Like most successful conceptions, the conception of RelationShow began with sperm. Specifically, when I asked my friend Mario if he would consider giving me some of his because I wanted to have a baby. The conversation wasn’t very long—either he didn’t think I was serious or the whole thing made him so uncomfortable that he mostly laughed his way through declining. I was serious; I was in my late 30s, divorced, on a dating bender and determined to be proactive about procreation. A smart, funny, handsome gay friend seemed just the ticket. Luckily, there were others to ask after Mario turned me down. And, luckily, the next one (who is rather famous) said no and then, well, then I met the man who would become my husband. And who knocked me up five weeks before we got married.
So I thank Mario for turning me down. Otherwise it might have been awkward when I started dating my now-husband to explain that I was having a kid with my gay, Chilean friend who doesn’t really want to be a father. Of course, it was still awkward that the week we started dating, I was in the process of freezing my eggs, but I knew he was The One when he let me put my syringes in his refrigerator.
Anyway, I still wanted to create something with Mario. He’d been the DC correspondent for my erstwhile public radio show, Fair Game. So we talked for a long time about what kind of show we wanted to produce, and we kept circling around the same engrossing issues and questions—those about modern love. Mario was dating a lot of guys, and I was dating my guy a lot. There were questions over Shiraz about how to get someone to say “I love you” first, when to sleep together, how to handle crazy exes, what the ratio of texting to talking should be in a new relationship. High on dopamine and oxytocin, I became obsessed with how to maintain those levels of chemicals coursing through my body, mostly because they can’t be beat for weight loss.
I am very nerdy and delight in any science story that touches on love, sex, and relationships—it’s when I think science becomes most accessible. When it answers questions like, what’s the neurological basis of attraction, and can we train ourselves to feel it? Or, what’s the science behind the “maternal instinct”, and can we switch it on for step kids? I also interview people for a living, which is a professional excuse to be nosy: I love asking people about the anatomies of their relationships and to reveal their love scars and what they learned from them. Love, sex, connection…we all have some and yearn for more. I can’t think of anything more revealing or relevant about which to learn.
When Faith asked me if I’d sire her kid (quick aside: I’ve never used the word “sire” before and, I’ve got to tell you, it makes the sentence look super fancy), it wasn’t actually the first time I’d been asked to make a, well, genetic donation. Not because I’m some kind of DNA superstar (just watch me try to throw a Frisbee), but because there comes a point in the life of pretty much every gay guy when a very dear woman friend—usually one staring headlong down the barrel of 40 and unsatisfied with her other, more heterosexual options—gives you the once over, sighs and says, “Well, why not?”
Now, Faith was more eloquent than that when she asked, but—as she recounts in her own post—I pretended she was kidding. The reasons are probably deep-seeded and embarrassing, and I really should be paying a professional to hear them rather than inflicting them on you. But in short, the idea of having kids—or even helping someone else have kids—seemed culturally off-limits to me. While I’d like to think of myself as a modern guy, I realized then and there that I’m still, for better or worse, a Latin American Catholic kid at heart. Sometimes, a boulder can only be moved so far and, after a rough coming out process with my family, I was tired of pushing mine around. Plus, I knew Faith would do better. And she did—a husband who’s taller, better read and more Jewish than me. You’re welcome!
But while I didn’t want to know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies, I loved the idea of creating something meaningful with Faith. That ‘something’ became RelationShow—our attempt to dissect the hundreds of relationship conundrums we’d posed to each other over the course of our friendship. But because the two of us had a combined four decades of failed relationships between us, we knew we’d need to call in real experts. Scientists, psychologists, writers, Carrie Fisher—you know, people who actually know what they’re talking about. And we’d ask them questions not just about our lives, but about things everyone faces… Like, How long should one grieve a lost partner? When is it ok to date again? How do you tell your child he’s about to get a new stepmom? You know, the easy stuff.
Spoiler alert: Just as the show became a reality, Faith married and I settled down with a great guy of my own—a Quaker, no less, wholesome and oaty. Luckily for RelationShow, though, this only created a whole new set of questions for us: How do you keep it interesting? What do I call his parents? And of course—the reason Faith gets the last laugh—The Quaker wants kids. Wouldn’t you know it?