.

Andrew, know that even though I’m not 100% ready, you’re my top choice; the standard against which all other sperm is (are?) measured. I’ve seen a hundred of these profiles, but no one has come (heh) even close to you. Thanks for doing this. I wonder where you live; what you’re up to tonight; what the clinic is paying you. I hope you’re making enough to buy a kickass guitar, keyboard, piccolo, et. al. Have a good tour. Eat lots of zinc and stay off the weed, man. God, I hope you’re not a drummer.




*#1794 is a filmmaking Rollerblader with an MFA; cool, but he’s also “anonymous” rather than “willing to be known.”

**God, I wish I were making this up.

The best educational diagnosis of all time

I was looking at some ESL (English as a Second Language) paperwork today and discovered it. Ready?

“Weak oral.”

Which, I guess, means “not so good at spoken English” but do you think I care? No, I do not. I’ve started a Weak Oral Awareness Foundation 301(c) in my head for all the sisters failing to reach state-mandated standards in re: this essential lesbian skill.

“Won’t YOU give…to stop weak oral?”

“Because weak oral…is preventable.”

“Because weak oral…can happen to anyone.”

“Dedicating to fighting…weak oral. Because it’s never too late.”

I’ll head up the foundation. All I need is funding and a logo.

I’m the Colonel Kurtz of summer school

I’m teaching through June. There are other things I could be doing, like watching back-to-back episodes of “Hoarders” or giving myself thousands of tiny paper cuts, but the vet bills, my friends. The vet bills. I’ve got a 16-year-old tabby cat who’s been with me since I was 21– the mute and trusting witness to a dozen relocations and as many jobs; 5,000 miles of air/auto travel; oxytocin-splattered months of new love and ensuing heartbreak; and 5 Presidential administrations. Now he has some thyroid thing that’s taken him from 20 pounds to 9.5 and causes mournful, accusatory early-morning yowling. I told the vet (on whom I have a mild, nonsexual crush because of his New York accent, mmmmm) “Listen, I’m familiar with the customary feline life span and I’m not asking for miracles, but I love this goddamn cat. See what you can do.” What he can do involves prescription kibble and a comprehensive blood/urine panel, ergo, summer school. 

I take less shit in summer school than I do during the regular year. I’m a lot less fun, because many of these students rejected the life rafts they were thrown during the academic year. It’s pretty hard to fail my class, because I’ll work with any and all learning styles. You lean towards the experiential/kinesthetic side of things? I’ll let you demonstrate your knowledge via interpretive dance. To fail my class, you have to commit to failure. You have to never show up, or stab me in the chest with a #2 pencil. Even then, I might let you slide with a D if you wow me with an extra-credit project and a well-written Apology and Promise to Do Better. Help me help you!

So my roomful of 35 kids has shown a tenacious commitment to failure (except for the girl who’s trying to graduate early) and some don’t care if they fail again. In order to motivate them to read and write, I’ve assigned a high-interest YA novel I love. I believe in this book. It saves lives. It’s about acquantance rape, but it isn’t heavy-handed. It just tells a story: Here is a girl like you, or like your sister or good friend. Here is what a boy she trusts does to her. Here are the profoundly damaging emotional and physical results.

I could lecture kids all day about healthy relationships —  no means no; consent means enthusiastic consent —  but nothing works better than a well-told story. Plus, the movie version stars Kristen Stewart of “Twilight” fame (irony) so everybody’s been rapt. But I can’t vouch for the boys’ level of understanding. During one scene of the film, when Stewart’s character Melinda leans out the window of a car and whoops with the joy of being young and on her way to a party, I heard one kid giggle and mutter, “Show us your titties.” After the party and the rape, when Melinda stumbles home carrying her shoes, I heard another giggle. I hope to God it’s because the scene is discomfiting and sometimes kids deal with discomfort by giggling — not because the idea of a violated, hurt girl stumbling home strikes any of my students as funny. I really hope to God. When I heard those giggles, I wanted to stop the film and take the kid to task, but thought embarrassing him might be counter-productive. Maybe just be patient; let the whole film sink in first. Or not. I don’t know.

I gave the kids an Anticipation Guide pre-reading quiz which has 10 statements to “agree” or “disagree” with, e.g., “A girl dressed provocatively at a party deserves any negative attention she gets,” “A girl who gets drunk or high is still able to consent to sexual activity,” etc.  I had to stop reading those quizzes after three minutes. It was as bad as you think, boys and girls alike. And I’m afraid that one book and one month with me isn’t enough to override our sick, woman-hating, porn-infected culture even a tiny little bit. I’m afraid that the damage is done — teenage boys see women as existing to please them; to be “hot,” sweet, and accommodating. You know how offended men get when a woman isn’t sufficiently “hot,” sweet, and accommodating? As though her failure to be those things is somehow a personal, punishable affront? That shit starts early. I can’t keep from being personally triggered when I see it, so I called in a guest speaker from the rape crisis center. I’ll teach the book; she’ll do the rest. I’ll let you know how that goes.


*“Nathaniel Hawthorne often uses symbolism in his work. What do you think of Hawthorne’s use of symbolism? Do you think symbolism is necessary for an author to get his/her point across? If you were to chose 2-3 symbols to express the themes of your own life, what would they be? Discuss in your groups, then draw a picture of your symbols.”