My wife and I have been married for a thoroughly enjoyable three years, but we've recently fallen on hard times. At nearly 30, I now realize becoming a screenwriter should be Plan B, although I still have to find Plan A. My wife is a 24-year-old student. We'd like to start a family but can't for a few years. She has suggested egg donation. From the various listings, it sounds like we could make $6,000-8,000 per shot. As she sees it, we'd be helping a determined couple have a family, we could use the money, and she's just "flushing them down the toilet every month" anyway. Any child would be lucky to share her genes—she's smart and gorgeous. But I have concerns. First, I think these hopeful parents should consider adopting. Second, despite the technicalities, I have a hard time seeing her eggs merely as genetic material. Part of me feels that since any child that results from this would be half my wife, I would feel a sense of responsibility for it and its well-being. What should we do?
—Leggo My Eggo
Obviously, your gametes can't get you out of your financial hole. Sperm are a dime a dozen, but, oh, those golden eggs. You need to consider this step carefully because it will have implications for the rest of your lives. However, since the whole point of this exercise is that the recipient family gets to raise the child, you can stop worrying about that obligation. Also on the plus side, your wife might be the answer to an infertile couple's prayers. Egg donation is a low-risk but intrusive process, and there is the possibility of complications. This report has information about the medical issues. There has been little research on the psychological impact of egg donation, but this study looks at donors' mental state (generally fine) two years later. It used to be that egg and sperm donation was kept secret by the recipients. But the legal and cultural world of assisted reproduction is in flux, and as this report shows, opinion is shifting toward telling the child about his or her beginnings. This article describes how "donor conception is creating new family forms"—radically extending the notion of extended family. So you have to consider that one day triplets might ring the doorbell wanting to meet their biological mother. (This might be the basis for a movie, but I agree you should get out of the screenwriting business.) I can't make a decision for the two of you. But as you think through this possibility, your wife needs to do more than shrug and say egg donation is simply a lucrative alternative to flushing the toilet.
I am an only child with a single mother who's very dependent on me. She is a smart and passionate woman, and we have a sometimes-stormy relationship. We have worked hard to develop a friendship as I approach my late 20s. She recently moved across the country to be near me. She knows no one here and has made me the focus of her life. I encourage her to develop friendships, introduce her to people, and help her engage in new activities. However, I am feeling suffocated, largely because of Facebook. She recently "friended" me. Now, she posts embarrassing, nasty, and downright weird messages on my page about my personality and even my behavior as a child. Most of the comments would offend me if she said them to my friends, let alone put them where everyone I know can read them. I have tried to casually mention this, but she laughs and brushes aside my concerns. What do I do? Is my only option to "defriend" my mom?
—Friends With Mom
Your mother has violated the terms of service agreement, and she needs to be removed from your social-networking site. She also has violated the terms of service of motherhood, and she needs to be put on the sidelines of your life. Think about how totally she has manipulated you into a role reversal: She moved so that you could provide her with constant attention, entertainment, and encouragement—and in response, she acts like a sullen teenager striking out at Mom. You have spent too much time working at being friends with your mother, when what your mother needs to be is a proper parent to you and an independent adult. Presumably she is just middle-aged, so you've got to start drawing some clear boundaries now, before you find yourself a middle-aged woman whose youth was spent enmeshed with your emotional vampire of a mother. When something bothers you about what she's doing, stop hinting and simply tell her. Not that I think it will change her—her laughing dismissal shows she doesn't really care how you feel—but it's good for you to set limits. As for Facebook, tell her it's for your friends and you don't like what she's been posting, so you're removing her. Stop spending so much time organizing her social life (she's an adult, remember?), and concentrate on your own. Do not let her blackmail you with her histrionics and self-pity. If she's not capable of being a mother and just wants to be a friend, then she needs to learn to act like one.
Ever since I can remember, my thumbs have been noticeably abnormal. Each has a large bump sticking out the side, and I cannot bend them. I often feel self-conscious about these deformities. I hate having to shake someone's hand, for fear that they will be freaked out by my thumbs. Having taken piano lessons for many years, I always worried that my teachers were going to be focused on my thumbs and not my music. I feel like a weirdo! My boyfriend doesn't seem to care that my thumbs are different, but I wish there was something I could do to have normal, bendable thumbs. What should I do?
First, get your hands on a copy of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, a novel by Tom Robbins that celebrates the life of Sissy Hankshaw ("It is her thumbs that we remember; it is her thumbs that have set her apart"), whose oversize thumbs set her story in motion. You may be self-conscious, but it doesn't sound as if anyone else in your life is bothered by your unusual thumbs. No one who shakes your hands has ever freaked out, your piano teachers have never mentioned them, your boyfriend likes them. Embrace your uniqueness! I am surprised that as a child you didn't receive a diagnosis—if there is one—about the cause of your unusual digits. So, even though I think you should relax about your thumbs, there is no reason not to see a professional, probably an orthopedist with a special interest in hands, who can tell you what you've got and if it can be corrected. But keep in mind what the narrator in Cowgirls has to say about Sissy: "Her thumbs? Yes, aren't they magnificent?"
I work in a small office of half a dozen people. We are not social outside of work, but we get along very well in the office. I am usually the first one to go to lunch, and two or three times a week I will grab food at a restaurant and take it back to eat at my desk. Inevitably, when I announce my departure, someone will ask, "Where are you going?" If it's someplace appealing, they will ask if I can pick something up. It often turns into an officewide affair, with people looking up menus online, running to ATMs, making change, writing down their orders. To be fair, they usually ask me if I want anything when they are going somewhere. Though I like my co-workers, I don't really want lunch to be a social affair. I see it as an opportunity just to get away. How can I do that without disrupting the office atmosphere?
—Lunchtime Is My Time
Since you have a congenial work environment, over lunch one day (after you've handed the chicken salad to Jeannette and the penne to Roger, and given Kristen change for her $20), why don't you mention that sometimes you like to run errands or take a walk before you eat? This means that there are days when you don't want to pick up food for everyone, but you've been worried about appearing to be rude, so you've been reluctant to refuse to take orders. Then suggest that perhaps you all can come to some kind of understanding that when someone goes out and offers to get food (which you should do occasionally), that person really means it. And when one of you goes out and says, "See you all in a little while," that means you're not interested in juggling Styrofoam containers of moo shu beef for six.
Photograph of Prudie by Teresa Castracane.