I had planned a post about how Mei Xiang‘s insemination might have gone down if she were using Fairfax Cryobank, but then her second cub (same litter) was stillborn and I felt it was in poor taste.

Instead, here is a photo of a dress I have been trying to find for three years after rejecting it as too short and too expensive in 2010. I FINALLY discovered it on eBay for $50.

I figured I should enjoy wearing a single-digit dress size while I still can.

the one that got away


Now that I am off birth-control pills, even more things than usual make me cry. I must often resort to the hated waterproof mascara (hated because it doesn’t come off without a jackhammer or maybe lye).

Here are some examples of things that have made me cry recently:

Dramatic reenactment

Dramatic reenactment

The capsized cupcake: We had cupcakes at work a month or so ago. One of the cupcakes, in its special cupcake box, had fallen over. I tearfully stood by the box and begged each person selecting a cupcake to choose the toppled one. Eventually someone ate it and I felt better.

A Zumba class: It was SO confusing, it was SO loud, I couldn’t tell what the teacher’s feet were doing, I felt the rest of my life was just what I did between Zumba classes, that no matter how far I ran, Zumba was the default state of my existence and there was no escape.

The departure of a beloved employee: I cried uncontrollably every day for a week, frequently while moaning, “she was my little intern!” I imagine this was awkward for her.

Walking down stairs with co-workers: I remain mystified as to why I cried, “I can’t be with people right now!”, ran back up the stairs to my office and wept.

Skincare Secrets of the Whiny and Entitled

For the past decade, when people asked how I maintained my flawless alabaster skin, I would shrug and say “good genes.”

This was my skincare regimen. On days when I was feeling ambitious.


While I never tested this, I’m pretty sure I could have gone to bed with my face coated in lard and suffered no ill effects. This made me feel superior, as if I had a special talent.

But the “good genes” response was a lie. I knew what was keeping my skin perfect, and it wasn’t a painting in an attic. It was birth-control pills, which I took for two reasons: to spare myself extra mood swings, and to keep my supernaturally good skin looking supernaturally good.

Obviously, I am no longer taking them. I soon I had the skincare equivalent of the moment in “Superman II” after Superman gives up his powers and gets clobbered by the douchey redneck in the diner and sees himself bleed for the first time.

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The below lineup is now part of my skincare regimen. I did not photograph the two makeup removers and the daytime SPF 25 moisturizer, because they don’t match my Kiehls products.


My skin, while not perfect again, is nearly so. If I use these six products, which all together cost somewhere between $150 and $200. If I do not EVER touch my face. If I squeeze NOTHING that looks squeezable. If I am VIGILANT.

If you want to try my procedure — and it works pretty well — here it is:

Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque: Use three times a week. Put on so much not a single pore is visible.
Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub: Use three times a week. Let it sit on your face awhile so the enzymes can eat the zits or whatever they do.
Ultra Facial Cleanser: Use when your face is really greasy, grimy and/or sweaty, and to wash neck, ears and decolletage.
Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser: Use twice a day. This component may be the magic bullet, but I’m too lazy to do an elimination trial to find out.
Ultra Facial Cream: Use twice a day. Don’t forget your neck.
Blue Herbal Spot Treatment: Put this on anything red. Repeat and repeat until whatever the red is goes away. SQUEEZE NOTHING. Trust in the Blue Herbal Spot Treatment.

Remove your makeup before using any of the scrubs, masques or cleansers. Don’t forget a daily sunscreen; I use some Clinique product I will doubtless replace with something Kiehls as soon as I run out.

Paging Dr. Freud

If Freud were still alive, he’d have had a doozy of a time coming up with a term for this dynamic.

As I mentioned, donor profiles are gushing affairs, awash with details about glossy hair, bright eyes, athletic achievements and stunning smiles. They are online dating profiles with some bonus information, like blood type and how Mr. Perfect’s grandparents died. The donors are made to sound sexy and virile.

It’s surreal to read about how sexy a dude is when you’re choosing a dad for your baby, who will ostensibly inherit said sexiness. It’s like reverse Oedipal. We are talking shades of Louis Malle’s “Murmur of the Heart.” I have not seen “Murmur of the Heart,” because merely reading about it scarred me for life. The last thing you want to sexualize is YOUR KID.

On a less-creepy level, maybe you just want to date your anonymous donor. I think that’s a bad idea.

Let’s read this Marie Claire article. It starts out like this:

Michelle, a clinical researcher in Boston, Massachusetts, was contemplating grad school when she saw an episode of Lipstick Jungle that changed her life. “A woman was freezing her eggs, and it hit me: I’m 37, and I want to have children.” Within three months, Michelle had purchased eight vials of sperm from a bank, an experience she likens to “match.com, because you’re looking for qualities in someone you’d want to date. I used Google for everything.”

Michelle means the qualities one admits to publicly. Based on years of observation, I have found that “qualities in someone you’d want to date” include:

  • asshole tendencies
  • commitment-phobic
  • underlying similarities to father
  • slovenly (aka a “fixer-upper”)
  • emotional unavailability

Going the donor route means you don’t have to deal with your intimacy issues. Yay! But I digressed.

More from Marie Claire:

Mattes, of Single Mothers by Choice, recommends using this filter: “Is he someone I would have happily dated?”

Sperm banks want all their donors to sound like someone one would have happily dated. That’s their job. I happily dated a person who smoked, yet I would never choose a donor who smoked, not even if he were a Benedict Cumberbatch sound-alike talking about how much he loves doing yardwork. (Audio interviews: $34 at Fairfax Cryobank.)


“Instead of trying to have the perfect designer baby, look for a donor who, if you met him and introduced him to your family, they’d feel comfortable with.

No! You should choose a donor that, if you met him and introduced him to your family, would AWE your family. You should be scraping your family off the floor, so flattened will they be by the gale-force awesomeness of your donor.

The only thing emancipating about this process is that you can uncouple who you thought you wanted from who your child could be. Throw some new variables into the equation. Choose a cyclist if you hate cycling, or a nature nerd, or a tuba player. Odds are these things aren’t heritable, but breaking out of your comfort zone is generally not a bad thing.

Also, let’s forget the part of this post where I talked about incest.

They Get You With the Add-Ons

Another way sperm banks inhale your money is through extended profiles, childhood photos and, if the cryobank is Fairfax or California, all kinds of other crazy shit. If cryobanks are movie theaters, the extras are the $5 Cokes. If cryobanks are Best Buy, the extras are the extended warranties.

Here is Fairfax Cryobank’s a la carte menu.

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California Cryobank’s puts Fairfax’s to shame. Example: “Express Yourself allows a donor to present himself in a manner that best captures his personality including original poetry, songs, essays, photographs, drawings, recipes and more.”

I tried to imagine how a donor might Express Himself poetically, based on my analysis of several donor questionnaires.

There once was a broke college lad,
Whose car payment made him feel sad,
So he went to a bank,
Where he gave it a yank,
And said, ‘whatever, so I’m a dad.”

I also tried to imagine how a donor would Express Himself with a recipe, but failed.


Northwest Cryobank offers just the extended profile and baby picture options. I broke down and spent the $50 for both.

I held my breath as I waited for the baby pictures to download. Surely, this baby would be my soul mate.

My reaction was a resounding “meh.” He wasn’t that cute and didn’t look like the sharpest hoe in the shed.

This lack of connection to the baby depressed me for a couple of days. I only bought three vials of Daddy. I could return him for a modest restocking fee.

Then I was all, whatever. This child is but a crude physical manifestation of my actual purchase: genetic material. I was a doofus-y baby, and that’s not stopping me from kicking in my half.

‘The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians’


I don’t remember how I found this book. Maybe I Googled “pregnancy book I won’t set on fire.” I bought the second edition, the one with the hideous cover art. A Getty stock image? Barf.

After two OBs referred me to Fairfax Cryobank, Death Star of Fertility, because they wanted nothing to do with at-home DIY baby-generation, I started buying books from the Single Mom by Choice subgenre of parenting literature.

These disappointing tomes devote about as much space to the details of at-home insemination as “The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians” does to “Sex with a Man.” (Three paragraphs under “Other Options.”)

My favorite part of “The Ultimate Guide” is the first line of chapter four, “Getting the Goods”:

“Sperm. It’s a subject many of us have shied away from most of our lives.”

It’s comforting to know that many women potentially find this process even more off-putting than I do.

Congenital Gingervitis

Who is THIS handsome fellow?

Who is THIS handsome fellow?

Dear [Not-Yet-Conceived] Cooper,

I chose the donor I did because I wanted you to have red hair. I’m sorry you will be emotionally savaged by your hair-color-normative peers. Also, I named you after my car.


This is not 100 percent true. I had other criteria, like a lack of grammatical errors in the donor’s writing sample. (Because that’s clearly a more defensible stance.)

I do want you to look like me, so if you get lost in a corn maze you won’t be returned to the wrong parents. But I also want you to have some contrast between your hair and your skin, because otherwise you’ll look like an egg if you wear your hair short.


This is why you might have red hair.

‘His Smile Is Captivating’

Most donor descriptions read like OKCupid profiles written by the donors’ moms.

Here’s one of the less-rapturous profiles from Fairfax Cryobank:

Kind and gentle, this donor has a passionate talent in the arts. A great singer and actor, he aspires to be in the theater. He is cute and charming. He has shiny, straight brown hair that he keeps long and pulled-back. He has bright blue eyes. Of average height with a lean, fit physique, he cycles and runs to stay in shape. His smile is captivating. This donor has a desire to help others in any way possible. He is honest and direct with his opinions and he has an innate ability to make others laugh.

HOW DO THEY KNOW ALL THIS? Did the staff see him act and sing? Is the staff the panel of judges from “The Voice”? What was the sample size used to determine that he has an innate ability to make people laugh?

Also: Is long, pulled-back hair a heritable trait? (No.)

Here is Northwest Cryobank’s description of my donor:

He is a unique and eclectic man. He has many varied interests from biking to school to agriculture. He is funny and not afraid to laugh at himself. He seems to be dedicated to his jobs and hobbies.

This is the sort of spare and workmanlike prose I want from a cryobank. No assumptions here.

OK, so they could have hedged a little more:

He appears to be a unique and eclectic man. He says he has many varied interests from biking to school to agriculture. In the presence of Northwest Cryobank staff, he is funny and not afraid to laugh at himself. He seems to be dedicated to his jobs and hobbies.

I know choosing a donor is a crapshoot. I’m limited to CMV-negative men and I want one who is open to contact, which leaves me with, like, .5 percent of the sperm-donating population. I don’t want to pretend my bank did a New Yorker profile’s-worth of research (written up by an Us Weekly intern) on my chosen dude.

Celebrity Match Game II

California Cryobank takes a different approach to monetizing celebrity resemblance.

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Instead of uploading a photo, as with Fairfax Cryobank, you choose a celebrity from a menu or browse donors flagged as lookalikes. (You can’t tell whether they are or aren’t. Few donors release photos of themselves as adults. When a cryobank DOES get its icy hands on an adult photo, it sets the price to the astronomical “click here to request pricing.”)

The list of celebrities is full of surprises.

For one thing, it is in alphabetical order by first name. This is useful if you want a celebrity named David but care whether he’s a Beckham or a Wenham or someone in between.

Some of the entries are in rather poor taste (Cor(e)ys Haim and Monteith).

Who is Daniel Faraday? He is a character on “Lost.” He has his own Wikipedia page, though. I can see how that could be confusing.

As at Fairfax, James Van Der Beek is a favorite. He is on the list twice, as Van der Beek and Van Der Beek. Data validation is for pussies, says California Cryobank.

The list is subtly judge-y:
Seth Rogen (thin)
Joe Rogan (with hair)
Alec Baldwin (young)
Neil Patrick Harris (straight)*

Some of the lookalikes listed for donors don’t look very much alike:

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 11.13.59 PM






See what I mean?



What person looks like these three people? I asked morphthing.com, a “Mommy, What Will I Look Like?” style-tool.











Morphthing proved intoxicating. Sorry.



*this one I made up

Celebrity Match Game

Fairfax Cryobank offers Face Match, which uses advanced technology (that cannot handle glasses, mustaches or hats) to match sperm donors to photos you upload. The database coughs up HIGH, MEDIUM and LOW matches.

This called for some exhaustive user testing.

Let’s start with the gentlemen of “Top Gear.”

captain_slow James May: 10 LOW matches.

jezza Young Jeremy Clarkson: Three MEDIUM, 17 LOW.

hamster Richard Hammond:  20 LOW matches.

Moving on to “Doctor Who.”

10 David Tennant: Two MEDIUM matches, 18 LOW.

11 Matt Smith: 20 LOWS.

And “Sherlock.”

bennie Benedict Cumberbatch: One MEDIUM, 19 LOW.

watson Martin Freeman: ZERO matches??!!

Is Fairfax Cryobank racist against Britons and hobbits? What else gets ZERO matches?

abarth Fiat 500 Abarth: ZERO matches.

What do I have to do to get a HIGH match?

dawson James Van Der Beek: Two HIGH matches, five MEDIUM, 13 LOW.

Ugh, Fairfax Cryobank.