It’s funny how comfortable people feel sharing stories with a complete stranger. Maybe it’s because they assume they will never see you again–it’s easier to take risks when there is nothing to lose. That’s how it was when, a mere ten minutes into our conversation, I raised the rather provocative question of paternity to the woman sitting next to me on a plane.
I had just commented on what it was like raising a teenage daughter alone in New York when she mentioned her twins. They had been conceived by artificial insemination.
“How did I choose the sperm?” she asked, pouring the remains of a tiny vodka bottle into her Bloody Mary. Blonde hair backlit by the morning sun, she looked to be in her mid-forties, but her spirit was as spry as a millennial’s. “It’s a great story. But I have to go back. Way back.”
She was in her late twenties when she met the love of her life. She didn’t know at the time he was that love. She was living overseas. They were friends who bonded over having recently broken up with their respective mates. And then it evolved.
“We were together for a very long time, probably a good ten years. Being in a long distance relationship was enough for me because I didn’t know what enough was.” From a young age, she explained, she had decided that men weren’t to be trusted. She had always kept them at a distance, but something about his vulnerability moved her.
“I finally woke up to the situation when I was 38. He had a job he was never gonna leave. He didn’t want to move to the U.S., and I didn’t want to go back overseas. So, I told him, ‘I want to have kids. I’m not asking you to know or support them. I’m just telling you what I’m doing.’” She took a sip from her drink, wiped tomato juice from her lips, and continued. “Then he said, ‘Whatever I can do to help, I’m going to support you.’”
“He gave you his sperm?” I blurted, assuming the obvious.
“No. But he said he would be there for me emotionally and financially. I told him he didn’t owe me anything. He never baited me or promised to move to New York. Seeing him when I got to see him was enough. At the time.”
There was that word again–enough. I wanted to intervene and offer up a diagnosis. I wanted…