Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: In Which I Fail To Get Money From Fancy Rich People
At this literary fundraiser I discover that a girl Maria I’ve known casually for years works at our fertility clinic! Me and Dashiell escape the soul-killing exchange of "elevator pitches" and, plates piled high with fruit and cheese, huddle around a table and gab.
“How has been for you guys?” she wants to know, and guess what? She is the perfect person to complain to about how shockingly un-queer-friendly the clinic’s systems are. I’m not sure what exactly she does, but she knows who to get our comments to and wants to hear all of them.
“Why isn’t there just a template on the computer system that deals with couples like us? How hard can that be?”
“I don’t know,” Maria nods, “But they need to get this feedback. They want this feedback.”
When we tell her we have Dr. Waller she tells us, “He’s the best. He’s a rock star.”
I usually maintain that only rock stars are actually rock stars but Maria gets a massive pass on this one. Dr. Waller really is, like, the rock star of fertility doctors. We’ve known this in our hearts, Dashiell and I, but it’s great to hear it affirmed by someone who actually works there. “He’s the top of the field, number one.”
Then Maria tells us all about her boss, who is, “The most badass woman! You’d love her. She’d love you guys. She’s an obstetrician, but her research is around stem cells. Making sperm from stem cells.” She looks at us quietly while this concept sinks in.
“So, like, you could make sperm from my stem cells?” I ask her. “Like, I could make sperm? And fertilize Dashiell’s egg?”
Maria nods her head giddily. “Yes. Exactly. It’s going to change everything.”
“Well -– geez, how close are they to doing this?” I ask, slightly alarmed. “Should we be holding off?” How incredible would it be if could make sperm?
Actually –- after the heady fantasy of our child being our real genetic offspring passes, and the sci-fi coolness wears off, and my ego comes down from the concept of making my own sperm, I remember that it is almost certainly a blessing that I’m not passing on my genes to our child, that Quentin’s genetic makeup is certainly a step or two up from my own.
“No, no,” Maria laughs. “It’s nowhere near happening. But it will.”
It makes me so happy to know that there is a woman out there working to create sperm out of stem cells. Queer people’s lives are going to be so changed when they don’t have to go around bumming sperm or plunking down hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the frozen jizz of perfect strangers. Justice!
After this super-inspiring talk with Maria I sort of feel like I need to do some schmoozing on behalf of RADAR Productions, my literary non-profit. Even though this is a fundraiser for a whole other literary cause, the place is crawling with rich people and, frankly, I am almost never around rich people. RADAR supports the work we do -– readings, tours, free writers’ retreats, publishing -- through grants and an annual pledge drive. We’re a straight-up non-profit, tax deductible and all that, but we just don’t know any rich people, so we have a hard time getting the sorts of donations that other non-profits do. We cater to underground queer writers =– not exactly a cash cow. But this place is swirling with those mysterious creatures I’ve heard so much about –- Bay Area Tech People!
It’s such a drag to run a struggling non-profit catering to literary queers in the midst of such insane wealth. It can make you feel, like, extra-loser-y, like, How come everyone around me has all this dough and here we are sparechanging our broke-ass audience for another $20? Because the people we serve are the folks on the outside of the tech bubble, the ones terrified they’re going to lose their apartment to a young millionaire, the ones who moved to San Francisco to cruise chicks on Valencia Street but now can’t handle walking through the throngs of artisanal eaters clogging the gentrified boulevard.
But all this is just a long way of getting around to telling you that I met the dude who made the Tsty Frvr Tomato.
I allowed myself to be swept away by this really great, high-energy lady with crazy checkerboard pants and fancy slippers. Sure she was drunk, but I could tell that the love she was professing for me and my palazzo pants and also for Dashiell, whom she fell immediately in love with because, well, who doesn’t? -- all of this love was REAL.
I knew it was, because I loved her, too. When you go to an arts fundraiser the best you can hope for is some rich lady with good fashion will take a liking to you, and it happened! She made me tell her about everything RADAR did, she deemed it all fabulous, and then said, “My husband has to give you money.”
“He totally does!” I agreed excitedly as she waved down her dude. He sort of looked like the father on The O.C.. Peter Gallagher. That’s the guy who would play him in a movie.
His hyper wife told him all about RADAR and about how me and Dashiell are engaged to be married, even though that had nothing to do with anything. People like a good story. She grabbed my hand and gasped at my engagement ring, and then waved it at her husband.
“So sweet!” she crowed.
“So what do you do?” he asked bluntly. I gave my pitch. Sometimes I can’t believe how much awesome work RADAR is doing. It sounds like I’m lying or exaggerating, but I’m not! We really are publishing books with City Lights! Holy shit!
“So,” he said skeptically. “Have any of your writers made it?”
“’Made it?’” I repeated. “I mean, have I ‘made it’? What does that mean, to make it? They’re writing books, the books are amazing, we’re publishing them and taking them on book tours.”
“Well, have any of them been invited to like, any parties in New York or anything, like in penthouses?”
Was this guy fucking with me or what? What was this American Psycho bullshit? I realized that this is why our downtrodden queer arts organization will never get a cash infusion from a rich person. Rich people like to give money to things that probably don’t need it. I would have had to sell our organization as this wildly successful Gatsby Party of a literary organization to have gotten a contribution. Something he wanted to be a part of.
He didn’t seem like he wanted to be part of a community of queers struggling to make work against a cultural and economic backdrop of homophobia. By elaborating on how needy our people are, I made us sound like losers.
RADAR’s queer audience totally wants to fund losers. Rich people don’t. My head was going to explode.
“No,” I said, “No one has gone to any penthouse parties in New York City.” I guess we’re FAILING AS AN ORGANIZATION.
Dashiell and I fled the party. I tottered down the large hill on the outskirts of downtown San Francisco, my feet throbbing in my heels because guess what? My feet have suddenly grown! Which I guess means my arches have dropped. Which means my shows don’t fit me.
We found a sushi joint at the foot of the hill and went in. We needed more food than cheese cubes, especially after dealing with moneybags.
“Whoa, that was so intense!” Dashiell exclaimed. “You handled that really well.”
“As long as I had my dignity,” I said.
I had the business card of the man’s wife in my purse, and through some Internet sleuthing I located her husband and got to see how many tech companies he’s started and sold. A few. And his biggest hit so far has been the Tsty Frvr tomato -– you know, the genetically modified tomato that kicked off the whole GMO craze that normal people like you and I are actively resisting.
This past November, a very sensible bill in California would have made it mandatory that all products made with GMO ingredients say so on the label. No big whoop. But it corporations like Monsanto –- who I think bought one of this dude’s companies –- lobbied against it, and it didn’t go through.
“Wow,” I breathed. “This guy’s work is sort of evil.” I felt better about failing to snag his charitable interest. Not that I wouldn’t inject some GMO blood money into my non-profit. I totally would! But I just felt like I’d gone up against a being from a whole other world, and it made more sense that I left the exchange defeated and feeling like I needed a shower.
Me and Dashiell ate sushi, and then I walked barefoot out into the Tenderloin to hail a cab, because I had taken off my shoes and couldn’t get them back on.