Jun 26, 2017

a giant can of sperms

I just got off the phone to Yolanda, the recruiter at Fertility Associates. I’m not infertile after all! I had wondered after an ex tried get pregnant and didn’t. Yolanda says I’m in rude health. She seemed excited by the good news.

I’m thinking back to how I got the idea of donating. I had a crazy week in early March. My dad had an operation. I didn’t know if I’d get to continue with my Masters, as I'd gone over my deadline. In mid-March, my three older siblings had three babies within two weeks. I’ve always been left for dead by my siblings, who are champions of the world. I was single, the girl I’d been seeing in January had left for London. I googled 'sperm donation' and found Fertility Associates. I sent them an email, then I quickly forgot about it until Yolanda rang to make an appointment, three months later.

The appointment at Fertility Associates was really full-on. I explained to Yolanda at the beginning of the interview that I hadn’t fully thought donation through, since applying on a whim. I also told her that I was a writer and thought it could be fertile material. She said that would be good publicity for the Clinic. 

The first part of the appointment was ok, but then I got overwhelmed. This happens to me in doctors' surgeries. I fainted once, leaving a consulting room. Julia was my first serious girlfriend, as an undergraduate, aged 21. I was inexperienced and we'd broken two condoms, one in her her parents' bed. We'd gotten pretty wound-up at the prospect of becoming parents. Julia decided that she wanted to go on the pill. She was so wound-up about everything and had failed to get a prescription at the Doctors on the Uni Campus, due to high blood pressure. She'd gone to that first doctor alone. We went together to the second doctor, a few weeks later. He was describing the risks (1 in 10000) of blood clots, and I began to feel light-headed. The appointment ended and we walked out the door. I crumpled vertically, like a tower being detonated. Two nurses rushed towards me and asked Julia why I'd been seeing the doctor? Afterwards Julia bought me a Moro bar and said it was sweet that I'd been so worried about her blood clotting. A few weeks later we were staying over at her parents house and she heard a branch snap in the garden. Julia was terrified of intruders; her Dad was a judge and she thought that guys he'd sent to prison might want revenge. I tried to calm her. Finally I said, 'if there's an intruder I'll protect you...' 'What would you do?!?!', she replied.

I almost fainted when that Heart Doctor was talking to my dad, in March, after his operation. I pretended to read a newspaper on an adjacent bed, I didn’t want to make him any more worried. 

Yolanda was fine — friendly and professional — but she did start racing through the paperwork. There were some unexpected questions. Yolanda asked me to write down my sister's name, OMFG, or the name of any woman who I wouldn't donate to. Imagine that list! 1. Paula Bennett.

Yolanda asked if I’d consent to IVF, and just the words ‘frozen embryo’ pushed me over the edge. Thinking of the start of a life being so cold. She also talked about donors meeting up with the families, twenty years later. I find this hard to imagine, in that I don’t like imagining it. Not least because, in this scenario, I would be 50.

I didn't think it would all affect me so much. I was just thinking about it rationally: 'just a helpful waz’, and 'I'm not doing anything else with it.' Not how I felt about it unconsciously. I broke out in a noticeable sweat halfway through the appointment, I went woozy. I told Yolanda I was being overwhelmed, she apologised. It’s a curious job, Sperm Wrangler, and afterwards I wished I’d asked her how she’d ended up doing it. Probably because it pays well. Fertility treatment is expensive. Donors can not receive payment for their contribution, to ensure that they're doing it for altruistic reasons.

The interview finished with a line. “Now for the fun part.” Yolanda, I bet you say that to all the guys! Yolanda handed me a clear, plastic jar with a pink screw top. It was nice to be encouraged to have a waz, for a change. Have you ever been in a masturbatorium? It's the lovechild of a clinician and a home-maker. An armchair made of wipe-down fabric. Analog porn inside manila folders, labelled 'gay' and 'straight.' Folded, white towels. The masturbatorium’s window-less, wood-veneered and womb-like. Needless to say it's a pretty crazy waz under these false conditions. I laid a towel down on the seat of the armchair. I had to take my sweet time, being a bit freaked out. Twenty minutes later I handed my sample to Yolanda, across the reception desk, to be tested.
 *    *    *

I mentioned this appointment and thinking about donating to my psychologist. She said, 'I'm not saying don't do it, but you'd need to talk about it for a couple of session, first!' The psychologist said that, at the age of thirty, I still might have kids of my own. She could understand wanting to donate as a forty year-old who hadn't had kids with anyone. 
Independently, I had started thinking about what it would be like to have offspring who you couldn't protect, or guide. There'd be someone else in that role. What if I didn't like the recipient parents? You get to choose who you give yourself to in real life, with good reason, and I'd have to relinquish that control as a donor.

On the phone call in which Yolanda confirmed my suitability, she said that there was a severe shortage of donors. I got a slightly pushy feeling. In the wake of my psychologist's caution, and my initial cavalier attitude, I told her that I couldn't donate. I hadn't grasped the theoretical implications of it until I experienced them in the consulting room. I'd sent a boy, to do a dad's job.

Mar 7, 2017

internet dating support group: maybe more fun than dating?

I dated four people from Tinder in 2015. Someone from Freeman's Bay, someone from west Auckland, someone from the North Shore. Someone from east Auckland. I was rinsed. All the breakups were torture, no matter who initiated it. I needed a breather. However I was still glancing at dating sites. I'd gotten talking to Samantha, who was keeping a dating diary. She sent it to me — in one month she'd assembled the more bizarre, hilarious and miserable stories. Things between Samantha and Ryan had moved pretty fast, online and over the phone, before he came up from Hamilton. When they met IRL, the chemistry wasn't there for Samantha. Ryan had issues about his body, and had paid thousands for cosmetic surgery. His ringtone was 'the man in the mirror.'

The internet has made it easier to meet single people. But if we met them outside of our social circle we don’t know if they’re what they seem. I thought it might be good for any other Tinderellas to share war stories; to get advice from someone who’s been there, or support from someone in the same boat. I thought it might break down the hetero divide between the sexes? There’s so much truthiness in dating — 'if only' there was a place you could be open and honest. The Internet Dating Support Group was born...

We ran two groups, at a friend’s house in Freeman's Bay. There were eight people at each, a few friends and a few randoms. Everyone was in their late twenties or thirties. Gays, straights and bi's. Both groups ran for almost three hours. I was quite nervous before each group, moreso than on a first date. 

We started with pizza, before a presentation by a guest dating expert. Both experts talked about their dating history.  When you’d hang out with Cass, she'd talk almost exclusively about dating. Cass began internet dating during a year in NYC. A la Carrie Bradshaw she’d been keeping a dating blog, until she realised her family might read it and some of the stories were getting out of hand. Cass had recently met an Australian, who was Tindering in Auckland. She’d just moved to Bondi to be with him, and was back in Auckland for a week.  

Jess had matched on Tinder with a guy who knew that she was a performance artist. He proposed they go on a date and not talk at all. Jess agreed and they met up in Ponsonby. Unsure of what to do when the met up —they hadn’t made a plan, and couldn’t talk about it— Jess took charge and took him on a tour of her ex boyfriends’ houses, which were all near each other. That same guy had suggested their next date could be ‘driving around playing songs off mixtapes they’d made for each other’, but still not talking. But no second date. 
Another guy asked Jess to recreate the ‘36 Questions’ experiment, in which two strangers ask each other personal questions in order to fill in love, on their first date. She ended up dating him.

After the expert’s ten-minute presentation, the floor was open. Conversation flowed, touching on different topics. I admitted that I had 400 matches on Tinder, just because I had never deleted any of them. One of my matches was in the room.  

Anna had had plans cancelled five times by the same woman; the last time it had happened her date had said she wanted to go to the gym instead. Everyone reassured Anna that it wasn't her fault.   

Samantha asked why a guy hadn’t called her back, even though he said he would. “He’s just not that into you!”, said Daniel, our host. Daniel said he’d been talking online to a guy in France for eight years, before Daniel met him in Toulouse. Bloody hell, the guy had recently been shot! (Toulouse is quite dangerous, said Daniel.) But the guy still kept the date, what a keeper! Dan highlighted a pitfall of internet dating: "what if you're attracted to the way someone moves through space?"

I talked about how some of my partners hadn’t bothered with condoms. I asked one if I should wear a condom, the first time we were having sex. She just said, “it’s fine.” She later clarified/apologised to me that she wasn’t using contraception, it was just she figured she just wasn’t fertile at that part of her cycle. Her workmate asked if she was mad, when she was talking about this. “Arrogance won’t stop STIs”, said Daniel.  

I talked about how I had been sent a few anonymous messages — photos of an ex and her new partner. I asked for advice on my Dad’s advice, which was “if you’re not bothered by it, you’re not bothered by it.” This led to a broader discussion on social media and break-ups. How it might be a good idea to unfollow exes. Jess shared how to get someone to unfollow you on Instagram: you block them, and then unblock them.

Samantha didn't talk about a guy had driven the 3hrs from Mt Maunganui to see her, the previous weekend. He'd ended up inviting himself to stay at her house, because he said otherwise he'd have to sleep in his car. Samantha couldn't let him sleep on the couch because her flatmate wouldn't want some random guy sleeping on the couch. The next day Samantha said she couldn't understand why he wanted to sleep with her when there was no chemistry for her. His sweat smelt weird.

Samantha said she wouldn't be coming to the second group because she had a date that night. Unfortunately she got stood up.


I thought some group members might fancy each other. But more to the point everyone who went to the group became friends. It’s so easy to like people who are being open and honest, but 'being ourselves' might be the last thing we're doing on first dates...  

Why were we all single? Who knows? “Tonight was fun and has (weirdly) reinvigorated my desire to date”, said Anna. One of the group members later appeared on the ‘First Dates’ tv show. Chris is bi and was set up with a woman who was bi. Alas Chris’ admission that he was wearing the same trousers that he’d worn to work didn’t match with his date, who’d dressed up.

Dec 13, 2016

Oh man! The company that has been supplying the cereal for my brekkie-in-bed delivery service has accused me of 'getting high on my own supply!' It's true that I don't have many brekkie delivery customers at the moment, and had eaten a casual bowl or two of their delicious 'choco no-grainola.'

Keep brekkie-in-bed delivery real — here's the menu, someone call me!

Dec 11, 2016

A friend asked if she could lean on me at a party, last week. Only thing is she's about 5'3" and I'm 6'4", so trying to lean back on her got me like...

Best New Friend of the Year!

The nominations are in for Best New Friend (BNF) of the year. List of categories and contenders here.