If we don't look good, we don't look good.

Today at work they handed out these one sheet calendars. Looking at all the dates that will comprise 2007 and 2008, I first looked to see where my birthday will fall (monday, labor day, nice! and wednesday, eh.) and then I thought "Hey! If all goes according to plan, my theoretical future baby's birthday will be one of these days I am looking at right now!"

That slightly scary. I mean, all of these dates fit on an 8.5x11 sheet, with room left over to advertise 18 musicals and the Broadway.com phone number. It isn't that much time. But mostly, it was thrilling, in a positive way. As much as I have no idea what I'm doing, no savings, no home equity, no property at all, no car, and no idea how I'll be able to deal with life if Jen can't pay attention to me almost constantly, I really do want us to have this kid.

There was an article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine yesterday - about gay men and lesbians redefining nucler familes. The main cases they focused on were lesbian couples who went with a known donor. Basically, the article attempted to explore how the known donor - be he friend or acquaintence - fit into the life of the child. Although the article didn't put any thing radically new on the table as far as my knowledge of these things goes, it was interesting to see how people tried to organize themselves ahead of time, and how things inevitably turned out differently than they expected.

Mainly the differences between expectation and reality fell into three categories:
1. The donor reacted differently to having a child than he anticipated - usually on the side of wanting more and more consistent contact with the child than was initially agreed upon.

2. The mothers reacted differently to having the donor in the child's life than anticipated - usually wanting him around less, or possibly actively disliking him, or possibly breaking up and having to deal with a third parent or quasi parent i the visitation schedule.

3. The child is the real wild card. The main thing that threw one family for a loop was when their son was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 5. With a seriously ill, possibly dying child, the donor became more of a dad. The kid got better and the donor dad wanted to fade back to his old, less active role. The non-bio mom was upset. The donor dad's partner was upset. On the cover of the magazine, the kid looked pale, but fine.

For several reasons, I feel that my child, and my child's life, should be exemplary. Some of it has to do with how I was raised, how my family views achievement, but much more of it has to do with the fact that I am queer. Lots of queers that I know have implicitly and explicitly agreed. We have to be better than everyone else.

Coming out is a process whereby you recognize that you are different than the majority. Whatever you think at first or have been taught about your difference being a liability has to go out the window. In order to combat self loathing, you instead enter a period of intense and gorgeous and extremely annoying self love. Worship even. And you're hideous. But you have to do this to break away from the conventions of society. You can't allow yourself hear anyone else, or think that there's even the slightest possiblity youd' be wrong or you'd never come out. You'd hate yourself and hurt yourself, which may be what you had been up to before. To stop that you have to come to a point where you say say "I am special, I am not bad or evil or sick or wrong or mistaken. I am excellent. And SO right."

It fades. But a part of it has to stick. Or else every time someone voted against gay marriage or ambushed a poor fag and beat the shit out of him or looked sideways at you on the subway for holding a girl's hand or asked you why you didn't have a boyfriend, it would totally fuck you up. And as you build a life as a queer person, and become sucessful in a relationship or in your career or in your social circle, the feelings of worth come less from an inflated sense of self, and more from an actual sense of self - pride in your accomplishments, evidence that you are worthy and normal (as far as anyone can be) and you were right all along.

So once you've proved it to yourself, you have to go on and prove it to everyone else. Because as much as you know you're right, the bashing and the slurs and the fact that people openly hate and are frightened of you really hurts. So you have to be better than everyone else. For some people that means earning more money. For some people that means being as non-mainstream as possible. For me, that means raising the best, healthiest, smartest, funniest, funnest, most creative, high tech, down home, retro futuristic traditional queer family I can manage.

You know that all along when I was saying "you" I meant "me" right?

So. Now that we've decided on a known donor (assuming he has enough sperm. A tale for another day) and know that I know dealing with a known donor can be a complex, shifting proposition, we've gotta do it, not just well, extremely well. With legality and panache. With witty banter and wry observations falling out of pretty mouths at every step. With everyone looking hot and making their parents proud. If MY queer nuclear family is on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine in 10 years, we will not look like four John Goodmans (2 male, 2 female) and a cancerous child. We will be slim and genius. We will glow with organically grown good health.

Ironically enough, I think the key is being mutable. All the people in the article had lined up a life and were surprised when they didn't get to live exactly that. I am not opposed to changing my vision of the future. As long as we all continue to excel the hell out of everyone doing whatever the fuck it is we end up doing.


our family

Jen's (recently) 21 year-old brother is living with us at the moment. He is a nice enough child, but a giant child nonetheless. I am perfectly comfortable with him feeding and walking our dogs, watching our apartment, even keeping his area of it fairly neat. He holds down a job and an internship, does his own laundry, and pays for his own drinks.

I am decidedly less comfortable with his ability to do things like make plans, follow directions to arrive at a location, or choose a television program that doesn't make my skin crawl with loathing for the likes of someone with such as ridiculous name as Zach Braff.

The point is, having him here is more hands-on than I anticipated when Jen asked me 9 months ago if this arrangement would be OK. He can support himself, but he would eat only macroni and cheese and cupcakes if left to his own devices. He isn't terribly messy, but he has no idea that the back of a dining room chair is not the appropriate location for his sweaty t-shirts to "air out." And most of all, he has a few friends in town, but he really really really really likes hanging out with his family. Which apparently includes me.

Jen is most certainly family. And I love her mom and get along fine with her father and stepmother. But I never really said, ok, well, this whole bunch of people is my family now too. I thought about it in vague terms, christmas presents were exchanged, holidays visits were made. But in the months that lil' bro has been in town, in home, this vague academic notion of joining the clan has become a day to day reality. When the "Nagle!" rallying cry goes up, I am called upon to respond. With enthusiasm!


the beginning (cont.)

Over the past few years, we've certainly discussed having children. I've known for quite some time that Jen wants to be pregnant and give birth to a child. We've even talked about possible donors. We've agreed we'd prefer it to be someone we know. We agreed on who, of the people we know, we'd most like it to be. We, well, mostly Jen, have had conversations with this person. Most of the time they've had these conversations, I haven't been around for the serious part.

At first I was touchy about the idea of a known donor being active in parenting. In the state where we live, for me to be a second parent adopter, the donor would have to sign away all parental rights and I felt it should end there. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was being extremely selfish. I know that however we concieve or recieve a child, I will be extremely involved in its upbringing. Ideally, I want to be a stay-at-home mom, at least until the child reaches school age. And if I am, on a day-to-day level, parenting, then how shitty of me to say well, no, no one else is allowed to love my child. Technically, our child. If we end up with a known donor who wants to parent, on any level, as long as its something consistent and positive in the child's life, I think it would be a great thing. There's plenty of things a man...especially a gay man (and all the men we're considering are gay)...can teach I child that I have no fucking clue about. Mainly about penises, of course. But I'm sure there's other stuff.

So, we've talked about it. But its all been talk. We have no money and many goals. We'd like to be more stable, buy a house, at least a car, at least have some money in the bank. There are career goals, schools and certificates we'd each like to earn, positions to jockey for, and back to money again, more of that too. Since we're in a position where baby making cannot happen spontaneously, we, or at least I (but yeah, I think we), feel required to prepare for this at least as hard and as well as I prepared for grad school.

And then, at the annual Halloween party the other day, my friend Amy, who is an OB/GYN, asked how old Jen is. "34" I answered guilelessly, unleashing a torrent of information about what insurance will or will not do for a 35 year old woman and why. With drinks in everyones hands and me dressed like Michael Jack and Amy dressed like the Muppet Swedish Chef, I got intimately aquainted with the reality of a 35 year old woman's eggs.

I didn't know if I should tell Jen, but of course I fucking did. Because I love her and because she wants this and because we do want a family so we might as well face facts. And so, we begin. We've had a conversation and the idea is to take things one step at a time.

Step One. Jen goes to the gynocologist. She's going to the glbt medical center, which is awesome and needs our insured support. She'll get a checkup and talk to the doctor about our intentions. I've been slightly irked because she's put off making an appointment for a few weeks now. I know she's busy at work and she's concerned about hearing potentially de-railing news, but a)she needs to go anyway and b) we need to know if we should be investigating other options. This week and again today, she did finally call, but they weren't open for making appointments. I'm impatient for the first step to be taken.

the beginning

First, the situation.

I am 27, she is 34. We are both women, and we love each other, have loved each other for over three years now. We met because she read my blog. Well, to be honest, I posted excerpts on craigslist, hoping to entice readers, some of whom would hopefully be cute. She read the cl post, and came on over. But she remained a quiet reader for a month or two, finally commenting in response to my scintillating (seriously, I think it was) review of the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wrote back, I thought she was smart. Her comments were complimentary and thought provoking and based in social theory we were both reading in graduate school. After a few rounds of email, I invited her out to see my friend Julia do standup/storytelling at a lesbian bar. She accepted. I thought she'd be ugly because she was so smart and funny. I figured I'd make a friend.

She was so gorgeous I literally could not believe it was the girl I had been writing to. So much so that I turned and walked out of the bar, saying to myself, "we'll I'd hit on that cute girl, but I'm supposed to meet someone else. That'd be rude. But if I go and get pizza and come back and that hot girl is still there, I'll buy her a drink." Thankfully, she had my number and called me. Once I realized the hot girl and the smart funny girl were one and the same, I was back in a jiffy.

Julia was performing as part of an open mike night and the rest of the performers were entirely hideous. But the girl was sticking by my side and I was whispering in her ear and it was all extremely exciting. Mixed messages again when she literally ran for a cab, calling goodbye over her shoulder. No kiss? No future plans? I was confused. "She liked you." my friends assured me. "She has a GREAT rack." Julia said. And Julia isn't even gay.

When I woke up in the morning there was an email from her. Apologizing for the dash and inviting me out to dinner. I accepted, we had a six hour first date, a 24 hour second date and things continued on apace.

We don't fit too many lesbian stereotypes. No one is butch, no one is femme, while I do household repairs, she deals with mice. But we did move in together soon after we began to date. We met in June and moved in together in November. 5 months. If you stretch it. My thinking was, "I'll know if this works. If it doesn't, it wouldn't have anyway. If it does, we'll be together forever."

And it turned out to be the latter