Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Beauty Contest: Adoptive vs. Birth Mom

It's official. Adoptive mom wins. Hands down.

Big sigh.

I have received the very first pictures of my birth mother, about my age now, reaction is rather disgusting. I am disappointed. Do I feel a connection to this woman? Do I recognize her? How can I not? The same thick hair. Something about the nose. An overall similarity that is not familiar.

But she is no beauty.

And this comes as a surprise.

Had I somehow internalized the undeniable beauty of my adoptive mother? For she was beautiful, in the way that a long face, high cheek bones and clean jaw line can achieve. And her overbite was devine! Do not mock it! It makes for a photogenic goddess!

All of those features I have disliked in myself. There they are...magnified ten times in the profile of my mother!

I have no experience looking at pictures of relatives. This is only my second and the most significant. The first picture was sent by my biological niece, not much younger than myself. But she was beautiful. And I was thrilled. The same low forehead. The thick dark hair that tends to redden in the sun. And I breathed a sigh of..what...relief?

My husband looks like his mother. And his dad. And his two brothers and his sister. Like them but not like them. Totally himself. But I have no experience.

When I see my birth mother, not as attractive as I'd hoped and imagined, I AM her. The very same. The adoptee's coping strategy of "merging" kicks in. I have no boundaries. I am whatever people want me to be. That's the power of a photo. I suddenly am the picure I see because she is my mother.

Yet I am not her. I am me. This requires lots of concentration and writing.

I am me. I am me.

I see myself in her pictures...sort of.

And once again, my adoptive mother's sheer power asserts itself...just as her personalitycommanded. She was heartbreakingly beautiful. The kind of woman who looks good at all angles in People Magazine. The kind of beauty that can't be diminished by disease or age or temperament.

I am trying to reconcile these two images. The gorgeous adoptive mother and the not-so-attractive biological mother. Much of my confidence, I realize tonight, may have actually come from gazing upon the face of such a beautiful imperfect and rejecting as she was.


Blogger suz said...

wow. quite an interesting post. as a first mom myself, i find myself wondering how/if/what my daughter feels. she, um, looks alot like me. is that good to her or bad to her? was comforting or disappointing? i do know that since she has an eating disorder and I am overwight she is probably disgusted at my curvy girl figure. who knows. yet another benchmark to cringe out. whos the better mother? the better looking mother. the smarter mother. more educated. bleck. just makes me feel ill.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Suz. Now that I've had more time to process, it could be that my birth mother was always so taboo, so out of bounds, that I am not seeing her image as clearly as I may later. Also, different families have different standards of beauty. As for the better mom, the best one is the empathetic one. The one that is tuned in to her child. Unfortunately, that was one quality my adoptive mother lacked and that my birth mother definitely has. I'll be processing this one for a LONG time!

4:32 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Good post Nina...most children developmentally develop boundaries (create their own) as they grow. They learn to separate from mom/dad at ages 4/5 and then in the teens. I am not too surprised that adoptees might have boundary issues with their moms in particular. I would think they want to be so attached at first and then as the relationship develops, boundaries are created...much like any relationship although where does one learn about developing healthy relationships to begin with? From your writings, I sense you are very much your mother's daughter - empathic.

4:50 AM  
Anonymous mia said...

I remember this feeling well. Coming to terms with similarity/likeness takes time when it has been denied you your whole life.

4:52 AM  
Anonymous Lee said...

This is my first time reading your blog. I am 33 and still trying to create bounderies with my adoptive mother. I was adopted at 10 years old. My husband said the other day-she should not have the power over me that she does. I agree-the bond has always been very strong, almost strangling. I am reaching out to other daughters who are still struggling.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Wow. I am an adoptee almost 20 years into reunion and this has been a significant issue for me. My birthmother is okay looking--very much looks like me--but my amom is very beautiful. Tall, model-like figure, long curly brown hair when she was younger. I was a blue-eyed freckled girl with lighter hair. People used to stop us and say "are you sure that's your daughter?" (Okay, once, but it stayed with me.)
Now that I know my bmother I have dreaded the fact that I am like her and becoming more so as I age. Short, stocky (now), broke and single. We are more politically alike but I don't want to become like her in life circumstances or looks yet---I am!
It's one of the things that has caused me to keep her at arm's length. One of the many, I'm sure.

6:10 PM  

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