"Modern Love" contains a touching story of a sister who provides her eggs to her brother and his partner, resulting in beautiful twins. But before that, we get the ugly realities of considering beauty.
The writer recalls flipping through potential egg donors with his husband:
"Big nose, bad hair, gross skin, ugh - those eyebrows." Drew sped down the list and blackballed them all.
I fought for a few: "But she has a 4.0 at veterinary school, and this one teaches autistic kids to tap dance!"
Drew was unmoved.
I shouldn't have been surprised. As a writer, I'm drawn to characters with intriguing quirks and heart-tugging back stories. But for Drew, who spent 12 years overseeing reality programming for MTV, this was proving to be just another casting session, albeit for the significant supporting role of egg donor.
When Drew's sister — incidentally, beautiful- - suggests opting in, the dilemma is solved for this couple, and the rest of the story is heartwarming indeed. But those first few lines stick with you, making you wonder: is the process always this...superficial?
To a degree, it's probably inevitable. You're being asked to select DNA from a catalogue; you want your child to have every advantage. And only today, we're presented with yet more evidence of the "Beauty Advantage"; says Newsweek's Jessica Bennett, "Economists have long recognized what's been dubbed the "beauty premium"-the idea that pretty people, whatever their aspirations, tend to do better in, well, almost everything."
The question, of course, becomes "what is beauty?" As a casting director for MTV, I guess Drew helps define it. (And by the way, we could say a lot here about the declining quality of virtually interchangeable Real World casts in recent years, but that's sort of irrelevant.) And when does a Gattaca-like standard become merely...Gattaca-like? As the author jokes about explaining a hypothetical decision to a future child, "We wanted you to be taller, but anything over 5-foot-9 was out of our price range." I've often wondered (especially in those desperate youthful moments when I was still 5'3" but seriously strapped for cash) why everyone - even a family of 5'4" folks - would still crave the mystical beacon of height; when does "improvement" become arbitrary?
Maybe it's only human; when we meet someone, a blemish or a sweater or a haircut is as much a part of that person, to us, as anything else. As we grow to know and love them and the lens zooms in, those same things become merely unimportant superficials to the actual human being. If relationships fade or end, after time the shot widens again and when we meet an old lover or a partner's ex, we look for those same superficial indicators and cling to them, even if we have - and should - know better. Which of the guises is the more human? What's ultimately heartening about the article - besides anything else - is the author's description of his twins as "perfect." To a parent, of course, they are - no matter what went before.