Friday, October 8, 2010

I Love a Mystery

The other day, we made a new friend as we were over in the South End. We began by talking about our mutual quest for the perfect condo. As we were getting to know each other, my husband mentioned where he taught. The guy perked up. We thought nothing of it — lots of people perk up when they hear a name they recognize.

Eventually, he said, "I need to ask you a strange question." Now we perked up. I like strange questions. He said, "Is there any way you could get me into your school's library? I want to look at yearbooks."

While we were speculating about that, he explained: "I have children by an anonymous egg donor who was an undergrad there. I don't want to contact her, but I can't help worrying that someday my children will want to know about their mother. If they ever do, I'd like to be able to help them. I just want to find out who she is."

I was intrigued. I like a research challenge like this, and I don't have a job to keep me busy right now. I also believe that all children have a right to know who their mother is. If I'd been adopted or artificially conceived, I would be tortured by not knowing who my mother was. Heck, I was thrilled to find out who Wendy's mother was, I wonder about Possum's feral parents all the time. (We have pedigree papers for the older cats.)

I asked our new friend if he'd seen The Kids Are All Right, a movie about a lesbian household where the teenage children track down their anonymous sperm donor. He said that friends had both urged him to see it and cautioned him about seeing it — the results are messy and the ending is far from happily-ever-after. He said he had no interest in contacting the egg donor himself, and was only thinking about giving his children some peace of mind years from now.

So I told him I'd try to find her. I asked him to email me any information he had about her. He said he would, but he was skeptical; a friend of his had searched for her already, and failed. A few days later, he called me to say he'd be sending me the profile she'd provided to the donor-matching company. "I'm not even sure it's all true." he said. " I said I doubted that; there'd be serious liability issues if donation agencies didn't do background checks. He also said he thought he knew the donor's first name. "We were allowed to be at the clinic when they did the procedure but we didn't meet her. But we heard them calling someone 'L—.' Maybe that's an alias, or maybe it's really her name."

He sent me a PDF of the donor's profile and a photo of his spectacularly cute children. When I opened the donor's file, I was surprised to see a face very similar to mine at that age: oddly familiar features and hair, dramatic makeup like I wore in those days. The similarities ended there.

I spent a couple of hours trolling the school's website, looking at every news article I could find about the sports she played. No players matched her name or class year. I kept digging, and found photos of the intercollegiate team. She wasn't in any of them. I tried searching by her first name, for students with her major, and used every other piece of information I had. No luck.

I gave up, decided to read on the sofa for awhile and immediately fell into a coma. When I awoke, I returned to my laptop and realized I hadn't Googled for reunion sites for her class year. I instantly found a public Facebook page. I searched for her name. And there she was.

Now I had her last name, so I did a basic Google search. In addition to her own lively and public Facebook page, I found her employer's site, plus a public web site she created to post wedding news and photos. Along the way, I found photos and details about her family. I found high school sports results confirming her rankings. I was pleased to see that everything in her profile was accurate. She was genuine, and appeared to be blooming, accomplished, well-loved, and successful, too.

If I hadn't known her first name, I would still have found her. It just would have taken me longer to view all the photos on the Facebook reunion site.

I sent all the links to our friend, telling him that it would be easy to follow her discreetly and at a distance since she posted so much about her life in public. If a time came when one of his children was anxious to know about her, key information would be accessible. He wrote back, thanking me warmly, saying he was amazed.

I'm kind of amazed, myself. I thought I could do it, but it's still mind-boggling that we post so much information about ourselves online. Many people with Facebook pages are open books to the world. I keep mine private. Yet I write this personal blog. Still, I'm anonymous to most of you readers, although a dedicated sleuth could figure out who I am. One friend did stumble upon this blog and recognized me. (It was the "cake" reference in the blog description that clinched it for him.)

I don't mind; I have no kids whatsoever, I'm not involved in organized crime, I won't run for public office. I have little worth stealing. I wonder if I'd be a little cagier if I were an egg donor.

I trust the our friend not to interfere with their biological mother's life. But, years from now, when those children are grown, they will be able to know everything about her that she's permitted the rest of us to discover.


  1. Robert and/or Holly, is that you? How nice to hear from you! I like it when people track me down, and I hope nobody minds if I reciprocate... keeping it legal, of course!

  2. Wow...yes, I have tracked down 2 (lost due to divorce)kitty owners in a similar fashion, although one still says 'I'm not the Rob Cradduck you are looking for...You've given me more ideas though!


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