I have had the honor of being involved in many interviews and conversations about adoption which have offered lots of opportunities for me to further the adoption discourse. There is a certain thrill that comes from being vulnerable and answering questions off the cuff as there is no great way to prepare for the questions that will come my way. I enjoy the spontaneity and the sense of unscripted-ness these interviews provide as there is room for truth and the conversation can flow in any direction that seems important at that moment. However, I have been thrown off by a statement that sometimes gets tossed into my conversations. The statement: “Your family is absolutely amazing. Makes me wish I was adopted” has been a tough one for me to figure out how to answer. When Bryan is present I am glad for the opportunity to exchange glances with him, silently inquiring “did you hear that, too?” Bryan often tries to soften the blow in his wonderfully understanding way by making assumptions as to the more likely meaning of the comment. I generally know the intention behind the statement, but that doesn’t lessen the sting or make it any more acceptable. Words are important.
My friend and fellow adoptee, Amanda Woolston has heard this sentiment many times as well. She rationalizes the statement in this way; “It was said mostly in high school during times where teenage friends just didn’t feel like their parents “got” them. […] They saw being adopted as an opportunity to be a free and unique individual in the midst of genetic strangers who would just embrace whoever you were. It was an opportunity to be a blank canvas and invent oneself .”
Even with the recent media surrounding rehoming of adoptees, there continues to be a general love for the ‘rags to riches’ stories, a certain fascination with the projection that adoptees are grateful for a “better life” (check out adoptee Lisa Marie Rollins’ show Ungrateful Daughter). I routinely receive messages of love and praise regarding Closure as folks seem to view my life as quite idealistic and use words like strong and determined to describe my steadfast drive for answers and the years sleuthing to find information. Although there is certainly truth to those adjectives, I feel the need to make sure its known that the only reason I had the opportunity to personify these traits is because of an inability to know my own truth. Although a portion of my life has been communicated via a movie format, my life is not the Annie story. Closure moviegoers tend to get swept up by the hope and romance of the impending reunion with my birth parents and forget about the pain, separation, confusion and abandonment that had to have been present in order for my adoption to have even taken place. There is no adoption without tragedy somewhere along the line. Although my uniquely beautiful [adoptive] family is wonderful, wishing to be adopted isn’t a compliment. I’d propose that the actual intentions of a comment or tweet of this nature is something more akin to; “Sometimes I wonder how it’d feel to be part of a family without any genetic ties or biological expectations.”
You wish you were adopted and I wish I didn’t have to wait until my adulthood to know who gave birth to me. Different viewpoints I guess…
Whether you’re adopted or not, how might you respond?