An education in abstinence: how can two gay men figure out whether they’re eternally compatible if they can’t go all the way? Well, says writer Joel Derfner, they can’t, really

Joel Derfner

I met my first real boyfriend (by “real” I mean that there was a fourth date) when he played the villain in a musical I’d written based on The Count of Monte Cristo. Ben had a great voice and even better cheekbones–and, more important, he seemed not to notice that the musical was terrible. Within two weeks of meeting we were going out. On our third date, while we were buying snacks to accompany our movie rental, he revealed that he too loved salt and vinegar potato chips, and I knew I had found the One. We were not utterly foolish: We did not move in together after a month. But we fit together like a hand in a glove. The understanding that we were soul mates suffused our entire relationship.

The only problem was that we had never had sex.

Don’t get me wrong: By the end of our second date we were naked and helping each other relieve the stresses of the day. We found each other intensely attractive and enjoyed many, many activities of which the members of the Westboro Baptist Church would heartily disapprove. But I couldn’t have penetrative sex because I was a sperm donor, and I’d premised the lesbians I wouldn’t risk infection.

My friends had all been baffled when I’d told them I was going to be a bio-dad, because I hate and fear children. But the lesbians lived in Boston, so I would only have to see the child a few times a year, and besides, I wanted to perform the mitzvah (“good deed”) of increasing the number of the Jewish people. Thus began a long period of entering the lesbians’ bathroom with a baggie and a copy of Inches and exiting with the stuff of life.

Unfortunately, the stuff of life didn’t seem to be doing them much good. Month after month the zygote failed to make its scheduled appearance. When we’d started the process I was single and uninterested in casual sex (don’t ask), so eschewing penetration was easy. Now that Ben had entered the picture, however, things were different.

He had the patience of a saint, but after almost a year this was getting to be ridiculous. “One of those sperm bastards had better make it,” I railed to him in bed, as he did something close to what I really wanted him to be doing. But none of them ever did, and eventually the lesbians and I reluctantly abandoned our project.

This was a disappointment, but still I was grateful that after 10 months Ben and I would finally be able to consummate our love fully. We approached the evening breathless and excited; the only thing we’d lacked would now be ours in abundance, and we couldn’t wait.

And the sex was totally mediocre, because of course we were both big bottoms. There was more to it, naturally, but that’s what it boiled down to. It didn’t matter how well-suited we were in other ways. All the pheromones and salt and vinegar potato chips in the world couldn’t disguise the fact that this was an insurmountable obstacle, and we’d discovered it far too late.

Worse, our sexual incompatibility was only a symptom of the deeper dysfunctions that plagued our relationship. We both wanted to be the one who got taken care of. We both avoided conflict as if it were our mothers, and during our ever more frequent fights, whoever cried harder won. I became increasingly controlling and Ben became increasingly helpless until we were more parent and child than anything else.

Refusing to admit that anything was wrong, we moved in together and stayed together, miserably, for another year and a half. Ben cheated, I watched Golden Girls all day and got fat, and we both had complete physicals more often than we had sex. Finally he left, much to our mutual relief.

Every so often I wonder what would have happened if I’d kept on donating sperm. Would Ben and I have been able to continue in blissful ignorance? Would I have increased the number of the Jewish people? Would I be a different person?

I ran into Ben the other day; he’s left the theater and is working as an interior designer. We talked about our new boyfriends–I made sure to mention several times that mine is a doctor–and I told him that the lesbians were considering adoption. They’d tried with other donors and had been no luckier. They said they kept thinking, Maybe this one will work.

But in the end they were forced to admit, just as Ben and I had, that no matter how hard you try to breathe life into a fantasy, sometimes reality is the best you can hope to get.

Derfner is the author of Gay Haiku (Broadway).

COPYRIGHT 2005 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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