You Probably Need a Will, So Here's How to Have That Potentially Awkward Conversation with Your Family
Remember, if you die without a will, the state will determine who inherits
I get a phone call while I’m home in bed on pills, reading magazines and editing Tali’s manuscript. It’s my sister, and she’s had the baby! A little boy named Aiden, a Leo. My sister sounds happy and lonely and hormonal and sweet.
We talk on the phone for a bit, each in our respective recovery beds, on our meds, all for the sake of having babies. Soon the text photos start pouring in, and the baby is beautiful; he looks just like Olivia and my sister and Walden. Olivia is psyched about her baby brother and soon takes to yelling in his face, “AIDEN! Are you lookin’ at your big sister?!”
I do my Weird Aunt duties and pull up his chart on the Internet. All Leo and Aries. He’s going to be a ladykiller! Or, a mankiller! Or, whatever! I actually hate more than ANYTHING when people are like, "Ooooh, he/she loves the ladies/boys, he/she is such a flirt, is that your new girlfriend/boyfriend?" about their INFANTS. I can’t believe I just sort of did that about my brand new nephew who I haven’t even met yet! His astrological chart does predict he’ll be a bit of a Casanova, though.
Flea Update: Even though FleaBusters is due this week, seeing the mat of fleas upon Dashiell’s socks after shuffling from the bathroom back to bed gives us both a nervous breakdown. I am totally against fogging our house because it seems like we’ll all get instant cancer and die, but I decide that I will spray down the hardwood floors with some flea-killing chemicals I bought at the pet store.
It’s meant for spot-sprays, not hosing down your entire flat, but that’s what I do. I kick Dashiell and Rodney out of the house, tie a French scarf around my face, and in a terrible crouch I am not nearly limber enough to maintain, I scuffle through the apartment, spraying the floor half-foot by half-foot.
By the time I am done I feel insane. I’m still dopey and fragile from surgery and I haven’t eaten anything. I’m dizzy from the chemicals and weird from pills, and paranoid that I’m going to get instant cancer in my lungs and also on my ankles where the chemicals kept splashing. I realize that by not fogging the house I actually put myself in way more of a toxic situation, and feel stupid and like I just want to start crying.
We have to leave the house for an hour while everything dries, and so we go to a little café and experiment with Rodney being a Café Dog for the first time in his life. He does pretty good! He only tries to kill the man who brings us our breakfast, and a passing skateboarder. Otherwise he just chews his bully stick. Which is a dried bull penis. Something I didn’t know came with having a dog. Gross.
A couple days later, a man from FleaBusters comes into my apartment, huffing and puffing. He is very large and it appears that the effort of my staircase and the hefting of the flea-killing potion combined with his dense coveralls on this warm day may kill him dead right in my apartment. I’m truly worried about him, especially because he seems really nice.
He pushes his little eyeglasses up on his forehead, and says my name constantly, like, "Oh, Michelle, I really do not like this new technology," when my card won’t go through on his Square. Or, "Michelle, you must give your dog extra water," because the Death Potion kills fleas by dehydration, and Rodney could find himself a little parched in the process.
In fact, we all do. I wake up in the middle of the night with my throat stuck together like Velcro, grasping for a glass of water. I’ve been living a dehydration lifestyle for decades, so this stuff must be pretty powerful to force me to drink actual water.
Me and Dashiell start talking about sperm. Sperm bank sperm. In the abstract, all there is to talk about is ethnicity, which is a little weird, but we go for it. My big idea is to go to highlight all of Dashiell’s most elfin characteristics with some Icelandic sperm. Like, if Bjork could give us sperm, that’s sort of what I’m thinking.
Dashiell’s milky complexion, her big blue tilty eyes, her oddly elfin ears with the little points –- imagine if we could mix that with some real Elf sperm, the magical little creature we’d create! I know we’re supposed to be finding sperm that matches my own ethnic heritage -– right? –- but really, I’m just not too jazzed about my people.
Irish? I’m damaged from growing up in New England, home of Irish Pride, which looks like an angry, drunk, red-faced, red-haired racist dude in a "Fightin’ Irish" baseball hat. Dashiell’s got that covered anyway, she’s already Irish. Polish? Hmmmmm. What does "Polish" even look like? It just seems like "White." Who cares?
Does it seem like I am trying to genetically manipulate myself a strikingly beautiful baby? Because I am. Is that creepy or what?
Dashiell is against the Icelandic sperm idea. Rather than us having a little faerie-troll baby, she wants us to have, like, a baby. She thinks searching out some general European mutt sperm is our best bet. I’m slightly open to it, especially if the mutt-ness is not limited to Europe. Why not a little of everything?
It would be fun to get to learn about the other cultures, their history and culture, in order to best teach our kid about their heritage. I think I’d be really into it. But then, I’ve read writing by kids who are a different race than their parents (like, white parents/POC kid) and how it was hard for them to not have immediate role models for their place in the world as a person of color, how their parents really couldn’t totally get it.
Or even worse, stories of kids of color whose white parents had so much unchecked racism. Like every white person, I want to think that my anti-racist, anti-colonial educations have stripped me of ugly thoughts and presumptions, but I know the way cool feminist men have stupid blind spots, the way sweet, well-meaning straight people have homophobic blind spots. Why would I be any different?
I once heard white racism likened to alcoholism –- a disease that all white people have inherited, that can be treated, that can be worked with, but that you must always be vigilant against, must always be aware of your privilege and learning more and more about how deep and wily racism is. What do alcoholics say about alcoholism? Cunning, baffling, powerful. Just like racism.
So then I guess I should have a little white baby and bring another white person into the world! Oh, jeez. There is no winning. I hate that we have to pick our sperm. If we just naturally created a baby between us and it was white because we are white I’d be like, whatever, that’s how it goes, I wouldn’t think so much about it. Going out of your way to pick white sperm or person of color sperm –- they are equally creepy. I find myself wishing for some sperm roulette.
That night, on the computer, I chat with Rhonda. I’M ABOUT TO GOOGLE "BEST SPERM BANK," I type. And I do. The most compelling and well-reviewed place is the lesbian-owned joint that used to be in the same building as the gaming company I had a temporary job with last year. I remember passing it each day and being, like, This Is An Omen. There Is A Lesbian Sperm Bank In My Building. I Could Go Buy Sperm On My Lunch Break.
The lezzie bank has a PDF you can download, with some basic info about the donors. I do it. The file that pops open is a rudimentary breakdown of the donors’ stats, as basic and bland as can be. Even so, I find myself totally sucked into the lines of type.
A Peruvian soccer player who likes music and photography? Sounds cool! A European mutt with my entire ethnic makeup plus some Nicaraguan blood? Very cool! It is very hard to rip myself away from it and wait to explore it with Dashiell, but I do. I close the PDF and instead download the Bad Dog Forms I have to fill out on behalf of Rodney, to get him into Bad Dog school.
We heard from our building manager, who affirmed that Candy wrote a long, hand-written letter detailing what had happened in the hallway. I was so glad to be able to tell her all the actions we’d taken since that went down, to whip Rodney into a civilized beast.
One thing that has changed is how seriously I know take Rodney’s behavior. In the past, I was never sure if he was as bad as Dashiell feared, or if Dashiell was overly worried, traumatized from what a bad dog Rodney used to be. Maybe he was a reformed criminal! He didn’t seem that bad to me. But the attack had left me humbled. Dashiell knew her dog better than I could, and the reality is that, though Rodney was much improved from the little scrapper he used to be, he was still unpredictable, and had to be treated as such.
Now when I walked him, and strangers draw close, charmed by his cuteness, I bark, No! He’s A Monster! Stay Back! You Don’t Understand! And they look at me like I am insane, and back away. I don't t care whether it is me or Rodney they are scared of, as long as they keep their distance.
Has your dog ever bitten anyone? Does your dog bark at strangers? Does your dog lunge at other dogs? Yes, yes, yes, I answer all the questions, cringing at how bad little Rodney looks on paper. We’d found out from a couple of dog dykes we know –- one works at the SPCA, the other at Animal Control -– that there was no way Rodney would be put down for what happened.
This gave us a tremendous relief, but still. I didn’t want to live in fear of us getting kicked out of the best apartment ever, and I didn’t want to have to fight so hard with Rodney when I took him out for a poop. I send in the forms, hoping he isn’t too bad for Bad Dog School!