Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I am excited about the upcoming Adoptee Rights protest in San Antonio, even though I am not going. I am sad that I will miss the excitement of being "normal" among my friends; not having to explain anything as we sit and talk over coffee and drinks and meals. As we cry and tell our stories and nod and know that we are not alone. My experience in Louisville last summer, especially as it was tied to my visit to my family's graves in Indiana, was both exquisitely painful and cathartic. I remember sitting in a bar and nursing drinks while tears ran silently down my face, wondering "Why, why, why?" I still don't know why. I will never know why, but I have slowly come to peace with some of the worst parts of it, and of course, I am on speaking terms with my mother and brother, which takes some of the sting out of it. At least I am a PERSON, not a ghost.

There is still so much to be done in terms of advocacy and activism. So many states, so little openness.

And then a few nights ago I nearly lost my mind when I read the results of the legislative session in Missouri that pretty much change nothing and get me no closer to my OBC. The people on the ground there encourage us to take the long view. It takes time to chip away at convention, they say. But it appears they are not vehement opponents of the CI system, as I believe they should be. NO ONE needs a third-party to conduct private business between adults. Moreover, adoptees are being used to fundraise pay for the changes. We have to fork out extraordinary amounts of money, $500 and up, to get our identifying information, provided that our "biological" families approve, or that we can prove that they are deceased. Oh, and if my brother had found out about me, and wanted to get identifying information about me, he couldn't under the law. It's only the parents and adoptees than can. It's so Byzantine and patriarchal and disgusting.

As far as the OBCs go, I would still need to petition the court with good reason, and have the permission of my mother. I don't think I'd need my father's permission, as he is not named on my OBC. It pisses me off that I need ANYONE's permission to get an official document as an adult. My children won't need my permission when they are adults. Sigh. As Joy said, if I had just been born a bastard, I could have my OBC. It was the ACT of my legitimization that made me a second-class citizen. I had more rights as a bastard than I do now.

The only good thing to come out of this law, as far as I can tell, is that adoptees don't have to get the notarized permission of their APs for non-identifying information or identifying information anymore.

So on the one hand, I feel like a total bitch, because what did I do? I didn't draft the law. I didn't do anything in terms of grassroots work except write to legislators back in the spring and complain about the law because I found it grossly unfair and Byzantine and patronizing.

Are "baby steps" towards good legislation better than nothing? Or have we now enshrined more bad precedents? I am curious to hear what you all think, if you have opinions.

Here is a link to the Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement Web site.

Please don't take my bitter words for anything, and if you can find a silver lining in all this muck, I would be all too happy to hear about it. I know it will supposedly be "better" for adoptees born after 2010, but seriously? How much better, and why give us older adoptees such a big middle finger?

My APs and I are a good match, and that had to happen in St. Louis. Other than that, I am horrified that I was born in Missouri. The conservative values enshrined in adoption laws there are so opposed to my own ideas of equality.

Monday, July 25, 2011


As I was driving back from Santa Cruz yesterday, I listened to Kirsty MacColl and fell in love with her all over, as I do when I haven't listened to her for a little while. Her voice is seductive, but above all, her lyrics are arch and make me laugh. I mourn her untimely death and the loss of a lifetime of songs like "Innocence."

I got home and watched her video for this again, and just had to post it. So '80's, so funny. So dedicated to trolls, horrible ex-boyfriends, rock collections, dumbass art historians, and all people lacking brains who think they have brains.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

True Blue

Sometimes I fight seeing things. I get tunnel vision and get caught in my battles. It's capricious, to be certain, but I forget that I am surrounded by people who love me, who have loved me for years. People who do have histories with me, who want to be my family, who choose to be my family, even though they don't share my blood.

I have mentioned before that I have a very, very dear friend with whom I suffered graduate school. We met in 1993 and bonded as we found ourselves slung to the edges of our department. We had no money, no support, no anything really, except each other. He is worldly and brilliant. He saw things in me that I didn't. He picked me up when I hated myself and kept shaking off the dust that the scornful people kept heaping on me. He saw me through lots of horrible boyfriends. He improved my fashion sense a thousand fold. We went on adventures together in India and England. I nursed him through many illnesses before I was a nurse. We were inseparable, and in the department we were called "the twins."

He was my maid of honor at my wedding. He looked better in his silk suit that I did in my wedding dress, and that's the honest truth.

While "writing" our dissertations, we would skive off and see movies, go shopping, eat--do anything except what we were supposed to. I watched him climb the academic ladder, and he commiserated with me as I didn't move ahead. And he astutely told me why I didn't move ahead: it was because I didn't want to. I could have committed to it and pushed ahead and made my contacts and fought the good fight against my evil adviser. I just never liked the nasty circus that it was. I hated the bullshit and the teaching of eejits. He was right.

And in the fall of 2003, he moved away to take up his first big teaching post. I was pregnant with my first son, and I knew I would miss him like mad. How was I going to do this parenting thing without him? He had predicted way in advance--before the wedding, even--that my marriage was going to be rough, and he is nothing if not perceptive.

Time went by, we spoke on the phone frequently, but life gets in the way, and I missed him like hell. How could all those the years have gone by?

I know that he loves me, but somehow as an adoptee, I feel that when I am absent from someone's life, or when I don't talk to them, I disappear from their minds. Not that they disappear from mine--this is a one-way equation. It has to do with my perception of that initial loss of my mother, I think.

Anyway, my friend is now a powerful, successful, wonderful, sought-after professor at Santa Cruz. Brilliant and fantastic, and I knew he always would be. He is writing a book and has been away in Cambodia doing research. I was at his apartment, watering his plants and chilling out, as he offered it as a place for respite and repose. And walking around his place, I cried. I could see how much our lives have been entwined, and how much I matter to him. There's the Iznik tile I brought back from Istanbul for him; the Arts and Crafts tile I brought back from London. The matching scarves we bought years ago; the gorgeous photograph of him at my wedding! The postcards. The photos of my children next to those of his family. The incense burned in front of his Buddha that I know was burned to ask for my recovery after my surgery. I matter. I am not absent, I am not problematic, I am loved. Here is a person who knows me inside out, and who has loved me for going on 20 years.

I truly feel that sometimes I am living a ghost life, that I am touching no one. Moments such as those I had at my friend's, when I see proof of a bond, mean more to me than I can say.

My friend suffered greatly during the genocide, as I mentioned before, and he says that he chooses now to make his family out of his friends. He is loyal beyond loyal. He will never leave me, and if I need him, I know he will not fail me. He is fiercely protective. He hasn't liked to watch what I've been going through. To be honest, most of my friends haven't.

I think that if I had been born and raised knowing who I was, it would be easier to walk away from painful situations. It's the not knowing, and the hunger to know people like me, and then the loving of people who are like me that is so hard to turn away from.

What I can say, then, is that I am grateful--and not in an annoying, rainbow-farting way--to have my true-blue friends in my corner. Even when they shake their heads and roll their eyes and say, "I cannot for the life of me figure out why you do this," I know they love me and will stick with me and let me go back into the darkness that is my attempt to figure out who I am and how I fit into the world.

Thanks to all of my friends who are reading this, especially those who are not adoptees, who support me (or other adoptees) and allow me to pull away and test you. Thank you for not abandoning me; thank you for listening to my litanies of frustration; thank you for showing me in ways, large and small, that I matter to you.

I know I pull away. I know I am not always the easiest to get along with. But I am also loyal as hell, and I appreciate how loyal and loving you are, too. Sorry if I forget sometimes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I don't post as often about my afamily as I do about my nfamily, but that's because my relationship with my afamily is stable, good, run-of-the mill. Not too much drama, not that much excitement. My parents are great, and always have been. The spin of fortune's wheel was gentle to me on that count.

I am not saying that they're perfect, or that I was perfect. I know I was a pain in the ass and that there were bad times along with the good. But overall, we were an excellent fit. I have many adoptee friends who fit much less well with their afamilies in terms of interests, goals, personalities, and looks, and were ridiculed, marginalized, and treated badly--or worse. Some were abused, ostracized, or raped. Adoption is sold as a "win-win" situation, but it certainly isn't when the adopted child isn't welcomed, loved, and put first, just as any child should be in any family.

My extended afamily is equally warm and kind. I am not fabulously close with many of my relatives, but I love and appreciate my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I was never treated differently than any of the cousins who belong by blood; I am also not the only adoptee on either side. That said, adoption was not a subject that was ever really broached. There were times when it came up, but I never actually sat down with my other adopted cousins and asked them how they felt about it. Some of them are much older than I am; all of them lived very far away from me. My extended family is scattered across the Midwest and West, although usually we would gather in groups at least once a summer.

One particular segment of my dad's family settled in California long ago, and I have been getting to know them better over the past 20 or so years, since I moved out here. I really, really like them. When I was at my parents' last week, my cousin and his wife had us over for dinner, and I met up with my cousin's son and his wife, who are fantastic people. They played with my son, we had really interesting conversations about life and family, and when the topic turned to genealogy and family trees, I sat back, enjoyed the night sky, and took some deep breaths. Once again, it's my family, but it's not my family tree.

Then the unexpected happened. For the FIRST time EVER in a family situation, someone turned and asked me, quietly, how it was for me to sit and listen to topics like this. I almost cried with relief. After so many years of living this life, what I can do? It just is my life to be talked over. To have someone ask me how I felt in that situation? Surreal. And welcome.

It is amazing to have someone in my family now who is aware that adoption is not "as if born to." It can't be. It hurts me when people pretend that I am not different, although I also don't want to be told that I don't belong. While I love my family dearly, there are things about me that they just can't know about; things they can't tell me; things that will forever be a mystery. That sucks. Ambivalence sucks. Adoption is a complex, constantly changing, organic experience.

The more people we have to support us, listen to us, love us, share with us, and be aware of how things might affect us? The better.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dreams, feelings, and memories

I saw my orthopedic surgeon yesterday for another post-surgical checkup. I am almost five weeks after surgery now, and he says I am doing great. I love this doc. He has amazing bedside manner; he is both smart and gentle, and he takes time to check in about my broken bone and the bigger picture (clotting, going back to work, etc.). I would crush on my doctor a little if it didn't feel weird.

He must be about my brother's age, and even looks a little like him. Same build, blond, blue eyes, charming. I can imagine that A, if he were in a specialty that dealt with patients face-to-face, would be as kind, warm, and solicitous.

Anyway, back to topic. I remember reading something in my non-identifying information back in 1997 that threw me for a loop.

As long as I've remembered, I have had this attraction to boys/men who are really tall (over 6'1 preferably), with dark hair and green eyes (although blue is also acceptable ;-). I always attributed this to a boy I knew from childhood and loved for most of my life. (I actually dreamed about him last night--we were saving the world together in an exciting, fantastic action sequence. The dream must have been inspired by seeing the new Harry Potter film last week.) He was the first in a pretty long series of men I sought out in real life who fit this "look." [Note to self: You might have had better luck if you went with men with good hearts rather than those who looked good. Luckily, Mark is both.]

It's a type: Clive Owen/Matthew Macfadyen/John Cusack, you get the picture. Oh yes, and Irish/English. And now Michael Fassbender isn't all that bad, either.

Mark finds me endearingly ridiculous, but on my desk I have an autographed photograph of Matthew Macfadyen that Nalini procured for me one birthday. She is the best. Try not to laugh at me. ;-)

It was just my thing.

So when I wrote off in 1997 for my non-identifying information and got my twelve pages of summary, imagine my surprise when I read that my grandfather was "about 6'2, black hair, green eyes." Argh. Had I subconsciously been looking for a man that matched some genetic imprint I had in my head? Was I a weirdo? And then when I found out that my grandfather indeed came from English/Irish/Scottish stock, what did that mean?

I remember seeing the first picture of my grandfather, taken when he was about 33. I was knocked for six, because he looked so much like a male version of me, except that I am very glad that I didn't get his nose and ears.

Maybe if I'd grown up around my grandfather, uncle, etc., I would still have chased after all the tall, dark-haired, green-eyed Irish boys in town. Maybe not. Was my "type" connected to my pull to try to find my way back to the family I was born into? Was it based on some unconscious memory of my tribe? Or are tall, dark Irish guys just what I like? Because growing up around Scandinavians sure didn't make me want Alexander Skarsgard. You can have him. And yes, this is a rhetorical question.

Which brings me circuitously to Verrier. I was visiting my parents this past week and picked up my copy of The Primal Wound to reread after two years. While I concede that the lack of footnotes and scant primary research on Verrier's part are definitely, definitely problematic, I don't see her hypotheses (based on what we truly *do* know about obstetrics) as being the catastrophic adoptee-prisons that the naysayers do. Then again, they haven't even read the book!

This is what the naysayers often argue, as Verrier knew they would:

"Adoption as Concept

The other trend in trying to understand and eliminate the problems connected with adoption is to view them as conceptual. According to this school of thought, the problems stem from the child being told about adoption, the idea of having two mothers, the reason for having been relinquished, and the feeling this brings up for him. In other words, it is the intellectual knowledge that he is adopted which confuses and disturbs the child. One gets the feeling that adoption is only a theory, and that if we don't say too much about it, it won't have too much effect."

Her counterargument to this makes me cry, because it is the same one that Joy, and Lulubelle, and Von, and Linda, and theadoptedones, and Amanda, and many others reiterate ad nauseam:

"All of this rhetoric ignores one simple but critical fact: The adoptee was there. The child actually experienced being left alone by the biological mother and being handed over to strangers. That he may have been only a few days or a few minutes old makes no difference. He shared a 40-week experience with a person with whom he probably bonded in utero, a person to whom he is biologically, genetically, historically, and perhaps even more importantly, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually connected, and some people would like to believe that it is the telling of the experience that makes him feel so bad!"

If you don't like Verrier, fine. If you don't feel affected by adoption, fine. More power to you. But HOW DARE YOU sit there and tell those of us who are LIVING this that this is a fucking intellectual theory. It is PART of us. It is not something we made up, it is not a planted memory. It cannot be carved out of our souls like a corrupt thought. It is not a bad joke.

I am strong enough to believe in my own memories, my own soul, my own strength. I know what I feel, and I know who I am. It may be a "fun" argument for you, but it's my life. Thank goodness for my wonderful community of fellow adoptees, friends, and family.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Needs, Rights, and My OBC

I have been following some interesting debate over on FMF about whether people have a universal "need" to know who they are. My sense is that all people will eventually ask about the birds and the bees, but many won't care about their family trees, or whose blood runs in their veins. I care deeply. My aparents love genealogy. I was dragged to many cemeteries in my youth. Doing rubbings of headstones was an interesting diversion, even when it wasn't my ancestors.

Anyway, back at FMF I found myself agreeing with someone who said that people should have "a universal right to find out family history if one wants to." Seems reasonable to me. It's a "right" then, not a "need."

A "right" is something that is agreed upon by society a large, or the majority, or elected officials in a democracy representing that majority. A "need" is a personal want that might become a "right" but is not necessarily a "right," unless it is so agreed upon by the aforementioned majority.

I noticed in the discussions at FMF that "equality" was of course important, and certainly I would like to be considered equal under the law and don't feel so as I do not have access to my original birth certificate (OBC), as non-adopted individuals do. In some states in this fine country, some adoptees can access their OBCs if they are of a certain age, or if they are born between certain dates, etc. Adoption is a matter of states' rights, not federal jurisdiction, so there is great difference between states in how things are handled. Not that I think we'd have a great chance of getting our OBCs released to us if we could be heard in front of the current Supreme Court, but then again, I am a Poor Innocent Dismissed Diseased cynic with little faith in the conservative patriarchal system in place. I wouldn't bet much on the chances of trying to persuade Justices Alito or Scalia, who would have the Catholic Church and the adoption industry lobbyists yipping in their ears to preserve the "rights" of the poor closeted mothers being tormented by us uncouth adoptees with our separate-but-equal amended birth certificates. We'd be told that our place at the back of the bus is quite good enough, what is to be gained by all of this nonsense? Go home, children!

Separate is NOT equal. Did we not learn that? We CANNOT separate the emotional content from the rational part of of the argument, however much we dream we can, because we are human. The people men making decisions about this, about us, are human, too. They are prejudiced by THEIR emotions, however much they claim they are not. It's a farce. Humans do best by ourselves by being honest about our motivations and prejudices. And these people, by and large, are APs, or PAPs, or have friends who are APs or PAPs. Where does the power lie? With the APs and the industry. Not with us, and usually not with our natural families.


I have been thinking a great deal also about what Daniel Ibn Zayd has said about the impossibility of true discourse in adoption related to inequality of power. When adoptees are told to "play nice," and treat first parents or APs or PAPs respectfully so that we can all "get along," we are immediately hamstrung. There is no free give and take. When we make comments and are immediately labeled as "angry" or "angsty" or "poor innocent dismissed" or some other tasteless, demeaning pet name du jour, it's hardly the sign of well meaning, let's-get-on-with-it, reform-minded camaraderie. Because it's not about working together. It's a fucking war zone with Bigfoot and alien sightings and grenade launchings and petty dictatorships at every corner.

People cannot see past their noses; they rarely look at the big picture; they revel in offending others for sport; PAPs and APs speak of natural families and adoptees as if they're paper towels. Some natural mothers are downright rude to adoptees. It's disgusting. Why be polite? These people aren't polite. They're aggressive, self-centered people of the worst sort.

On the one hand, it reminds me of that great quote of Gandhi's, who when asked what he thought about Western civilization, replied, "I think it would be a good idea." On the other hand, it drives me to read Frantz Fanon and feel less like Gandhi. I am sick of being treated like an object, spoken for, infantilized; I am sick of watching children being taken from countries abroad and stripped of their cultures and worse. I don't want to be told to be grateful anymore. Why do people think they know what I feel? Why do they think it's their prerogative to *say* what they think I should feel?

Oh yes, the power thing.

And the cycle starts over, because there is no constellation or mosaic or triad or whatever silly thing it is called on Tuesdays. We're not even in it. Because it's not about us, the commodity.

And because we're nonentities, forever children, if we even can be considered children, we cannot have our OBCs. Our mother's rights come first, because she must be protected at all cost, even to that poor last woman in the closet.

Except that we *are* people, and we should have our OBCs, and my favorite people are organizing a protest to convince state legislators that we are people with both needs *and* rights. Please support the Adoptee Rights Coalition (donate!) and contact your state representatives. If you know and love an adoptee, please, please do this! We deserve our OBCs! Just like the real people we are.

Love to you all.  

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Arrogant Bastard

No, I am not talking about myself. It's a really good ale. You should try it sometime, if you like beer at all. I think it's fabulous and have had it numerous times at local bars in my neck of the woods, and of course its name makes for great jokes in adoptoland. As it turns out, A took me to lunch at the brewery where Arrogant Bastard is made! You have to love his great taste.

Not to mention that I left the brewery with some marvelous swag, including a hoodie for the brewery's IPA (India Pale Ale) called Ruination (ah, another loaded name for us bastards) that reads appropriately across the front: "I'm very bitter and I like it." A found this one and brought it to me, knowing I'd love it. He is the best little brother EVAH.

So the visit was amazing. I feel a thousand times better, although I broke down several times being in super-danger-trigger zone. I don't think I ever quite convinced him that it wasn't that I was crying about him, it was the always right-under-the-skin losses that seeped through. Men are sweet in wanting to fix things, but adoption isn't a fixable item. I feel secure that he and I can move ahead, which is a HUGE step for me, and he was able to ask me, in return, for certain things that are reasonable to make his life easier. It felt great to have a real conversation about what the heck we're doing, what we both want, and know that we're in this for each other. I am relieved to be off high-alert adoptee mode because it's a fucking living nightmare, and when you love someone, you waste time being a freak when you're hypervigilant around them.

It's a learning process. Baby steps.

And then I learned that my nfamily has read my blog. I am aware it raised some eyebrows. I know that A learned some things from it that he respected and has used to change the way we interact, in a positive way. He wanted to explain about some of the times I felt abandoned, and why he wasn't able to be there for me. He was incredibly supportive about how I felt, and for that I am extremely happy, especially where it comes to coping with my depression. He wants to be one of the people I ask for help when I get into my dark place, which is both unexpected and scary for me. Wonderful because I think he could be of great help, frightening in that when I am depressed, I am at my most vulnerable.

We have agreed also, in the spirit of moving ahead with our relationship, that I will keep our conversations private. I understand that no one wants their dirty laundry aired on the Interwebs, and he fears being savaged by an angry bastard. Fair enough. We are a very scary bunch, we zombies adoptees.

Then as icing on the cake, I had a great talk with C today and discussed my anxiety/abandonment issues with her. I feel like my emotional system is near to a positive reset. I had been so scared to tell her how I was feeling, but all went absolutely well. We talked about the primal wound and my loss and anxiety and extended time in the NICU and guess what? She didn't tell me that my pain is "probably" is due to some other variable, like my amom being depressed, or the color of the nurses' uniforms, or the type of lightbulbs used! In my nonscientific nonstudy, that makes TWO of my mothers who believe in the PW. I  like it.

She and I talked about how we both have our dark, lonely prisons in which we suffer our losses and sadnesses, albeit different ones. She was encouraging and told me that she's sorry that I read her silence as abandonment; she cares for me. Wow. It meant the world to talk to her about my anxiety and have her accept me anyway. She called what happened to us "our story," which was very cool. It is ours.

Her advice to me for now was to try to "just be" for a while. To take walks and read books while my arm is healing. I am not very good at living in the moment, but for her, I will do it.