Brother From Another Father

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By now you’ve probably already seen the news story about the New Jersey woman
who gave birth to twins with different fathers
. It’s a phenomenon called heteropaternal superfecundation, a phrase which will surely impress the guests at your next cocktail party, if only you can find a way to work it into the conversation. Anyway, it happens when a woman releases two eggs during ovulation and then a different man fertilizes each egg. An uncommon event, perhaps, but not unpossible.

Of course, in order for heteropaternal superfecundation to occur, you need a confluence of events: failure of birth control, two ovum, and willing guys. Put this way, it doesn’t seem too difficult to achieve and I’ve got to wonder why it doesn’t happen more often (and perhaps it does). Birth control fails, as any parish priest will tell you (6% of the time, on average). Twins account for 3.37% of live births in the U.S., so that’s very doable, as well. And willing guys? I expect that percentage hovers around 100.

Unlike New Jersey Mom, my dance card only ever held one name at a time, with the single exception of a brief period where I dated two guys who were both named John. I don’t think I could have pulled it off otherwise, say if one was named Kevin and the other one named Doug.

As so often happens in dating, the one I really liked, let’s call him The John I Really Liked to avoid confusion, didn’t like me as much as I liked him. We hung out at the student café for weeks before he ever asked me out and then we went to dinner that one night and to the movies another night. I spent more time waiting around for him to call than I ever spent being with him.

And, as so often happens, The John I Didn’t Like So Much liked me more than I liked him. He bought me flowers (a handful of not-quite-dead-yet pansies he picked up at a convenience store) and planned a picnic in a park that included the foresight to bring both a corkscrew and bug spray, but inadvertently excluded wine and a blanket. We ate very dry crackers and cheese in the grass and every so often squirted passing ants with Off! A week later, he named one of the rats he took care of in the biology lab after me.

One night, as we strolled around campus together, he asked me if I wanted to visit his work-study job. I figured, why not? I’d never been inside the Biological Sciences Building, even though I’d taken Biology for Dummies Biology for Non-Science Majors. That class was held in the basement of the Performing Arts Center,  in case any of us liberal arts majors needed to break out in song or recite poetry while learning about how cells grow, develop, and reproduce.

With The John I Didn’t Like So Much as my guide, I found my way across campus to the science building. He unlocked one of the laboratories with a key from his shirt pocket. Inside, he showed me a bunch of test tubes and petri dishes, a slide he prepared and then invited me to look at under a microscope, and, lastly, a row of metal cages that held a series of white rats. He pointed at one scurrying around its cage and called it by name, “Karen.”

I considered this dubious distinction for a moment before my brain returned to brood over the question that had preoccupied me most of the evening.

What was The John I Really Liked doing on this Saturday night?

Karen, the voyeur rat

Karen, the voyeur rat, is watching what you’re doing with that guy you don’t even really like that much.

As I tortured myself with the possibilities (I’d seen him talking to another girl outside the library the day before), The John I Didn’t Like So Much made his move. He pressed me up against the far wall of the room, my back uncomfortable against a row of clipboards that hung there, and we made out, in full view of Karen The Rat, among the reams of data the biology students collected. I responded, not so much because I liked The John I Didn’t Like So Much, but because I was thinking about The John I Really Liked.

So I’ve got to wonder about our New Jersey Mom, the one with the twins that have three parents. Do you think she was thinking about Guy #1 when she was with Guy #2? Or was she just killing time with Guy #1 while she waited for Guy #2 to call?

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