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The Paternity Test

Michael Lowenthal

Publication Year: 2012

Having a baby to save a marriage—it’s the oldest of clichés. But what if the marriage at risk is a gay one, and having a baby involves a surrogate mother?
    Pat Faunce is a faltering romantic, a former poetry major who now writes textbooks. A decade into his relationship with Stu, an airline pilot from a fraught Jewish family, he fears he’s losing Stu to other men—and losing himself in their “no rules” arrangement. Yearning for a baby and a deeper commitment, he pressures Stu to move from Manhattan to Cape Cod, to the cottage where Pat spent boyhood summers.
    As they struggle to adjust to their new life, they enlist a surrogate: Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, married to Danny, an American carpenter. Gradually, Pat and Debora bond, drawn together by the logistics of getting pregnant and away from their spouses. Pat gets caught between loyalties—to Stu and his family, to Debora, to his own potent desires—and wonders: is he fit to be a father?
    In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Michael Lowenthal writes passionately about marriages and mistakes, loyalty and betrayal, and about how our drive to create families can complicate the ones we already have. The Paternity Test is a provocative look at the new “family values.”

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-5

It’s not too late,” I said. “You could still change your mind.” “What?” said Stu. “Now?” He glanced down at his watch. “Quarter till. They might already be there.” We’d rumbled down the hill in our rust- corrupted Volvo, my parents’ “summer clunker” we inherited with the cottage. Now Stu turned and steered us through...

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pp. 6-16

A surrogate mother, at last! A woman who could give us what we couldn’t give ourselves. I was thrilled, even if I’d hoped we’d get here sooner. How could we have wasted nine full months since we had moved? Our first excuse for stalling— the one we’d dared to voice—had to do with all the stresses...

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pp. 17-26

Could you decide to want kids? Whether to have them: that was a choice. And when, and with whom. But wanting them? Wasn’t that just an ore you had within? At least that’s how it was for me: not chosen but discovered, uncovered. At first I saw just glimmers, gold flecks in the dross. Then, with every passing year, more...

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pp. 27-43

And now here we were, nearly at the Pancake King, to meet the woman who might bear our baby. Here was the mall, where Mrs. Rita had etched our grains of rice; here was Filene’s, where I’d faced my old fears. The nine months of Cape Cod life had...

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pp. 44-58

I was unprepared for the accent Debora spoke with—“Patch” was the way she said my name—and even less prepared for the story she unspooled in response to my “Tell us about yourself.” She was from...

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pp. 59-68

When Danny asked, “Did you plan on this ?” he’d left this undefined: Being gay? Needing to hire a surro? I had parried by making my dumb joke. But late that night, when Stu had gone to bed, I sat alone—just me, in the quiet...

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pp. 69-78

At the Pancake King we had all agreed to wait a week, but the phone rang at eight the next morning. “I’m listening to NPR,” she said—no “Good morning” or “It’s Debora”—“ and the story, it’s a man who finds a baby in the subway!” “Debora,” I mouthed...

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pp. 79-91

A doctor poked at Debora, her blood was drawn and tested, she suffered a psychologist’s questions. A private investigator snooped through old records for signs of a criminal background. Fine, everyone...

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pp. 92-104

When the phone rang, a cold afternoon a few weeks later, I was watching the daily White House briefing on C- SPAN. End the death tax. Enemy combatants. A horror show, but soothing— in fact, the only soothing thing on days, like today, when I was steamed: a headbutt to a wall to cure a...

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pp. 105-114

The next evening we did it all again. This time we collected the sample (collected? the sample? as if all we hoped for was a science fair ribbon!) at home, in our very own bed. Then we swathed the cup in a microwave- warmed towel and hurried it across the Cape to Debora’s. Again we sat downstairs...

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pp. 115-126

I pelted Stu with pep talks. Normal, I said. Likely. Would have been sheer luck to hit the bull’s eye right away. I pointed to the heading in our book that said “Don’t Panic.” “‘Even the fittest couple,’ I read, ‘employing time- honored intercourse, is bound to fail four of five times.’ So see?” I said...

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pp. 127-143

It couldn’t be avoided: our trip back to New York. Stu had flown down the day before, to help his folks prepare: making charoset, burning the leaven, all that Jewish oddness. I traced his path in the morning— Hyannis, Logan, LaGuardia— touching down with time to spare before...

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pp. 144-152

Our next try with Debora also failed. This despite her conscientious diet of Robitussin (two teaspoons, three times a day, eight days straight), designed to thin her vaginal secretions. Despite, too, our method’s fi ne-tuning: Stu did his business now straight into the Instead Cup, not a drop lost in...

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pp. 153-166

It felt sneaky: our men still crouched behind barricades of sanctimony, licking their wounds, nixing any truce, and here we were, Debora and I, meeting on the sly, at the cool, sweeping shore of Sandy Neck. My alibi was simple but sufficient: “Off to the library,” I’d said to Stu, a stack of books as...

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pp. 167-177

I sat on the deck, in sudsy morning brightness, vigorously scrawling on my notepad: every cell and synapse tuned to working. Blue jays pecked coyly at birdseed on the feeder; squirrels leapt from tree to tree above— all God’s creatures, doing what...

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pp. 178-185

A bullion- bright day, two weeks before the year’s longest. All the world in crisp, flawless focus—and me, too. The air was cool, but here inside my Volvo, who would know? Windows closed, heater cranked to high. Tucked away, snug within the crotch of my fleece sweatpants (trying to maintain 98.6): the specimen...

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pp. 186-191

They say that what you see depends on where you stand, and Stu and I were bolted to the viewpoints we’d grown used to. He was profligate, out of control, the breaker of our trust; selfdestructive and us- destructive; the problem. I was restrained...

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pp. 192-197

What did I really want when I placed the call to Debora? To hear her laugh things off and say, “We won’t being doing that again”? To hear her say she burned to do it again? But no, when she answered with her lyrical “Alô?” I knew what I’d wanted the most...

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pp. 198-210

The parking lot was chockablock— out- of-staters, mostly; I had to circle four or five times. At last I found a spot by the small lookout platform, where Debora, I realized as I climbed out of the car, was standing, arms...

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pp. 211-219

Well?” Stu asked as soon as he came home. I felt stupid. I stared at him and thickly said, “Well what?” “What do you mean, ‘Well what’? Did she call? Any news?” “Oh. Oh, right. Yeah. Called this morning.” As if Debora’s news had been nothing but...

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pp. 220-232

And so it was that when Danny called, shortly before noon (“I know you’ve got your in- laws there, but Deb just double- checked. Today’s a go. What time can you get here?”), I was feeling oddly optimistic. Being in Debora’s presence would still test me, I was sure. But Stu’s altered outlook...

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pp. 233-241

Fourth Fireworks Fizzle; None Hurt.” That was the banner headline in the next day’s Cape Cod Times. Why did I suspect it was untrue? The paper said that less than five minutes into the gala, one of the mortars misfi red, its shell exploding low, and scattered ash and panic through the...

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pp. 242-246

I got the same shove- off Richard had gotten, without the grope. “Out,” said Stu. “Get out of my house. Now.” At least, I thought, he finally saw the cottage as being his—a rueful joke I wanted to share but couldn’t. I left without arguing (I would have lost, and should have). I didn’t bargain about how long he wanted me away. I went to New...

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pp. 247-258

The bus back to Hyannis was sold- out with summer travelers; by the time I boarded only one seat was available: in the last row, up against the bathroom. If the bus had air- conditioning, it didn’t reach this far, or not enough to counteract the steamy bodily odors that escaped every time the bathroom opened. For six overheated hours, I was wedged between the wall...

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pp. 259-265

Sorry to say, Danny’s probably right,” K.C. told us, setting down the contract on her desk. “The case law really isn’t in your favor.” The last time we’d seen K.C., I’d liked her homely frankness, the way she hadn’t tried too hard to buff her ragged edges. Now I looked at her puffy neck,...

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pp. 266-272

The next days passed in a furor of mixed feelings. Proud of Debora, pissed at her. Relieved, apprehensive. Altogether sick with incompletion. Stu and I, in crisis mode, made a decent team, assessing our options, propping up each other’s frames of mind. About the central issues, we agreed: we had to...

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pp. 273-277

We live now in Washington, a transfer that made sense for Stu: all those shuttle flights from DCA. Not in Dupont Circle— the gay “Fruit Loop” ghetto— but out here at the city line, a place called Friendship Heights. D.C. is a rootless town, where people’s ships arrive and leave on fi ckle political...

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pp. 278

For support during the writing of this book, I am indebted to the MacDowell Colony, the Instituto Sacatar (especially Augusto Albuquerque, Mitch Loch, and Taylor Van Horne), and James Duggins. For help with various drafts, I thank Carrie Bjerke, Brian Bouldrey, Cathy Chung, Bernard Cooper, David Elliott, Elinor Lipman, David Long, Bill Lychack,...

E-ISBN-13: 9780299290030
E-ISBN-10: 0299290034
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299290009
Print-ISBN-10: 029929000X

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012