The Secrets That Define Us

Years ago, before my grandmother died, one of my cousins was the first girl on the block to get donor insemination.

About the same time, I broke up with the college boyfriend, and my grandmother–who was very much a matchmaker at heart–would bring him up regularly, probe for hints about the odds of us getting back together, and then end with… well, you can always do what your cousin did.

No, I don’t think she actually wanted me to do donor insemination. I think the general idea was BRING BOY BACK! And I certainly never told her that I was the one who broke up with him, or that the reason was that he wanted kids, and I didn’t. (Simplified version.)

I can’t tell that story, anymore. Not in front of family, anyway. Because a few years later, cousin #2 went right ahead and did what cousin #1 had done. Twice.

Cousin #2’s mother sees herself as refined, liberal, and all-embracing. **cough** bullshit **cough** (This probably happened instantaneously, overnight, when she moved into The City. No, The OTHER city. NO… The OTHER Other City.)

The flip side of that is that she presents her family–back in Nebraska–as being uniform, monochromatic, and uhm… well, basically a bunch of under-educated, under-read hicks. She cherry-picks a few stories to pass on.  The fun stuff.

By now, you probably think the Secret here is donor sperm.

It’s not. After all, Cousin #1 was a pretty good test case for that, so Cousin #2 isn’t much worried about that. We were told.

Nope. The Secret–the one I’m not even supposed to know, myself–is the donor’s ethnicity. “Welsh” would be a euphemism for “Not Welsh.” Shhh. Don’t tell. Like I said, it’s a Secret.

Interesting information is: Your grandfather used to rent an elephant to advertise his business.

Relevant information is: Be sure you know your carrier status before you settle on a sperm donor. (PSA–this is not an expensive round of testing. Personal Opinion? If you’re an American, you should really consider it.)

And it’s the relevant information that always seems to be a Secret. Change your name, change your port of origin. Write “protestant” on that form at Ellis Island. Tell your family the donor was “Welsh” ’cause that’s the flavor of the month.

I have the feeling there are more secrets, now. Rumors keep floating back from the Other Other City, and now and then, a tiny scrap of fact. A flurry of genetic testing. A hint that something’s wrong with someone’s hearing. Random outbursts of emotion.

And even if there aren’t more secrets… how do you tell your kids I had to lie about you? People just wouldn’t accept you, if I told them the truth.  Do you tell them? Or do you just let the lie fade into fact?


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