After Watching This Is Us, an Adopted Person Goes AWOL
I am going to meet my birth father in a few weeks. In adoptee language, this is a reunion. How many of you out there have had a reunion with a person you have never met? I mean, part of me was a sperm inside of him, so I met him as a fish, but that was only part of me. I didn’t have my own legs or fingers. Would he recognize me if I showed up in my original form? Little fishie me, ready to fight the big egg for the place in the world, whether it was ready for me or not? I think not. He wouldn’t even see me.
This is how I empowered myself as an adopted person: I told myself that the world wanted me born so badly it took two strangers, a party, some alcohol, and a decision not to have an illegal abortion to make me.
This is about to get real.
What I’ve noticed is that the older I get, the sadder I feel about being adopted. I was fine about it when I was a kid, and then I hit fifty and it was like someone took my brain out and gave me a new one, one that could barely function for grief and tears.
Talk about a mid-life crisis. Only no one talks about this when you are adopted. My parents never said, Hey, you’re okay about being adopted now, but when one of us dies, you might lose your mind for a while. They never said this because they had no idea. They had no idea because adopted people weren’t talking, and if they were, people with notepads weren’t taking notes.
Try explaining to your boss that the reason you’re crying is that you just realized being adopted as an infant traumatized you and that at 52 you need to go home for a year and cry. Good luck holding on to your benefits. To your job. Your sanity. Your friends. The contents of your stomach.
So the word reunion is ridiculous. As is, really, the term birth father. He wasn’t there at my birth. He didn’t push me out. Inseminator is rude and not something I want to use in an introduction. Good guy? I’ll let you know.
Adopted is a word I have come to hate. I don’t want to be an adopted person. An adoptee. I don’t want to have adopted parents and adopted brothers. Why? When I got married (the first time), I kicked off my shoes as we stood at the alter so my soon-to-be husband and I could be the same height. Everyone in the congregation could see the bright Marshall’s SALE sticker on the bottom of my left shoe. That shoe looked so adopted. Like no one had wanted it and so they put a sticker on it so it could find a home.
If I’m adopted and you’re not, what are you? Does anyone ask you if your parents are your real parents? Hmmmm. Probably not. So maybe you are real. And I am…not real. I am adopted and my parents are my adopted parents. Blchhhh. No thank you.
Adopted means acquired as your own by free choice. Wait. What? I was not my own because the name I was given at birth was taken and I was given the name of my new parents. So a better definition might be acquired as their own by free choice. But wait. Whose free choice? Mine? Theirs?
I need a word that is more cleanly and accurately translated into the language that my brain understands, the language that resonates with my experience of life.
And here’s the rub. The language I speak, the language of an adopted person, is different from your language, whatever I call you--not adopted people. Remember, I come from a different planet than the one people who aren’t adopted come from. I come from a place where the creator and the creation are separate. In some ways, that’s a godless state. I come from a place where the flesh of my flesh disappeared. I come from a place where I’m not allowed to have an original birth certificate because, I guess, I am dangerous.
Maybe people are afraid I’ll set that birth certificate on fire and use the flame to burn down important buildings. Maybe people are afraid I’ll publish the name of the mother who gave birth to me and ruin her life by making our connection public.
Do I sound angry? Is this off putting to you? I get it. The other day someone told me a mom of some adopted kids can’t read my blog because it’s too depressing. What’s funny is that I try to minimize the pain of losing a mother before she even held you.
So, gloves off, here’s my word to replace adopted: fucked.
That feels truer. Now when I go to Kaiser with mystery abdominal pain, I can tell the doctor I’m fucked and chances are good I’ll get more attention than if I said I’m adopted. If I were back in college and thinking about dropping out yet again, I could go my advisor and say I’m fucked and I’d get better care then if I said I’m adopted. If I was staring at my second husband, unable to connect to another person the way all my friends seemed able to do, I could have said to him I’m fucked, and more likely than not I would have gotten more understanding than if I’d said, as I did, I’m adopted.
Once when my daughter was small, she was in the back of the car and someone cut me off. I said, loudly, “Fuck!” and then my sweet child, loudly, said the same thing. I panicked and laughed at the same time. She was so perfect, so pure, so sweet, and that word, a line of dark anger, was coming out of her mouth on repeat because her mom was laughing.
I happen to love the word fuck. It feels great to say and, if you are from Boston as I am, it feels like a family member. Fuck is better than fucked because one is action and the other implies being acted upon, and I don’t want to spend my life being acted upon. So my goal is to be fuck instead of fucked. I want to be a verb. In my sixties, when I go to the doctor’s and the nurse asks for my family history, I can just say Fuck.
Boy, that will feel good.
I can’t fucking wait to get older.
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