“People would start to laugh.”

NaBloPoMo probably doesn’t work this way, but I’m posting twice today to make up for yesterday.

Time to revisit this article, because it’s really been bugging me.

“I would begin to tell the story of Josephine Baker, and people would start to laugh,” says Matthew Pratt Guterl, the author of a new book on Baker’s later life, Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe. “And I would start to wonder what that laughter signified.”


First, there’s a deep discomfort at her unapologetic marshaling of children to act out her own utopian racial narrative. Second, we think we understand what’s going on here; we see early incarnations of celebrity eccentricities from our own time. In the big adoptive family, we see Angelina or Madonna; in the celebrity theme park, we see Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

But why does that make people laugh? Why are Angelina and the Neverland Ranch funny? Are we made uncomfortable by the “unapologetic marshaling” or are we not? Why, when the author says we should take the Rainbow Tribe seriously, does she feel compelled to talk about Baker’s political aims and the fact that other people did such things at the time as if those things are something other than “early incarnations of the celebrity eccentricities of our own time”?

To me, the marshaling that makes people laugh is the same thing people think they know about Madonna, the same thing as Baker’s political justifications, and the same thing as the fact that rainbow families were trendy then just as they are today. So, assuming there is one, what is the real second reason to laugh? Maybe the book gets to the bottom of the laughter, but I don’t think this article has. I don’t know whether I can either, but as I was drafting this post, something struck me; so here’s what I think.

I think the second reason for laughing is a second kind of discomfort, one nobody ever seems to acknowledge or even consciously feel. It goes beyond “Ugh, those poor kids” to a deeper place. It’s the discomfort of putting one’s self, however briefly, in the place of those children. It’s the knowledge that, even though your parents were married and were not killed and were not poor and were not from war-torn countries–despite all that, this could have happened to you.

It’s the flip side of the adoptee wondering why s/he wasn’t good enough to be kept. It’s the knowledge that nobody is good enough to be kept, that nobody earns or can earn their parents’ love, just as nobody earns their children’s love: most of us just receive it, worthy or not.

I know people react defensively to that knowledge sometimes. I know it by the way they react to discussions about abortion with a knee-jerk, sphincter-clenching that could have been me! And I’m not claiming to be a mind-reader here; many people consciously frame their objections to abortion in just that way, as if it is something that can happen to a fully formed, feeling, thinking person. “What if it were you?!” they ask, meaning Dear Lord, what if it were me?

Because here I go walking around planet Earth thinking I belong here, that I have some kind of control over things, that I can Good myself into some measure of safety…but I don’t, I don’t, and I can’t.

All of that terror and insecurity is what people shove aside in a heartbeat when they insist they wouldn’t mind being adopted, that they’d be fine with it as long as they had a loving family. And once shoved aside, that mess is gone. When people insist they wouldn’t mind being adopted, what they’re really saying is that they would be a better adoptee than the one they’re talking to, that they would be more grateful and less curious because that is how one earns one’s new parents’ love. How one renders one’s self safe.

I think many (not all) non-adopted people feel entitled to their own lives. They’re here, so they deserve to be here. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I am, in fact, jealous. I think if I’d ever felt that way, I’d have accomplished more in life, made better choices, and insisted on better from some of the people who claimed to love me.

This is why people who have nothing to do with adoption rush to assure us that our adoption was meant to be, that god wanted it, that our APs are our real parents, that our soul chose this before we were born. They want everyone to have earned their way here, because that keeps them from thinking about the fact that nobody did, not even them.


Filed under NaBloPoMo, Srsly, What It's Like

Oops, Part One

I didn’t post yesterday. And one reason is, as I was telling a friend recently, it’s getting harder to find really snarkworthy stuff in November. 11-1 through 11-30 used to find my  inbox awash in stories of human incubators, money buying love, god’s duty to cater to the desires of PAPs, and a million other brands of entitlement. This November, my “adoption” alert has resulted in a great many articles that celebrate the adoption of kids who really needed adopting (and, as always, a whole lot of stuff about shelter pets).

Why is that, I wondered? Is society getting more enlightened? Are article authors getting more educated? Or are some people just covering their asses better (saying the things they think they should, throwing first parents and adoptees a bone once in awhile)?

I got my answer this morning, but what do you think? Please sound off in the comments.


Filed under NaBloPoMo

I Got Nothin

Sorry, Folks. Wanna watch my video again? (Yes, it’s come to this. November is a stone bitch.)

1 Comment

Filed under NaBloPoMo

Some USAian APs Really, Really Suck

…because they do so little to educate themselves and/or give a shit about their adopted children that this is necessary.

Seriously: Click the link. Read. Then ask yourself what kind of fucked-up society would allow this situation to arise in the first place.

Well, I guess you needn’t really ask yourself. It’s obvious how big a lie our “nation of immigrants” rhetoric is and always has been, isn’t it?



Filed under Colonialism ROCKS!, Forever Family, NaBloPoMo

Adoption and Masculinity

November is full of Good Adoptees, the cheerleaders for adoption who DARE to STAND UP and parrot the dominant public narrative about adoption as if we couldn’t get that story everywhere and anywhen. Blessing, gift, real parents, better life, blah blah blah. It’s old hat, and it makes it tough to blog in November because one feels one has written about it a million times. So today I want to point out that that I think men and women tend to talk about the blessing of adoption differently.

For one thing, fewer men than women search. My a’bro has told me more than once that he is not interested in knowing where he came from, and that his first mother was a “military slut.” He does not seem to take into account that, unlike mine, his parents were married at the time of his conception and birth. He also doesn’t take into account that, if what his non-ID info says is true, his mother wanted to give him the sweet, sweet gift and blessing of adoption from day one, but his father chose to hold up the process for months not because he wanted to keep his son, but because he wanted to hurt his wife.

I think men often blame women for the evil that men do, and I think male adoptees are no different in this. As evidence, I offer a furious male comment on an article about a good, happy, bestest-ever adoptee who had the gall to find out where she came from even though he, himself did the same damned thing.

Please read the article. It is written by an adoptee so fawning and so Good she even starts with “I’ve always known I was adopted,” as if not having one’s parents lie to one about one’s identity all one’s life is evidence of having The Best APs Ever. Having experienced basic human decency (and a thing experts have been telling APs to do for at least fifty years now) is a low bar, but a Good Adoptee makes sure to congratulate his/her parents for clearing it. So far, so good, probably even in the mind of Furious Male Commentor.

The Very Good Adoptee who wrote the article admits to wondering about her birth family growing up, which is a crime Furious Male Commentor cannot forgive. I say he thinks wondering is her crime because he can’t take her to task for searching: He did that too (but for Virtuous Reasons, as we’ll see).

As it turned out, Good Adoptee’s first father was a hero. She couldn’t find out much about her first mother, so she met her father’s family, which made her feel awkward, especially after her paternal grandparents stopped contacting her. But she was thrilled to meet her half-sisters later on. And she discovered her father regretted relinquishing her and that he had written her a letter saying so. And then she typed the sentences that apparently sent Furious Male Commentor over the edge:

At times, I wanted to push my adoptive parents away. I was so upset about not knowing my birth father.

Never mind that she followed it up with But looking back, meeting my birth family has strengthened my bond with the parents who raised me. She has the gall to end her article with I love having Deena [her father’s widow, not her mother] and my sisters in my life. I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I’ll never know Tom. But because of my ongoing relationship with his widow and daughters, I do feel close to him. She feels close to her dead father. She had feelings and she has feelings. And that means she must be punished by Furious Male Commentor, who says

I too was an adopted only child. I am offended FOR her adoptive parents. I never cared about my bio family. I never had “fantasies” of a heartfelt, tearful reunion with the bio fam.

(Funny, I never had fantasies of a reunion like that, either. I simply wanted to know who I came from and why I was so different from everyone around me, which questions my loyal adopted self did not even ask until I was over twenty.)

I love my adoptive parents

Can’t love your APs and care about your own DNA dont’cha’know, even though searching has been acceptable, even expected, for decades now.  This is so sad. It’s so old and so stale, and I read it and I see a dog standing on its hind legs so someone will give it another treat, I swear I do. Look, unless you say differently, the entire world will assume you love your adoptive parents. Because they’re your Real Parents, right? Right. Then why are you punching air?

and feel as though hoping for something more or better or famous is horribly disrespectful

Read it again. That is not what the author of the article says she did.

to the people who took me in,

“took me in.” I was in a cardboard box in a gutter, I swear, not in the loving arms of a selfless woman who made a beautiful choice for me.

loved me,

NOT LIKE THAT SLUT who cared enough to give me away

and gave me a million


opportunities that, otherwise, I’d not have gotten.

I’ve read many missives like this, and am disgusted by them when I do. My adoptive parents were tough, hard people,


but I am better for it. I would not trade them for my bio parents if I could.

You know what? Given what little I know about my biological family, I wouldn’t make that trade either. And nowhere does the author of the article say she would make that trade. Yet she and I still searched: AND SO DID YOU, you hypocrite. How dare you take this woman to task?

I found my maternal bio family when I got married merely because I wanted to find my medical history because m[y] wife and I wanted to have a child.

“Medical history” was my excuse, too, once upon a time. Guess what? I still don’t have it.

My bio mom had committed suicide several years prior. The rest of her family was nice, but vastly different than me. We met, and we’ve not spoken since. I wish them the best, but we’ll never speak again. My adoptive family is my family.

In other words, your experience was similar to the author’s: You searched, and you found one dead parent, one live parent, and a family you didn’t fit into. This apparently resulted in your feeling closer to your adoptive family–you know, kinda like the author felt when she said “meeting my birth family has strengthened my bond with the parents who raised me.” HOW DARE SHE?!?! How DARE that ungrateful–

I ended up with the family that wanted me, and could handle the burden of a child.

“The burden of a child.” Please tell me you haven’t reproduced. Please?

Every time I see a 16-year-old girl with an infant, I am bummed that she

Oh, now we get to it. Now we get to the misogyny inherent in the system. Come and see the misogyny inherent in the system!

(Look, I don’t think every male adoptee who insists he wants to know nothing NOTHING about That Woman is a sexist oaf, just the majority of them. It’s funny, because if that slut hadn’t spread her legs, you wouldn’t exist…and I suspect that’s what angers you so, the fact that a mere “teenage whore” might once have had complete power over the fate of you, a MAN!)

cannot see the value of adoption. Give the child the best, strongest opportunity to be successful.

Which is anywhere but with you, you slut.

Blood “family” be dammed.

Responsibilities of men who have unprotected sex be damned. SLUT SLUT SLUT SLUT SLUT why wasn’t my daddy a hero? why didn’t he write me a letter? Why?

Give the child the best environment in which to flourish, and young welfare Moms


cannot provide it. Love the child enough to adopt them out. Closed adoption.

You gave me away and I want to punish you for that forever, no matter how much it might hurt me–but of course it doesn’t hurt me because I am a man and I have no feelings about my first mother at all. None. Couldn’t care less. That’s why I looked for you.

Let them succeed. Don’t be selfish.

Try to convince me otherwise.

I wouldn’t dream of it, Sir. Lower your manly fists, please.

You know what, Furious Male Commentor? I would love to have discovered that one of my parents was an actual national hero (or even someone whose inclination, talents and temperament resembled mine in some way). And a letter saying s/he regretted giving me up would be a precious artifact to me. I wish very much that I had been born in a time and a place wherein open records were available. Unlike you, I care about these things, and I have feelings about them.

Yet I am not angry at my first parents or at this young woman. You are. Try to convince me otherwise.


Filed under Adopted And Happy!, AdoptoLand, Misognyny, NaBloPoMo

Next on My Reading List

The book featured in this article. Has anyone read it?

Beginning in 1953, almost 30 years after her first successful performances on the Paris stage, the singer and dancer Josephine Baker adopted 12 children from different countries, ranging from Finland to Venezuela. She installed what she called her “Rainbow Tribe” in a 15th-century chateau in the South of France and charged admission to tourists who came to hear them sing, to tour their home, or to watch them play leapfrog in their garden.

Israel wouldn’t give her a child, so she raised a French boy to be Jewish. I think the article author is too inclined to let her off the hook.

I’d heard about Josephine Baker’s rainbow tribe, but not much. Here’s more.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, NaBloPoMo, Srsly

Because I Neglected to Post it Last Year


Leave a comment

Filed under AdoptoLand, NaBloPoMo, Srsly, What It's Like