It’s November 2017, and I am about to do one of the strangest things of my life: I’m going on a baby-daddy speed date.
I signed up as soon as I heard about this event from Meerdangewenst (a Dutch organisation connecting queer people interested in co-parenting). But somehow that all seemed a lot more idyllic from behind a computer screen than actually meeting these men. In person.
Jo is in Liverpool, so I’m on my own. I’m wearing her Nana’s ring she gave me so that she’ll be here in some way tonight, and I catch myself playing with it nervously as I walk into the building.
The location – somewhat anticlimactically – is similar to a school cafeteria. It smells like it, too, like watery soup and damp. There are cheap tables and chairs, and an assortment of people already seated and waiting. Some are in couples. Most came alone, like I did.
The nerves are clear in the room. So are mine. Looking around, I realise that I might not look like any of these people’s idea of an acceptable mother. Is my hair too much? Are my clothes too bright? Should I have worn makeup?
And then it starts.
We all receive a number, and once every seven minutes the numbers of who needs to be at which table are projected on to a screen.
For my first ‘date’ I sit down across from two gay boys. They’re barely five years younger than me but they feel like boys, with their big blue eyes and hopeful expressions. They’re married, with fancy careers and straight, white teeth. They want a mother for their child, they say. They’ll take care of most of the childcare, of course. The financial side as well. The baby can live with them for 80%, or no, 90% of the time.
…Or if I wanted I could just visit, every once in a while.
My next seven minutes are with a sperm donor. He has the look of a car salesman. He says that he enjoys doing what he does. One woman is pregnant with his child right now, and another just had a baby. He’s trying with two more.
When I ask him why he does this, he tells me about biological imperatives. He says he wants to ‘spread his seed’.
I’m pretty sure he’s not even kidding.
For my next turns there are two more couples to meet, all a bit older than the previous men, and a bit less naive. But they live in Antwerp, and we sit across from each other already knowing it will never work.
I meet another man on his own for my fifth date. He’s single, and he wants to co-parent. He’s strict, he says. He wants his future child to eat everything that touches their plate. He wants them to be respectful when addressing him. It’s important to be authoritative – let them know who’s running things.
I only pretend I’m writing down his contact information.
I already pity his child.
After that I see another sperm donor. He assures me he will do it in a cup, the donation. Not through sex. Unless, you know, unless I want it otherwise, because he would be open to that too. Because natural is best, isn’t it?
I listen dully and give up on even trying to smile. This is exhausting.
In the end there is only one. One man who makes me feel at least somewhat at ease. I noticed him when I came in: he’s heavy-set, with kind eyes. He doesn’t make me feel like it’s a battle. We manage to laugh at the sheer absurdness of this whole thing, and that’s about all I need right then.
The evening ends not a moment too soon.
My head feels like it’s full of buzzing bees and my throat hurts from talking, so instead of staying I make my escape into the sharply cold night air, accept an offer of a ride, and quickly let Jo know I made it out.
Then I go home and let it all settle for a few days. We talk it over through Skype, but there’s not a lot of debate.
We send a single email.