A lot of banks are in trouble these days, but at least one seems to be doing fine. It's a sperm bank. Years ago, when we first heard about sperm banks, people speculated that women would want to have the fathers of their babies be geniuses, or financial wizards, or great athletes. Some thought that the most talented and famous men in the world would be the most desirable donors. But sperm banks never saw people like Bill Gates or Placido Domingo banging down their doors.
However, now at least one of these banks has come up with what it feels is a solution: celebrity look-alike donors. If you would like to have a baby with George Clooney but can't get past his security guards, now you can have a baby with someone who looks like George Clooney.
Southern California's Cryobank has a list of look-alikes that someone considering artificial insemination can check out on their computer. The woman scrolls down the list and finds the name of a celebrity she likes. Next, all she has to do is click and then she'll learn a bit about this look-alike. This information might include his hobbies, his build, and maybe his favorite color. This reminds me of the typical old Playboy Centerfold's info in which we learned that the young lady's "pet peeve" was "sometimes in the sun, I freckle," and her favorite thing was "to shop for shoes." But nobody was signing up to have a child with them.
In our example, the prospective recipient doesn't even get to see a picture of the Clooney look-alike along with his info. That would be a breach of anonymity. All she sees is a picture of the actual George Clooney and an I.D. number that represents the donor.
It would be weird and superficial enough if a woman would choose a donor based on his looks. But these women are choosing a donor because he looks like somebody whose looks they like!
And how closely do these donors really resemble the celebrities? Cryobank's Scott Brown puts it like this: "It's not that our donors look like celebrities, it's that celebrities look like our donors." In other words, there might be some resemblance.
Despite all of the obvious negatives, I have to say that there is one aspect of this process that piqued my interest: I never expected to see Clay Aiken, Errol Flynn, and Prince William on the same list. Yet those names, as well as Harry Belafonte, Jeremy Piven and Manny Ramirez are all on Cryobank's look-alike list. If you want your baby to look like somebody famous who's short, you're out of luck. Donors must be at least 5'9". This leaves me out, so I guess all those women who find columnists attractive will just have to look elsewhere.
There is another feature that is no surprise in these economic times: if you can't pay cash for getting pregnant in this manner, payment plans are available. This gives a whole new meaning to buying on "layaway." I can just imagine the difficult decision at bill-paying time: should I pay off some of my car insurance or my preggy plan?
I get nervous that I won't get what I really want when ordering a pair of running shoes online. How can anyone feel comfortable planning their family by using the internet? Wouldn't you worry for the whole nine months that if you ordered a "Joe Montana" you might end up with a "Joe Mantegna?" What are you going to do then, send the baby back in a postage paid box?
However, as I looked further into Cryobank's services, I found that choosing a donor in this fashion is not as strange, not as casual, and not as foolish as it may seem at first blush. I learned that those women in the look-alike program don't have to choose a donor based solely on his looks. There's something else that can help them make this big decision. It's an intelligent, scientific way for them to learn everything they could possibly want about "their man." You see, for an extra $25, Cryobank will provide you with an analysis of your donor's handwriting.