Category Archives: What It’s Like

“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

Because I Neglected to Post it Last Year


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

Fasten Your Seat Belts


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October 30, 2014 · 10:18 pm

The Opposite Of Snarky Is

1) Sincere
2) Sentimental
3) Muppets

Shut up I sniffle because I have allergies SHUT UP.

This looks familiar, vaguely familiar,
Almost unreal, yet, it’s too soon to feel yet.
Close to my soul, yet so far away.
I’m going to go back there someday.

Sun rises, night falls, sometimes the sky calls.
Is that a song there, and do I belong there?
I’ve never been there, but I know the way.
I’m going to go back there someday.

Come and go with me, it’s more fun to share,
We’ll both be completely at home in midair.
We’re flyin’, not walkin’, on featherless wings.
We can hold onto love like invisible strings.

There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.
Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?
You can just visit, but I plan to stay.
I’m going to go back there someday.
I’m going to go back there someday.

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Filed under Film, Sad and beautiful, What It's Like

Adoption is Terrifying

I’m starting this video a full minute in because I care about my readers. You’re welcome.

Nevertheless, I am very, very sorry, and I hope you can forgive me. I’m not doing it just to bring your attention to this hideous book-song-thing, although it is hideous.

I’m doing it to bring your attention to the banal terror of adoption. Watch the kids when the camera goes over to them around twenty seconds in. Now read the lyrics. Now try to convince yourself this work and this performance is intended to assure children their new parents love them unconditionally and want them to be happy.

Try very, very, very hard to make your face look as if that is what you believe as you listen to this song.

Now imagine realizing, before you’ve even hit puberty, that your life depends on this performance, and that the people who demand it of you are not only dead serious, but will exercise control over you until you’re eighteen…if you’re lucky. Because if you disappoint them, you could be out of their house and in the hands of a pedophile tomorrow.

Imagine your mom wrote the song your life depends on.

Imagine knowing very well that getting old enough to know better does not absolve your from honoring this narcisist bullshit your life depends on as if it were unconditional love. Imagine you barely have the power to mock it in the dark.

Imagine your life depends on this stupid fucking song and dance. For many adoptees, it does…literally. For many more of us, childhood only felt that way.



Filed under Adopted And Happy!, AdoptoLand, Film, Forever Family, What It's Like

You Will Believe an Adoptee Can Fly

Yes, a zillion blogworthy things have happened in AdoptoLand since I posted last. I’m going to ignore’em all in favor of a snarky, popcult-related post. (Surprise!)

Deborah Snyder, the producer of Man of Steel is an a’mom. Here’s what she has to say about Kal-El/Clark:

[I]t’s the greatest adoption story in all of history. I think that’s an interesting way of looking at it – maybe because I was just in the process personally of adopting my two children. The people of Earth adopt him and he adopts us, as well.

Why is it that adoptees always have to “adopt back” or “adopt in turn”? The evangelical adoption movement currently says “Jesus adopted me, so I adopt a heathen orphan.” People use to ask me all the time “when” I was going to adopt, as if I owed it to the world. A very few (I hope), very special APs take this “adoptees must adopt” nonsense to such an extreme that they claim it was their child who–sorry, something stuck in my throat, ahem–Their child [retch] oh ew sorry, be right back.

[brandishes toothbrush] They say their child adoBLARRRGH I CAN’T AND WON’T SAY IT! Back to Man of Steel:

Ms. Snyder says Clark is on this journey of self discovery, trying to figure out who he is and where he fits in, and in the end he comes to see what Jor-El, his Kryptonian father, has sacrificed and given for him.

Birth fathers are so awesome. When they step out of the way and don’t fight things. When they have the decency to mail us our baby from another planet and then die. Also, what about his mother? Hello, she died too!*

And he also realizes how his Earth parents made him who he is.

(Yes, yes, we know, we know: the Kents are his real parents.) The people who raise us, no matter who they are, do much to make us who we are. This is so very fucking obvious that nobody ever bothers to say it about anyone who is not adopted. We say it about adopted people so very many times because, deep down, we fear it is not true of them.

(And what if it weren’t? What if parents raised a child with love and it turned out they didn’t have that big an effect on his or her personality? Would that be bad? Do children have a duty to take after their parents or, failing that, to be molded by them? If they don’t do that, but turn out fine otherwise, did anything necessarily go wrong? Or did the child maybe just grow into being himself or herself? Does that mean all that love was wasted? To me, a child who turns out to be exactly himself or herself no matter who said s/he had to be something different represents a parenting success, not a failure.)

Back to Ms. Snyder: All those themes and notions follow him throughout the whole film. That’s something that resonated with me, even from when we started reading the script and started talking about doing this film.

The most important thing about any adoption story, and I employ not a hint of sarcasm here, is that it resonate with APs or PAPs. It just won’t fly otherwise. (OK, the “fly” part was sarcasm.)

But what if Superman were real? What if the fact that he’s adopted (“these themes and notions”) followed him throughout his whole life? Well, sooner or later he’d probably have to deal with the fact that being adoptedreally does make you different, and not always in a super-strong, X-ray vision kind of way.

He’d probably join an online support group or forum.

clarkk: Hey All, I was adopted in Kansas and I’m thinking of searching. I’m kind of worried my parents won’t understand, but we had a family reunion last week and now I can’t stop thinking about it. It just kind of hit me that my entire life is a lie.
adoptedandcranky: Welcome, clarkk!
GAadoptee: Hi, clarkk! Welcome to the wacky world of adoption searching.
lilbastard: Hi, clarkk. LOL yes! Makes you feel like you’re from another planet, right? As far as searching goes, you kind of hit the jackpot being from Kansas–if you were born there. Do you know where you were born?
clarkk: Kansas, but I can double check with Ma and Pa.

adoptedandcranky: Any luck, clarkk?
clarkk: I hit a dead end. )-: The State of Kansas has no record of my birth.
lilbastard: You’re sure you weren’t born somewhere else?
clarkk: Why would Ma and Pa lie about that? I’ve always known I’m adopted.
GAadoptee: )-: We’re here for you, clarkk.

clarkk: Hey guys, sorry I was offline for so long, but…this hurts. I don’t get it. It seems there was no agency and no legal adoption, and that’s why I don’t have any papers.
lilbastard: Oh shit, you’re black market? That complicates things for sure. Sorry, clarkk. )-:
clarkk: They told me they “just found” me! So I asked where and they said “It doesn’t matter, Clark, you’re ours,” and of course I am, but I’m adopted too. Ma cried when I asked where they found me. I shouldn’t have said anything in the first place.
GAadoptee: I feel ya, clarkk. But none of this is your fault. And you’re not being disloyal to your ma and pa. We all have the right to our origins, no matter how secret they’ve been.
clarkk: They said they were so glad to have a baby of their own they just wrapped me in a blanket and took me home! Did they even look for my other parents? I can’t ask them, but I need to know. Why do I feel so guilty about this?
adoptedandcranky: clarkk, I pm’ed you my phone number after our IM conversation yesterday. Please contact me if I can help, even if it’s just to listen. A lot of us have been through this.

adoptedandcranky: Anyone heard from clarkk lately?
GAadoptee: No. I pm’ed him Monday.
lilbastard: Hope he’s OK.

clarkk: Hey, I’m back. I really thought things couldn’t get any weirder. I am so confused. I don’t know if I’m going crazy or what. I don’t even know if I should tell you this. I did what you all said: I kept asking and waiting and assuring them I don’t want to replace them. And this is the story I got: Ma and Pa found me in the middle of a field in a smoking crater. They both swear I popped out of this gray dragonfruit-geode-looking thing.

So i'm Momotaro?!

I suppose my parents died in a car crash nearby, too.

clarkk:That’s crazy. It’s crazy, right? I asked if they had the gray thing or any pictures of it and no, they didn’t have a camera with them. Why would they expect me to believe this? Why can’t they tell me the truth? I’m so mad I could throw a car! But I can’t be mad at them, so what do I do with this?!
adoptedandcranky: )-: Are you anywhere near Smallville? There’s a meetup/search group there.
lilbastard: Giant gray stone dragonfruit-geode in a crater? Is that the new cabbage leaf?
GAadoptee: It’s not you, clarkk: that’s some crazy sounding shit right there. )-:

clarkk: My parents have been holding out on me. I don’t even know how to feel about this. They had information about my original parents all along. They still don’t want to let me see it.
adoptedandcranky: I know it’s hard. APs can be so insecure. Just remember you have a right to know who you are.

Hey, clarkk here. Check out my birth name! Think I’m Jewish?
adoptedandcranky: Could be. Nice to meet you, Kal-El! (-:
CAadoptee: That’s great!
lilbastard: WTG Kal-El! So they showed you the info they do have?
Kal-El: Not yet, but I really think they will soon. I think I’ve convinced them I don’t want to fly away and join some other family I never met.

Kal-El: I don’t know how to tell you guys this….

*Unless she didn’t. I can’t keep up with DC Comics continuity (and neither can anyone else).


Filed under Film, What It's Like

So How DOES It Feel?

Another adoptee I know recently mentioned having a feeling I think all of us have had: Not wanting to be adopted, maybe for just one day, so one wouldn’t have adoption in one’s head all the time.

But one does. I typed “Some days adoption seems to take up more than all my energy even if I don’t think about it much, like a background program I can’t close.”

So I can verbalize how it feels to be adopted (to me). I really didn’t think I could. I’m going to keep trying.

Here’s how else it feels: You know the part in Catcher in the Rye where Holden’s walking and every time he steps from the curb to the street, he asks his dead brother to keep him from disappearing? Adoption feels like that to me. I don’t trust the ground to hold me up. (This is not entirely metaphor. I wish I could explain it better.)

Allie, Allie, don't let me disappear.

Allie, Allie, don’t let me disappear.

Or, as Stephen Wright put it, “You know how it feels when you’re leaning back in a chair, and you lean too far back, and you almost fall over backwards, but then you catch yourself at the last second? I feel like that all the time.”*

I think I’ll have more to say on this later. For now, how does it feel to you?

*They say we can be “hypervigilant.” I jerk awake two or three times a night  if I’m sleeping in a strange bed. (I also occasionally hit and kick my lovers in my sleep, but I dunno whether I can pin on that one on adoption. Maybe I just hog the bed as well as the hedge.


Filed under Srsly, What It's Like