You met Laney. Now it’s time to meet Mads, the Dane who turned her life upside down. Imagine Laney and I are sitting in a pub not far from where he lives in the Nørrebro district in Copenhagen. It’s another cold day and he’s bundled up in fisherman’s sweater with what looks a thermal shirt underneath, a thick scarf, a pair of faded jeans and Blundstone boots. He doesn’t seem at all nervous. He’s more relaxed as he leans forward, waiting for the questions to commence…
Me: How exactly did you break your nose?
Mads: (laughs) Everyone is a little obsessed with that. Yeah…I got punched in the face. Repeatedly. By a skinhead. I was defending a Somalian girl called Leylo who was in my class. And yeah, I had a crush on her. I saw them bothering her and no one else would help her, so I stepped in. And those jerks punched me. She hit them with her backpack but there were too many of them. And I ended up with a broken nose and a black eye. But she did end up being my girlfriend for a couple of months. So I guess it was worth it.
Me: So Laney isn’t the first black woman you’ve dated?
Mads: No, but I was only sixteen, and she wasn’t really allowed to hang out with me. We mostly talked on the phone. Hung out at school since her parents didn’t really approve me. I don’t think that really counts. Neither of us really knew what we were doing. Right after I moved back to Copenhagen, I met Nina, an Afro-Cuban dancer friend of Trine’s. It was never anything serious—I wanted it to be, but she hated living in Denmark and moved to Brazil, so that ended things.
Me: Were you really single when you first met Laney?
Mads: Yeah, actually I was. I wasn’t seeing anyone, wasn’t in any relationship. I guess I felt like I couldn’t do it…not while I was donating. It felt…weird.
Me: You’ve been a sperm donor for over a year. Did you know what you were getting into when you first decided to do it?
Mads: No…definitely not. Ida told me about, sold me on the idea. She said it would help me financially, and it did. I never saw sperm donation as something I wanted to do forever. I just wanted enough money to pay for my workspace, and help my grandmother out. Ida never told me about how weird it would be. She never said I’d have women who’d look me up online and then call me after they’d met me at a mingle.
Me: And yet you met Laney at a mingle.
Mads: (smiling) It’s ironic, isn’t it? I spent so much time trying to be aloof when it came to the women I met at those parties. I mean, I was there working. I had to get them interested in the clinic and in…me—but only as a means to an end. I didn’t want them interested in me as a possible partner. That was never how it worked. And then I met Laney. I know a lot of people get put off by how it happened. But they have to understand how unhappy she was, how unhappy I was until I met her. And how being together made us both feel complete.
Me: But you knew she was living with Niklas and you still pursued her.
Mads: You know when you meet someone and it’s like you just lose sense of what’s right or what’s wrong? All you know is you want to be with them? It’s hard to explain, but I felt this…clarity. I understood that she and I were cut from the same cloth. And we were supposed to be together. Then I saw her with Niklas, and I saw how she was with him. He didn’t love her. Not really. As soon as I met him and ask him a lot of questions about them and how they met…he was so…cocky. It was just wrong. They were wrong together.
Me: And you couldn’t have waited for her to leave him?
Mads: I probably should have waited, but…I love her. I don’t regret how we met or how we got together.
Me: Long before you met Laney, you lived in Stockholm and you were married, but it didn’t last. What happened?
Mads: I met Karin—she’s my ex-wife—when we were both art students at Konstfack. We were just kids. I think I was twenty, maybe twenty-one when we met and I was looking for someone to hold onto. I think Laney and I—we’ve both lost parents, we’ve both been abandoned by our surviving parents—so we look for these people who make us feel safe. And I thought I would feel it with Karen but it never really happened. We had no business getting married, but we never really thought it through. I asked her one night when we’d had a fight. I just wanted the fight to end and I was afraid I was going to lose her so I just blurted it out. And she said yes…but the whole time leading up to the wedding, it just felt like we were both too afraid to admit it was a mistake. We stayed together for a couple of years…we just drifted, sometimes it felt like we weren’t even a couple. And then my grandfather died and my grandmother was ill. I didn’t want to stay in Stockholm, I wanted to be there to help my grandmother, so I asked Karen if she’d move to Copenhagen. And she said no.
Me: Do you think you’ll ever get married again?
Mads: I hope so. I feel like it’s in the cards. She just has to say yes.