image courtesy of Cori Bratby-Rudd
1. I used to cry, chose to sleep on the floor, sleepingbagged child with a dog, a mom and with with with a sickening feeling. “I want a dad.” Soft girlchild deep bellied wanting. But I was so ashamed to want a dad. So ashamed that while I said it I hid under the covers, face in a torment-tent of pre-used oxygen. So ashamed that what they said about kids without dads feeling incomplete might have some sort of resonance with me—“I just want a dad.” Gasp, head in pillow, head in mom’s chest, finally falling asleep after a long night of crying.
2. The next day, Mom pulled out the sperm donor facts and we read the lines together. Engineer, musician, blue eyes, brown hair. No medical history. Just lines that could easily be lies. I tried to picture him but couldn’t, I wanted a picture. Yes, I decided I wanted a picture. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a picture, Mom?! Mom shrugged but then helped me sign up for that donor registry. Enter in the number. Sorry your search yielded no results. No matches. And it wasn’t the lack of the diblings that alarmed me—it was the lack of anyone maybe ever understanding.
3. I remember asking my sister Hope, do you ever think you might want to meet your donor and she shrugged fork in mouth as she kept eating her Mac & Cheese like it was a subject she has not thought about. She finished her bite and then began telling me the word donation was on her spelling test this week, and she is young so I don’t want to make her feel less complete so we practice spelling donation.
4. As I was growing up, when picturing (or more accurately dreaming of) my other sperm siblings, I sort of imaged they would all have lesbian moms like mine. Be acquainted with the lack of father business. I knew for sure we wouldn’t be family, but we would have something in common, a lesbian bond of sperm donor choices and a lack of fathers and pressure so much pressure.
5. But then when I got the ding notification for diblings on the donor registry years later, when I met them, neither had lesbian moms. One’s father was simply infertile and the other had a single mom. I felt disappointed, like the two most probable candidates for understanding me had too different of a family dynamic to understand my longing and my fear of longing.
6. I also fear that I didn’t give them a chance, that I wanted my story to be about nurture so badly that I refused to try to like them.
7. I began doing self-research (therapy and such) and realized I am not sure where the line between father, dad and donor lies. As in, I wanted a dad but I did not think of the donor as that dad. They were mutually exclusive; like I wanted a dad and I had a donor who I possibly wanted a photo of but didn’t want him to be my dad. I didn’t need the physical being, it was moreso the societal being I wanted. Like being able to walk into a room and not have to explain myself.
8. I began to wonder, if in the same way that something taboo can become something desired, if perhaps I wanted a dad because I knew I wasn’t supposed to want a dad.
9. As I got older, I tried to break down my longing even more, creating my own science of sperm desire. Perhaps I wanted and cried for a dad the way I also cried for and wanted a Bratz doll. Perhaps it was just something everyone had, something that I therefore was socialized to want. My desire was therefore not mine and I could leave it. Yes! I could leave it. I just wanted to be normal—that was all! Well fuck being normal and fuck knowing my DNA.
10. I really don’t want to have this desire, see. The daddy desire. But every once in a while, it pops up like an unruly blackhead. My rational brain tells me this feeling makes sense, in the same way I once dreamed of having a dick because boys always got the cool presents and got picked first in P.E., the wishing being a product of being treated like shit, but the part of me that loves my moms, the part of me that fears retribution, the part of me that fears what my desire could do in the hands of bigots, whispers to the child in my memory: shhhhhhh this is something we do not talk about. You will not feel this. You don’t wish you had a dad, you are very happy and satisfied with your mothers. Tie yourself in a bow, you are neat and tidy with no daddy dreams.
11. But then today at the DMV, I told the clerk that I wanted to keep my parents’ address on file (because I move so often) and he stamped a paper with today’s date and then muttered, It is always safer to have mom and dad’s address on file just in case. I muttered yea and didn’t correct him for time reasons. More significantly, when I recounted what happened at home to my wife, she thought the point of the story was about the address change and began talking about us possibly moving again. At this point I began to feel isolated once again. I started to write a list of secret things no one else seems to be able to understand (including myself).
12. I showed this list back to my wife in hopes of increased understanding, at which point everything got worse because she responded back, but I don’t understand because I love your moms. I love that you have lesbian moms, aren’t you glad you had lesbian moms? and then there it was again: the mutual exclusivity that made me shut up about this in the first place.
13. I still have daddy dreams.
Cori Bratby-Rudd (she, her) is a queer LA-based writer and co-founder of Influx Collectiv(e)’s Queer Poetry Reading Series. She graduated Cum Laude from UCLA’s Gender Studies department, and received her MFA in Creative Writing from California Institute of the Arts. She has been published in Ms. Magazine, The Gordian Review, Califragile, PANK Magazine, Entropy, Crab Fat Magazine, among others. Cori was nominated as one of Lambda Literary’s 2018 Emerging Writers. Her first manuscript Dis/owned was a semi-finalist for YesYes Book’s 2019 Pamet River Prize and was also longlisted for PANK Magazine’s 2019 Book Prize. Cori is a co-founder and Director of Programs at Dissonance Press. She edited their debut anthology titled Under The Belly of the Beast. You can find her at coribratbyrudd.com