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The first question someone like me obviously has to ask herself is how are you going to do it? Making love with a man, even if it were done as impersonally as a medical exam, was abhorrent to me. I could count on the fingers of one hand how many men I had kissed on the lips, much less permitted to touch me anywhere intimate. It was always difficult for me even to imagine a relationship with a man. It never took me long to discover who I was. I never had to go in and out of any closet. It was my parents who kept themselves shut up, and still did. I hated to think of the excuses, the rationale they used to explain my lifestyle. They chose to live in some illusion. I supposed I should be grateful. They could have considered me dead and gone the way some of the parents of gay people I knew considered them.
Of course I realized that there were women who got married just to have children. The years were nicking away at them and they panicked to the point where they considered themselves sufficiently in love with a man to marry him. Afterward, after the children were born, these women lived what were practically separate lives. Their husbands were just a different sort of deliveryman. But even that was clearly not for me.
What's more, there was the matter of inherited genes, resemblances. Whenever I looked at our child, would I always see the man I had employed, reminding me of what I had done? I could end up resenting my own child.
Employed was the kindest word I could use to explain it. It would make me feel like a john, not a prostitute. I'd be paying a man to have intercourse with me. If I didn't spend actual money, I would spend my self-respect.
Nevertheless, I realized it might be interesting to consider whom of the men we knew we would choose. He certainly wouldn't be anyone we had worked with or who worked for us. Would we choose on the basis of his personality or his looks? Money wasn't a concern.
Willy and I ran a successful catering business in Palm Springs, California. We had both begun our lives here as waitresses. Her first restaurant went out of business just before the end of the tourist season, and my first restaurant was set on fire either by the owner or by someone who hated him. It was definitely an unsolved arson.
Nevertheless, both Willy and I wanted to remain in the desert. It had become a comfortable place for the gay community. There were gay people involved in the local government and more and more gay entrepreneurs were opening their own restaurants, clothing stores, bars. There was even a small supermarket owned by two gay men right in the downtown area.
I didn't meet Willy in any gay watering hole. We both were hired by the manager of a new restaurant chain that was already known nationally to be a restaurant catering to gay people. The manager himself was not gay, but he did make an effort to staff it with as many gay people as he could find qualified. It was ironic because any restaurant not hiring someone because he or she was gay would be subject to a lawsuit.
Willy was not quite sure about me when we first met. There was never anything butch about me or anything else that would immediately give away my sexual identity. I wasn't particularly good at any sport. I had enjoyed acting in high school and during my first two years of college, but I dropped out after that, mainly because I had a disastrous love affair with another girl in my dorm. I liked gourmet cooking, and I was admittedly obsessed about my appearance, chasing a variety of skin products that claimed Fountain of Youth capabilities. I paid a lot of attention to my hair and wore it long, or at least what was considered long, which by now was merely down to the nape of my neck. I was also a clothes junkie, reading fashion magazines as obsessively as some members of the religious right read the Bible.
In short, I was what is called a femme, a feminine woman who is attracted to masculine women or butches. I was really a high femme, a femme who dresses very femininely, high heels, skirts, makeup, the whole enchilada.
Whenever we sat around talking about ourselves, Willy enjoyed practicing amateur psychology and accused me of battling myself.
"You're still in denial about your sexual identity," she insisted. I knew she was just trying to bait me, but I couldn't resist arguing.
"I am not. That's ridiculous, especially in light of my personal history, where I am and whom I'm with, Willy."
"Not really. You're still carrying more baggage than I am or ever was. You came from a far, far more conservative world than I did. No matter how independent we claim to be, we still mourn the loss of parental approval. Your brother doesn't even talk to you anymore, Kate. You told me yourself that he and his wife are too embarrassed to admit you're related. Don't sit there and claim none of that wears on you."
"It's all right. We both have our own demons. Just don't go any deeper into denial. You're still struggling with this heterosexual, good-girl thing," she insisted.
I knew she liked to tease me about it, but I think she was at least half serious when she suggested my sexual confusion was also a major motivation for my wanting to have a child.
"Nothing makes you more of a heterosexual woman than motherhood," she said. "Don't give me that word parent. You don't want to simply be some generic parent, Kate. You want to feel like a heterosexual woman inside as well as outside, and nothing will do that for you as well as pregnancy and birth. Otherwise, you would be talking about adoption. You don't even mention the concept."
I suspected that part of the reason why she brought these things up in discussion, whether she did it in a teasing manner or not, was to get me to develop a tougher skin. She wanted me to be more prepared to handle those demons she saw circling our wagons.
"Face up to this," she insisted, "otherwise, you'll spend your life in one form of denial or another and never be happy or comfortable. Believe me, I've seen it. It can destroy you."
She was always working at getting me to commit fully to our relationship, which ironically was one of my prime motivations for wanting the child in our lives in the first place. Why couldn't she see that as clearly as I could?
At times I thought I was so distasteful to her, I wondered why she remained with me. Because of her commitment to me despite my inner conflicts, I felt more assured about her love for me and I loved her more because of it. Although she could be as cold and as cruel to me as she was to anyone else, she wouldn't permit any other person to come close to saying these negative and nasty things to me.
She was butch.
She walked with a prizefighter's swagger. Her body was as tight and firm and muscular as any gymnast's body, and as a matter of fact, she had been one in high school and had won awards. At times I thought she could metamorphose into a steel arrow and shoot herself into an argument. I was probably the only soft, feminine thing she had ever permitted in her life. She often took a lot of heat because of me, but she never minded it or complained. In fact, there were occasions when I thought she looked for the arguments, the fights. She could just put on that sort of angry mood the way someone would put on a blouse. After we had been together a while, I confessed to having been afraid of her when we first met. I told her she entered the restaurant like a gunslinger searching for a duel in the street and looked at me with some disdain.
"I thought you disapproved of everything about me, detested me, and made fun of me behind my back."
"I should have," she said.
Willy wasn't exactly the romantic type. Squeezing affectionate words out of her was as difficult as squeezing juice out of a dried, old orange, but when it came, it was sincere, so sincere, it took my breath away and made all the frustration and waiting worth it.
About six months into working at the restaurant, we had been with each other long enough to consider moving in together. Once she saw how well I cooked and how our friends raved about my gourmet meals, she came up with the idea of our starting our own catering business. We didn't have enough money saved, but one of our still-in-the-closet bisexual friends, the wife of an attorney in town, convinced her husband to capitalize us so we could rent a small warehouse, equip it with stoves, walk-in refrigerators, dishware, etc., and rent a delivery vehicle and we were off and running.
We advertised a little, but it was truly word of mouth that built our business until we had to take on some help. Our service area expanded, and we even began to prepare dishes secretly for a Palm Springs restaurant. A number of magazine write-ups, some television exposure, and a few celebrity testimonies made it necessary to find a bigger warehouse and hire more employees.
Soon after, we bought a home in the Indian canyons of Palm Springs for over a million dollars. We could now service the mortgage. It had a drop-dead view of the mountains that boxed in the canyon, and at night we could see the light of the Palm Springs Tramway nearly 11,000 feet high. With a sizeable income, valuable property, and continually expanding business, I found myself thinking more and more about having the child.
Willy was right about my feelings concerning adoption. I never seriously considered the option even though most other gay couples we knew who had children had adopted. Our child had to be part of me. Maybe she was right in saying that was the heterosexual longing in me talking.
Willy was certainly right about the aftermath for these gay couples with children. They had so many new interests and demands that they moved away from our circle of friends. But I couldn't think of a friend with whom we were so close or upon whom we were so dependent that I wasn't willing to risk that friendship in the name of our own child.
However, up until relatively recently, I wasn't fully convinced gay people should have children. There were so many arguments against it. There wasn't a father figure, or in the case of gay men, there wasn't a mother figure. The children could suffer later when they went to school and other children found out who their parents were. They could grow up with all sorts of deep psychological issues. If they weren't gay themselves, they might feel they were betraying their parents or deeply criticizing them. Because gay marriage wasn't recognized as legitimate, they'd feel even weirder. On and on, the arguments rained down around me in books, on television, in news columns, as well as out of the mouths of other gay couples who vowed they would never adopt or have a child.
And after all, considering how my parents had reacted to my sexual identity, I was living through most of this myself. Willy loved to remind me about it. But I was driven more and more toward having a child until I began to think Willy was right in saying my high femme stuff was just a psychological security blanket. Maybe I was trying to be more of a heterosexual female than I would care to admit. In the end I concluded that none of it mattered, however. I should do, we should do, whatever makes us feel more complete as people, not as gays or women or whatever we were. We should give something back to the world that was being so good to us, although whenever I said that aloud, people would look at me with eyes that said, "Please, stuff the bullshit."
Later that day, after she had risen, had her breakfast, and come out to the living room where I was watching a show on modern new house design, Willy plopped on the sofa, drew her legs up, and asked the question I was asking myself.
"So how are you going to do it, Kate? You going to get laid or what?"
"I don't know. I think it's a decision we should make together," I said. "I already said I don't want to do this."
"You also just said do it. What I do, you do. Remember? You're the one who came up with that."
"Look," she continued, sitting up straight now, "I will admit I'm not going to be happy if you're not happy. The bottom line is if you feel incomplete, I'll feel incomplete, so yes, I said do it. If I had my druthers, I would rather you hated kids, period, but I'm not going to turn away from you, and besides, sometimes you're right," she added, which brought a smile to both our faces. "Rarely, but sometimes," she added quickly.
"Well, I suppose we could make a list of men we know who we'd both approve." "That's going to be a short list. The last man I approved of was my father and that was only until I was five," she said.
"Would it bother you if I did it that way?"
She was silent, thinking.
"Maybe," she admitted.
"You're afraid I might enjoy it?"
"If you did, I'd kill you," she replied. "And him," she added.
I smiled and turned off the television. Finally, we were going to have a substantive conversation about this.
"The only reason I can think of doing it with a man we know is there is something we definitely think he adds positively."
"Maybe. It's just as much of a crap shoot the other way, isn't it?"
"I don't know, Willy. I haven't really gotten into this yet."
"Well, then why don't you do that before you work me up about it, stupid. Do some research."
She rose and then paused in the doorway.
"I'm going for a hike with some friends. I know you don't want to get any calluses on your precious feet, so I won't bother asking you to go along." "Who's going?"
"Paula, Arlene, and maybe Janet."
"Janet has a thing for you," I said.
"Just like you to say something dumb like that. You want me to curl up on that sofa with you all day and comfort you and soothe your worried mind about this baby thing instead of getting some fresh air and exercise, which you, a prospective mother, should have anyway?"
"I know what I know. Janet drools when you walk into a room."
"Maybe she's coming down with rabies, Kate. I wouldn't do her with your dick," she added, and went to get ready for her hike.
She shouted her goodbye twenty minutes later. I was still on the sofa, soaking in the muck of my own thoughts. I shouted back and then I rose and went to the computer. If I really was going to do this, I had better do what she said. I had better get all the information I could about it so we could make a sensible discussion.
Otherwise, as Willy would say, I was just mentally masturbating.
In minutes I knew about the various sperm banks that existed and were approved in California. I saw that there even were banks that specialized in inseminating gay people, the sperm donated by gay men. I also found sites formed by individual men who were advertising their sperm and were willing to send it to a recipient at no cost. They all claimed to be motivated by the urge to do something good for other people, but I thought they were driven by swollen egos because every one of the sites by individual sperm donors I viewed described a man who was a genius if not near genius, wonderfully athletic, healthy with a perfectly balanced temperament and excellent family history. All claimed they would produce the necessary medical screening and tests for the sperm delivered.
I printed it all and organized the information for Willy to peruse when she returned from her hike, but as I sat there reading the material, I heard the "You've got mail" signal on the computer and returned to the monitor.
How odd, I thought, one of the sperm banks had contacted me, but I hadn't asked any questions or left any messages. I opened the e-mail and read.
Dear Prospective Mother,
Thank you for contacting Genitor. Genitor is licensed as a Tissue Bank by the State Department of Health in California. These are the strictest standards in the nation. We are eager to provide for your needs and invite you to interview the manager of our company, Dr. Lois Matthews. Dr. Matthews will come to you for the interview and will explain in detail how we screen donors. Please call 555-440-0001 and go to extension 100.
I recoiled in my chair and stared at the monitor. It was one thing to begin to investigate the idea, but another to have someone out there, someone other than Willy, aware of my intentions. I actually felt myself tremble with the shock of how easily someone on the outside could enter the sphere of your most intimate thoughts and actions.
My second reaction was indignation, anger. How dare whoever this was think he or she could contact me? I wasn't inquiring about furniture, clothes, a vacation. It was truly as if there were invisible antennae out there just waiting for you to move in one direction or another or even think aloud. Instantly, they picked it up and you were exposed. The walls of our homes were rapidly turning into glass, and it wasn't a deterrent to stop other people from throwing stones either. All your actions, your blood, your very DNA, your essence was easily on display. Technology and purveyors of Patriot Acts were battering privacy into some ancient memory. The word would soon disappear entirely from our vocabulary.
When I calmed my reflexive indignation, I reread the invitation. Wasn't this what I was really seeking after all? This particular company was just more aggressive than others, more entrepreneurial. In many ways Willy and I followed the same path to develop our catering business. We pursued prospective clients, leaping on every indication one might do business with us.
My annoyance gave way to curiosity. How did they manage this instant pursuit? Should Willy and I be using their techniques and doing something as obviously productive with our business, too? I was still sitting there thinking about it when she returned, hot and sweaty but invigorated. Before I could say a word, she was raving about the hike, the pack of coyotes they had seen, a hawk with a wingspan that was nearly as wide as a car, the cool breezes at the top of the hill, and the way she had left the others panting behind her.
"I thought I was climbing into the sky," she said.
I was jealous of Mother Nature. Nothing I could do with Willy or say to her would bring such ecstasy to her. She truly fed off her physical stamina and her health, sucked on the energy around her to feed her hunger for life. It was insatiable. Would our having a child in our midst add or detract from it? Was I about to destroy or build our relationship?
"What about Janet?" I asked.
"She might have died on the mountain. She was moaning and groaning, struggling to breathe like some beached whale. I didn't wait around to see."
"You just left them?"
"Hey. They knew from the start I wouldn't slow myself down to let them keep up with me. It wasn't exactly a social tea."
"I don't know how you keep any friends."
"I'm taking a shower," she said. "And I'm starving so think of lunch."
"I have some of that information to show you," I called to her. She was already on her way to the bathroom. "And something very interesting happened!" I added.
She returned to the doorway.
I described what I had done and nodded at the monitor. The e-mail was still on the screen. She approached slowly and read it herself.
"You did nothing but go to their Web site?"
"I didn't even go to it. I did a simple search of sperm banks and a list came up of which this was one. Almost instantly, the e-mail came from this one called Genitor."
She thought a moment and then shrugged.
"Hey," she said, "you knocked on a door and someone answered. What's the big deal? Forget it."
"I don't want to forget it. First, I was indignant, but now I'm impressed. This company is on the ball."
"So call the doctor at that extension and make an appointment," she said slowly. "Do they bring it in vibrators or what?"
"Stop it," I said, laughing.
"Hey, it's not as farfetched as you might think. Remember when girls thought they could get pregnant sitting on dirty toilet seats?"
"I do. They thought they'd have to tell the kid his or her father was a Kohler or something."
"Go take your shower," I said. "You're about as much help as a toilet." She nodded at the computer.
"Too bad you can't just do it all over the phone. Then you could tell him or her his or her father was Alexander Graham Bell. Or if it were done over the computer, you could tell the kid his father was a Pentium."
"Any other brilliant comments?"
"Naw. I think I used up today's quota. Let's think about lunch," she said. "Unlike children, you make it, eat it, and forget it," she added, and walked off.
At least she was being humorous and relaxed about it, I thought. I looked at the e-mail. The invitation seemed innocuous enough. There were no demands for down payments or anything to be signed. It simply said, "Hey, you want to find out more about this? We'll be glad to tell you."
I wished I could be like Willy about it, I thought. Once Willy made up her mind about anything, she put all the tension and the anxiety outside and forgot it, but something was lingering under my heart, some small, instinctive alarm. It was too easy to shut it off or consider it just simple nerves. I understood that I wouldn't know if that was a good or bad thing for some time, and by then, it would surely be too late to matter anyway. It was a lifetime commitment. You just don't give a child away the way you could give away a puppy or a kitten.
I made the call. Copyright © 2007 by Andrew Neiderman
Posted December 9, 2008
In Palm Springs, California, lovers ¿femme¿ Kate Dobson and ¿butch¿ Wilma ¿Willy¿ Radcliff are a happy couple whose catering business is booming. The only negative in their relationship is Kate¿s obsession with giving birth and raising that child. Adoption and heterosexual endeavor are out of the question so artificial insemination is the answer. Her nocturnal dreams are vivid and somewhat frightening.-------------------- While persuading Willy to have a child to raise, Kate researches the net when instantly she receives an email from Gentior vitro fertilization firm out of Irvine. Not long afterward they meet Dr. Lois Matthews, head of Genitor and soon the two ladies agree to go with this firm. However, though Willy is sold, Kate becomes paranoid with things that seem too coincidental. Still she goes through the process, but before testing whether she conceived she feels the baby growing inside and a deep feeling something is not right. Willy warns her to stop being paranoid, but she begins to wonder what is growing inside her and just who is the father.--------------------- The story line takes its time slowly setting the stage in the first half of the novel so that Kate seems increasingly unhinged and paranoid as everyone around her including cynical Willy appears normal. The latter part of the book focuses on her rapid descent into apparent insanity as she fears what is growing inside her. Fans will wonder whether she went over the edge or is there more, but will have to wait until the climax with the UNHOLY BIRTH of her child to decide between a tense psychological thriller or a modernized Rosemary¿s Baby enhanced by science and the acceptance of gay couples.---------- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.