Of the two of us, I'm the one who gets mad, complains, or otherwise overtly expresses disappointment. Lin contemplates, percolates, and forms reasoned responses. But upon reading the latest profile, he called the agency and expressed how upsetting it was, after six months of waiting and two false-starts, to be sent the profile of someone not willing to work with us.
The contact at the agency just happens to be one half of a "male homosexual couple" himself, and Lin made sure he acknowledged how hard it was for us to hear. It was the high-water mark of our disappointment with the agency; maybe I was being naïve, but it seemed to me that if you're paying someone a boatload to do one specific task, then they should do that task with breathtaking skill and precision. Oh, well.
But here's what happened... Lin called and expressed, and was met with, "Oh, no! I sent you the 'wrong version' of the profile!!!" The what?!? Wait, so you have no-gay and yes-gay versions? The"temp didn't realize this one was going to us ??!
He explained further. When Jeanne (not her real name) initially sent her profile to the agency a few years back, she had checked all those boxes, but only because her husband was not into the idea of surrogacy in general, and to get his approval, she had to go along with that particular condition. But what our contact told Lin is that a while back, she come to them and pro-actively asked to switch her profile to include all colors, shapes and orientations of intended parents. Well that's pretty great, we thought....
Hurt feelings toward the agency lingered a bit, but I had to let that one go. The next day, our contact said he'd talked to Jeanne and told her we'd seen the old profile, explained that she felt badly, and said we could talk to her about it if we wanted. But after the setbacks we'd already seen, and based on how great and genuine she came across in her profile, we decided to table our agita and go ahead with a phone call.
All the first calls elide into one at this point, and I don't remember a lot of specifics of the call with Jeanne. It's true, though, that because of the "rogue profile", and knowing that she knew that we knew, things started off a little more awkwardly than the other times. But we talked and shared and were serious and even laughed some, and dealt with the two mandatory contingency topics; termination and twins, okay with both.
She impressed us on the call with how well she knew the process, having gone through it for two of her own kids, and for the other couple as a surrogate. It gave her the kinds of real-world experience that are invaluable in this bizarro process. She was also solid and kind and we liked her, asked if she wanted to meet in person. She was in eastern Connecticut, and we'd be going to her. We asked where there was a decent place to eat nearby and without skipping a beat she answered - the casino. Yes!
Two weeks later we were in the car and headed for the Mohegan Sun in Montville, Connecticut. It the first time there for both of us, and I'll be damned if it wasn't pretty compelling. Massive, rough-hewn poles and beams littered amongst Mashantucket Pequot artifacts from days long before lady luck collided with their tribe. The way these naturalistic markers contrasted with the crass glare of slot machines and computerized jingles and chain smokers, well it was something.
We'd agreed to meet outside Todd English's Tuscany which I found online, and seemed to have a pretty nice-looking lunch buffet, even if Todd English is rumored to be a serious dick. When we got there we also discovered that it was entirely encased by an enormous rock edifice/fake waterfall! Oh yeah! Trouble was, they were closed for lunch on weekends. Weird, right?
We'd arrived to the casino early, and called Jeanne to let her know the deal, and to ask where we should meet. We'd done a little scanning around ourselves, but at 3pm on a Saturday there were surprisingly few places still serving. She had a suggestion though, and it was open... Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville!!! So weird and perfect that words almost fail.
We arrived first and planted ourselves at the bar. Lin and I were plainly nervous, much more so than when meeting Amy. This was mostly because Jeanne's husband Frank, the source of the checkboxes of yesteryear, was also coming to lunch. I ordered a beer, and quick enough it worked its beery magic and calmed my nerves a little. Lin did the same. When they entered I recognized her from the profile picture, but she didn't see me so I looked away and collected myself, rather than make clumsy eye contact for the next 8 seconds while they traversed the huge restaurant. When they reached us we made brief introductions. Frank didn't venture a smile, and his eyes darted around focusing on anything but us. Jeanne seemed a little nervous too, but friendly. I talked to the hostess and thankfully there was table available right away. We hightailed it there, hoping the new setting might wash away the weirdness of those first few seconds.
I can tell you that Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville is a wonderfully twisted place. Every 30 minutes an enormous, circular storm cloud of molded plastic suspended from the ceiling begins to spin, and thunder claps rumble loudly through the sound system. Then, out of the floor rises an equally enormous blender, until the two almost meet, and the cloud starts shooting a stream of "margarita" downward into the receptacle. Then the song plays, and the blender runs. But hot damn if they didn't have the best frozen margarita I've probably ever had. And it was only after those four margaritas arrived at the table -- oh yes, we all had one -- that the social chill lifted and we all started to talk and engage. Frank warmed up a lot, and it became clear very soon that he was a total softie, and a hilarious smartass to boot. Lin mentioned later that Frank doesn't have the good behavior people usually put on for occasions like this, he has his behavior only, take it or leave it. And we took it. By the end, when we reached for the check against their protestations, I jokingly said, "Unless you guys do this for a free lunch every weekend!" I was meeting him on smartass common ground, and it worked. He reached his hand above the table and met mine for an epic high-five. "Duuuuuuude...", he laughed. I felt like I'd made not one friend but two.
We did talk about surrogacy. But only after covering our respective jobs, where we were from and the idiosyncracies of those places, and how the food was tasting, in detail. In fact, when I headed to the bathroom at one point, the topic still hadn't been raised. But when I came back they were all talking about it freely. Excellent! I think they wanted to know what kind of parents we'd be, and I hope that they got their answers as much from how Lin and I are together as from the words we said. I got the sense that they were into it.
Lin and I decided beforehand that if things went well, we'd give them the chance to say then and there if they wanted to proceed, while letting them know that if they wanted time to think that was fine, too. So at the end of the meal, we popped the question. Jeanne, who was holding Frank's hand across the table at this point said to him, " So what do you think?" For about ten interminable seconds, he sat speechless, and my stomach knotted. Anything less than a clear yes was not a good sign, and probably was a bad sign. Shit. "I'm game!" he said, and we all laughed and smiled and exhaled fully.
After that things moved quickly. We paid and all walked out the door together and said what a good time we'd had and how nice to was to meet and that we'd be in touch real soon. And then they were gone into a bramble of video poker machines. Lin and I, in a daze, questioned whether we'd really sealed the deal. We did, right? Right?? Yes, I think we did.