Friday, August 04, 2006

Hush: Controlling What We Say

In books that discuss the psychology of adoptees, there's quite a bit on control. The lack of control that we adoptees had over the first part of our lives. The fact that we were relinquished. Where we ended up and with whom. So it seems we grew up a prickly bunch who don't like being controlled. Who are apt to misinterpret casual suggestions as attempts to control. Then again, a good friend of mine is not adopted and we both score high on the control prickly meter.

So, it's one of the things I think about. This issue of control and how I react when I detect it. Which causes me to fume in private. But I've been coming across it more than usual lately. In the context of looking into the history of adoption practices and, more specifically, my transference from a poor Hispanic woman to low income, working class Hispanic strangers a mere 1.5 miles across town.

My first encounter was with a man who runs an adoption education non--profit. I could tell two minutes into the conversation that he was an adoptive father because when I started asking questions about how social workers back in the 60's chose prospective parents, he bristled. Or at least his voice did. He had detected I was less than pleased with the couple selected for me and he had to correct me. No, no, no, he insisted. The parents we ALL end up with is random anyway. Then he went on to explain why this was so, telling me the story of his own birth and that he was the living proof of that randomness. "But a social worker -- a person -- decided where I was going," I said. "It's different." No, no, no. It's not different at all, he said. More examples. Why were we talking about this, I wondered. Why was it so important for him to prove me wrong and set me straight. After all, it was just my opinion. My reality as interpreted by me. But he could not stand it. My dissent. And while he is both sympathetic and supportive of adoptee rights, apparently they do not extend to adoptees who question one of the basic principles of closed adoption: that babies and children are given to biological strangers and that while there is a sort of randomness that "determines" where we end up, it's a social system or game where almost everybody gets to play except the adoptee. To express dissatisfaction with one's adoptive parents is one thing. To question the system - even the old ridiculous one with its practices of matching - is another. The adoptee spoke. The adopter did not like it. Since then, I've had a couple more similar conversations. One with another adoptive parent and one with a social worker in Post Adoption Services. Even an adoptee - in her 70s - who thinks adoptee rights groups are too militant and anti-adoption. The rush to correct. The refusal to let me finish another sentence. No, no, no. Wrong. This is the right way. My way.

And here's another thing. Adoption outcome surveys. What do they measure? Adoptive parental satisfaction. How well we adoptees did in school. Whether we ended up crazy. How many of us were "returned to sender" or whether the adoptive parents encountered legal problems. What about our satisfaction. How do we think we fared in what's been called a "social experiment?" There was a good one done with the first generation of Korean adoptees. But how about the rest of us? What do we really think about adoption. How satisfied are we? How do we think we have fared? Does anybody really want to know? If some of us said what we really think - whatever that may be - if it's anything but, "Gee! I LOVE being adopted. It's absolutely terrific and I'm so appreciative for my good fortune," then I believe the answer is...hush hush. Oh! Like that 80's Til Tuesday song, Voices Carry. "Hush hush. Keep it down now. Voices carry. I try hard not to get upset because I know all the trouble I'll get."


Blogger Joy said...

Really good post Nina.

1:52 PM  

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