Sex Talk

December 31, 2006

It is a statement of my life that my most intimate conversations are with the Red Cross.

Whenever I donate blood plasma the staff always greets me in a pleasing manner and promptly sends me to one of the “interview” rooms for a 5-minute “quiet” period followed by a 10-minute Q&A that’s always the same:

  • “Have you ever had sex with a man, even once?”
  • “Have you ever had sex with anyone from Africa?”
  • “Have you ever had sex with anyone from Haiti?”
  • “Have you ever given money in exchange for sex?”
  • “Have you ever had gay sex?”
  • “Have you ever exchanged needles for sex?”
  • “Have you ever had multiple sex partners simultaneously?”
  • “Have you ever had any form of deviant sex?”
  • “Have you ever had sex with farm animals?”
  • “Have you ever had sex with anything non-human?”

(Okay, the last ones were for emphasis only. Other important questions get asked, but the ratio of questions regarding sexual activity to all other questions is notably high.) Except for that fourth question (to which I always say: “It depends on whether or not you take into account that my wife gets my paycheck every week”) I can answer these with a truthful No. Unfortunately, there are questions like “Are you feeling well today?” [Hell no, I’m as sick as a dog but you called and guilted me in donating] that require an affirmative response. Otherwise, I could sleep through the interview.

I have a suggestion: The Red Cross should simply ask (guys) the question “Have you ever had non-monogamous sex with anyone other than a white Anglo-Saxon female who has lived in the US her entire life? I think that would cover all the sex questions.

The staff recites these questions in a polite but serious manner and fills in the appropriate responses on the donor form, perhaps out of concern that the average donor can’t read or write (Note to Red Cross: We can). I think they would get more people to donate if they let us fill out the sex questions in private. It doesn’t bug me, but it gets tedious and I suspect there are a number of more Victorian members of our community that shy away from blood donations because of this.

More people need to donate blood and plasma. Just like any other volunteer activity, 5% of the people do 100% of the work. God knows that with this wacky Iraqi war showing no letup, we’re going to continue to strain our blood banks. Add this to the list of easily-solvable world problems.

Buffalo Blood Donor

December 27, 2006

Actually, I do apheresis, the donation of plasma. As someone who is blessed with a rare blood type (AB negative) my plasma is in demand more than my red blood cells. I used to know why this is so but over the years my mind has dumped this information into a crevasse that I can no longer reach.

But that’s not what this entry is about. It’s about living in the Buffalo area. Western New York has been and continues to be an economic embarrassment filled with the most genuine, unpretentious people. I am convinced that economic disparity and community intimacy are not unrelated. In an area where everyone has to sacrifice so much – literally being bled by our dysfunctional local and state governments – we end up sharing a closeness that perhaps is not as easily found elsewhere. Most of my friends do not – can not – surround themselves with anything resembling opulence because they are not opulent. I think the most popular car in this area is a Saturn. The average suburban house sells for less than $140K. Lord & Taylor is struggling to stay profitable at the mall. We are far from being a wealthy community and instead surround ourselves with our friends rather than things.

The other unique aspect of Western New Yorkers is that we are open books. When I lived on the West Coast I thought that most everyone was very friendly but shallow; virtually no one cared or wanted to get past the small talk. Here in Buffalo it seems that casual conversation quickly takes on more intimacy; and as a small community it is easy to find common themes to discuss commiserate over.

I will never be able to retire early. But I will never be lonely, either.