Once again I find myself having to apologize for being inattentive. I’ve been travelling a bit and it’s been hard to find time/space and energy to draft a new entry. I woke up today with new resolve, however, and then found that The New York Times Style Section had again provided me with a fine taking off point.
This story is featured in today’s paper. It’s about a woman (Carey Goldberg) who wanted to have children but had not yet found the proper mate. As she approached 39 she decided to go it alone and purchased sperm with the intention of inseminating and becoming a single mother. And then, the very day the sperm arrived, she met Mr. Right. No more need for donor sperm.
Not to waste perfectly good sperm she passed it on to Beth Greenberg, 38 years old and also considering single motherhood in the absence of the right man. And then, soon after taking possession of the sperm, Ms. Greenberg, too, met Mr. Right. (A different Mr. Right, I hasten to add.)
And so Ms. Greenberg passed the sperm on to Pamela Ferdinand, who was in the same 38 and single, but wanted to be a parent category. And lo, the lucky sperm worked its magic and Ms. Ferdinand to0 suddenly found herself with the right man. (This is a standard three-wishes story. The fourth women to get the sperm was not lucky in either finding a Mr. Right or becoming pregnant via insemination.)
Now you could wonder (as I did) why on earth this seems like news. I suppose the news is that the three women have written a book about this chain of events. I guess I’m not the target audience and I find myself wondering a little bit who is.
There are, however, several points in the article that I wanted to comment on. First, the story mentions that California Cryobank that 25-28% of its clients today are single women. I’ve been meaning to poke around the web and see what sorts of statistics about sperm purchasers are out there. Given the arrival of new ART techniques like ICSI, it seems to me a larger proportion of those purchasing sperm would be women who otherwise had no access to it–which means single women and lesbian couples. This statistic would seem consistent with my expectation.
I’m afraid I just cannot leave that paragraph of the article without noting, too, that California Cryobank apparently offers sperm from men who resemble Hugh Jackman and Johnny Depp. I find this simultaneously incredible and slightly appalling. But then, twenty years ago it was sperm from Nobel Prize winners. Was that better or am I just being snobbish.
Second, although the book has apparently not been selling terrifically well (and does this explain the NYT story?), the publisher expected it to sell. It offered a mid-six figures advance. That would be something around $500,000 if I’m counting right, which is a hefty chunk of change.
So who did they expect they audience to be? Though the publisher’s insists “this isn’t just a fairy tale” I think that’s exactly why there might be a chance the book would sell. The narrative seems clear: each of these women was prepared to go to the extreme–to become a single mother. And then thanks to the “lucky sperm” Mr. Right appears and now they all live happily ever after, properly married with properly genetically related kids. I can practically see it as a movie, though it makes my skin crawl just a bit.
In fairness I should note that the three authors of the book insist that this is not what they mean to convey, but it is certainly how the story looks to me.
As a last note, there’s a listing of current and soon-to-come movies about conception with donor sperm. I guess I can start doing film reviews soon. What fun.