Tulum #3 Writing and Adoption

I wrote You Don’t Look Adopted in chunks, paragraphs really, because that’s how my brain works. It jumps from thing to thing, connecting, but not hanging around. For thirty years I didn’t write a book because I couldn’t write like Sue Miller did in The Good Mother. I loved to read about how light filled a room but I didn’t want to write about it. I loved to read chapters focusing on a trip to the post office, but I couldn’t stay in the room long enough to write a chapter like that. I wanted to write about how strange the world was for me, and about how strange I was to myself.

That, I knew, was narcissistic, and having been raised as a New England protestant liberal one thing I knew for sure was that focusing on yourself for any length of time was not okay. So I wrote brief stories about boys, about liking boys, about searching for love. I wrote a story in college about Christie Brinkley waking up in my body and freaking out because she thought she was so fat. Why my writing teacher didn’t just grab me by the throat and ask me what I was really trying to say bums me out. My parents paid a lot of money for that school. And all that teacher did was give me an A.

(Dear professor: Can’t you look at a person’s face and see she has more to say than that? Can’t you take the time to ask questions, to help a student dig a little deeper into her soul and mind? School is not just about A, B, C, D, or F. At least in my book. School, life, is about growth, about pushing boundaries, about learning deeply about yourself and the world. Students need help because in many ways it’s easier to not change or grow than to metamorphose into a fully realized being. Some people spend their whole life in the chrysalis and it’s partly your fault. You should get paid more, I know. Let’s work on that.)

(Dear Student: Take more risks. Who cares if you get an F? It means Fuck it. I really tried.)

But how can you engage fully in the world, how can you flourish as a student or a spouse or a writer when you don’t know your own heart? For adoptees this is a particularly poignant question because many actually don’t understand their hearts, who created them, who rocked their hearts to sleep when they were tiny.

Life does not have a reset button. Can you imagine if one day you were at work and suddenly a large hand lifted you out of your seat and put you in a different chair in a different country and you found you were wearing different clothes and people were calling you by a different name and everyone was bewildered and eventually annoyed when you cried and said you were so confused because everything was wrong and there was no sign of home? We don’t do that to adults because that’s called kidnapping.


So why we do this to infants and expect everything to be jolly is beyond me. There should be health centers for people who have been lifted from one life (even if they were minutes old) and put into a new one. Health centers that are subsidized for the life of the adoptee by the agencies or the parents who adopt. There should be neurologists on staff who focus exclusively on the adoptee brain and how best to reset the nervous system that was kicked into fright or flight when the relinquishment occurred. If you have no idea what I am talking about, go read Primal Wound, or, better yet, my book You Don’t Look Adopted because I need the money more than Nancy Verrier does, I’m guessing.

I’ll write more about this tomorrow. I have three more days in Tulum.