Thursday, February 01, 2007

Talking and Not Talking About Adoption

Context: I was born in 1960 during the Closed Era of Adoption, which many social scientists have referred to as "a failed social experiment." While my parents did tell me I was adopted when I was around four or five, further discussion was discouraged. Between 1970 and '73, as my curiousity about my background grew, I tentatively raised the subject again. Each time, my adoptive mother became nearly hysterical and very angry. "I'm your real mother," she would cry. "That's all you need to know. She gave you away. I'm the one who gets up with you in the middle of the night when you're sick, I'm the one who..."

But that was a long time ago.

I remember it, clearly, but could I be wrong?

Once again, I decided to revisit the subject with my father who, in the past, has confirmed my memories.

For the last two weeks, my adoptive Dad seemed worse than ever. His dementia is progressing fast. He's becoming more needy, emotional, sleepy and incoherent. And then, last night, he sounded perky and coherent and perfectly reasonable (and narcissistic, of course).

This may be the last time I can ask him a question about my adoption, I reasoned.

I took notes. Here's the conversation. For the record, we've had this conversation a decade ago before he developed dementia. It's pretty much the same except for the "bad taste in your mouth" bit...which I've always suspected.

Me: "Dad, when I was younger and I tried to ask Mom about my adoption, she acted very angry. Did she?"

Dad: "Oh yeah. You made her really mad."

Me: "Why? Why did that make her mad?"

Dad: "Because she didn't like to think of you as adopted. She thought of you as hers. She liked to pretend that you were hers. And you kept bringing it up. You know how you are, so stubborn."

Me: "But Dad, didn't she think I might be curious. Might want to know about where I came from?"

Dad: "That didn't matter to us. We thought of you as OURS. You ARE ours. You BELONG to us and that's all that counted."

Me: "I know, Dad. But, didn't you ever think I might have some questions. I mean, YOU would if YOU were adopted."

Dad: "Your mother didn't like you to talk about it. She didn't like to think of you that way."

Me: "But there's nothing wrong with being adopted, Dad. It's a fact. I AM adopted."

Dad: "If you want to go around telling people, go ahead. But we didn't do that. No way. We would just tell people you were ours."

Me: "So you thought being adopted should be kept secret?"

Dad: "That was our business and nobody elses. As soon as you tell people you're adopted, they get a bad taste in their mouth."

Me: "A bad taste in their mouth? What do you mean?"

Dad: "It's such an ugly thing. That's why your mother didn't like you to talk about it. It leaves such a bad taste in your mouth."

And, because I must like punishment, one more time...for the record:

"Dad, didn't you ever think it might be important to me to have more information about my history?"

Dad (almost puzzled at the mention of the word "me." I don't say it often, nor do I use its twin "I" because both are useless when talking to a narcissist-there is only "them"): "No. That wasn't important to us. You belonged to us and that's all there was to it."

Okay, this sort of crazy talk makes an adoptee feel like she's Alice in Denialland.

It's a wonder I didn't end up in the looney bin.

It's no wonder I am resentful toward my adoptive parents for making me live such a repressed and lonely life while under their roof.

It is no wonder I skipped town as soon as I could for college and limited contact because, being with them made me feel invisible and diminished.

There was no me. There was only their needs. It did not once occur to them that the daughter who "belonged" to them may have an inner life that needed attention.

Labels:

24 Comments:

Blogger suz said...

holey freaking moley.

thank you for validating what I just today wrote about in my blog. i am sorry you experience this and your parents treated you that way.
i hear it alot and I dont think it is just BSE adoptees that are exposed to that. while society has changed somewhat - many adoptive parents have not. i have helped more than twenty adoptees - most born in the 80s - reunite. with the exception of ONE, they all were faced with this.

Denial. Whewf.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What really sucks is that then you find your birth parents who can be just as needy and nuts as your adoptive parents. Or look like transvestites with freaky eye brows LOL Makes one want no parents at all.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous mia said...

A bad taste in your mouth....hmmmm. What do you think he meant by that? You and I have the same parents so to understand yours is to understand my own.

1:41 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

I am thinking "bad taste in your mouth" is the same a less than perfect family. The ideal of mom, dad and daughter would be "tainted" if it was known that the daughter was adopted. In other words, the "dirty secret" is out. In Nina's moms' eyes, adopted is equated as less than part of the family - disconnected and wasn't part of the family to start with. Just my thought about what it meant.

I also think it is very sad that neither of your aparents discouraged you even asking questions about where/whom you came from. Well Nina, I'd love to break it to your dad and tell him that YOU have arrived, YOU needed to be heard, YOU needed answers to your questions, YOU needed them to step to the plate, and that YOU are a person in YOUR own right. A lovely woman, mother, wife...and a daughter they never owned or ever will. (hugs)

2:07 PM  
Blogger suz said...

Yes, definitely odd that we both wrote about the same topic from different angles.

Again, wonderful post.

And, Hmmm, wonder what anon's eyebrows look like?

2:30 PM  
Blogger chez said...

Great post Nina.
I've commented over on Suz's blog about this - but think I will at last post about this myself.
Hugs, C.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Mom2One said...

That is crazy and yes, could be crazy-making. Holy cow! We've told our son since before he could understand that he's adopted. "Bad taste in your mouth" -- WHAT?! Like you said, it's just a fact. It's just one more way of putting together a family. Wow.

Oh my word, Nina, so sorry you had to deal with all of that crap. And while I would never try to make myself sound like Adoptive Mother of the Year, at least my husband and I are aware enough to know that adoption is not a disease, it's not something to hide from our child, it's something to talk about openly, and yes, there will be issues because of his adoption.

SHEESH!!

4:25 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Mia: I didn't know quite what to make of "leaves an ugly taste in your mouth" either...except that it wasn't good. I think Leroy is right in that it was a way of describing how the whole vision of our little family was "tainted" by the word. I like that word "tainted." Very apt. I wonder if, in the early 70's, adoption was still so stigmatized - especially in their minds because of the whole Latino/cultural angle - that they just couldn't deal with it on an honest level.

Leroy: Thank you, again, for writing just the right thing. And you and me both. I've always wanted to confront my Dad and I did. Once about some of his selfish behavior that was affecting my family. But it was very unsatisfying because a narcissist can never take responsibility and he played victim and turned it on me.

Anonymous: I'm wondering along w/Suz. It seems that you were traumatized not only by bad adoption experience but a set of creepy eyebrows. And yeah. It's crushingly disappointing to find needy birthparent(s) when you just want ONE adult parent and instead you end up w/two sets of wrecks. As my 16 year old likes to say, that totally sucks.

Chez...I'll check out your blog and btw I still need to add your link and Paulas and others. Have not forgotten...just behind b/c I'm so lame w/links.

And Mom2One: I realize that my story is on the crap end of the adoption experience scale and it's adoptive parents like you - who can read and listen openly to our less than happy viewpoints - that gives me hope that younger adoptees will be in better, more enlightened hands.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Mom2One said...

Well, since we're Caucasian and he's Asian, I don't think trying to cover it up would be a very good idea! I actually did have a few people ask me before we adopted him if we were going to tell him that he's adopted (and they knew he would be from Vietnam). I tell ya, it took everything I had not to be the biggest smart ass at those times.

Anyways, thanks for the nice words. We try. Don't always get it right, but we do try. It helps to be able to read blogs by adoptees, so thanks for putting your thoughts out there so honestly.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous daughterof2women said...

I am sorry. I think a lot of adoptive parents have this problem. I know when I was finding out who my birthmother was and that she had died violently my parents never ONCE asked me if I was okay and how I was dealing with everything. It was all about them and about what I was doing to them. Still makes me angry. I am so sorry that you have had to deal with this your entire life.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Daughterof2women...Wow. I'm sorry that you had to learn such awful news about your mother and that you had no support for your double loss. That phrase..."what I was doing to them" really resonantes. It's such a destructive thing to say. That your emotions are threatening to somebody else's well-being...therefore, you shouldn't be having them, they are wrong, and that you should sacrifice your inner life for the sake of somebody's elses nerves. My 14-year old just learned that a friend of hers since 2nd grade just had emergency surgery for a cancerous tumor on his neck. She's absolutely devastated and clearly frightened. This may be her first significant experience with grief. She's had crying jags and today she's so run down she's feeling physically sick. I'm thinking of YOU as a young girl or woman trying to process such shocking news but not being able to express your feelings in a healthy way and probably having to bury them and having no one to make you a cup of hot tea and give you a hug.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Paula O. said...

Oh, (((Nina))). I can't imagine a parent saying "We didn't like to think of you as adopted" or "No, information about your history isn't important to us" - - talk about surefire way to have one's entire sense of self totally and completely invalidated. It truly is enough to make one go psychotic. And Suz is so right - sadly - there are still APs who believe and say this kind of thing.

To the day I die, I really don't know if I will never, EVER understand the entitlement that some people have so deeply programmed into their mentality.

I'm just so sorry that you're still having to hear this kind of thing. Many hugs to you.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Hugs back, Paula!

AndMom2One..Maybe you should be a smart ass sometime! Some people deserve it. Maybe I should try it, too. Maybe that's what adoption is lacking...a smart ass tude!

2:32 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

Ugh! I've been spitting a lot of nails lately reading posts, and I'd really like to have a few choice words with your "father".

Damn, that man is a narcissist with a capital N.

So sorry Nina.

I understand. You handled him well, and good for you for speaking your mind. Good for you.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

evidence smart -
fatburningfurnace -
fat burning furnace -
fatloss4idiots -
fat loss 4 idiots -
fitnessmodelprogram -
fitness model program -
fit yummy yummy -
flattenyourabs -
flatten your abs -
flat to fab -
forex derivative -
gas 4 free -
get better grades -
golf swing guru -
governmentregistry -
government registry -
heartburn no more -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
hyper vre -
i software tv -
legit online jobs -
linden method -
london forex rush -
master word smith -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -
max pro system -
meet your sweet -
membership gold rush -
minute sites -
musclegainingsecrets -
muscle gaining secrets -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

negative calorie diet -
one minute cure -
one week marketing -
pc on point -
pc tv 4 me -
perfect optimizer -
php link cloaker -
pick the gender of your baby -
profit lance -
public records pro -
quit smoking today -
recipe secrets -
reg clean -
regi cleanse -
registry easy -
registry winner -
reg sweep -
reverse mobile -
reverse phone detective -
richard mackenzie direct -
rocket piano -
rocket spanish -
satellite tv to pc -
smtp 2 go -
spam bully -
spyware nuker -
the bad breath report -
thedietsolutionprogram -
the diet solution program -
the stop snoring exercise program -
the super mind evolution system -
trading stock indices -
truth about abs -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

turbulencetraining -
turbulence training -
twitter annihilation -
twitter rockstar -
twitter traffic machine -
ultimate content creator -
ultimate font download -
ultimate wow guide -
video piggy -
vincedelmontefitness -
vince del monte fitness -
warp speed fat loss -
web investigator -
win clear -
win spy -
yeast infection no more -




3d covers -
500 scrapbooking sketches -
acid alkaline diet -
acne free in 3 days -
advanced pc tweaker -
apple patch diet -
art of approaching -
auction inspector -
av advance -
build a nice store -
Auto Content Cash -
Banner Ad Blueprint -
Copy Paste Systems -
Every Other Day Diet -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Farm Ville Secrets -
Plugin To Green Profits -
Rapid Mass Traffic -
Tinnitus Miracle -
Tweetomatic Profiteer -
Woodworking 4 Home -
24 Hour Internet Business -
Blogging To The Bank -
Burn The Fat -
Earth 4 Energy -
Fap Turbo -
Fat Burning Furnace -
Fat Loss 4 Idiots -
Foex Auto Money -
Hemorrhoid Miracle -
Legit Online Jobs -
Magic Of Making Up -
Magni Work -
Micro Niche Finder -
Plr Article Software -
Pregnancy Miracle -
Software Submitter Pro -
The Affiliate Code -
The Diet Solution Program -
Truth About Abs -
Zygor Guides -
burnthefat -
burn the fat -
carb rotation diet -
catch spouse cheating -
chikara reiki do -
combat the fat -
conversationalhypnosis -
conversational hypnosis -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

copy that game -
cure gout now -
dl guard -
dog training online -
driver checker -
driver robot -
drop shipping wholesalers -
earth4energy -
earth 4 energy -
easy backup wizard -
eatstopeat -
eat stop eat -
error fix -
error killer -
error smart -
evidence eraser -
evidence nuker -
ex girlfriend guru -
fatburningfurnace -
fat burning furnace -
fatloss4idiots -
fat loss 4 idiots -
final uninstaller -
fitnessmodelprogram -
fitness model program -
fit yummy yummy -
flattenyourabs -
flatten your abs -
flat to fab -
forex grid bot -
get google ads free -
get paid to draw -
get this off my chest now -
governmentregistry -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

government registry -
heartburn no more -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
honest riches -
learn photoshop now -
linden method -
malware removal bot -
marketing on the fringe -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -
meet your sweet -
musclegainingsecrets -
muscle gaining secrets -
my online income system -
negative calorie diet -
no adware -
one minute cure -
one week marketing -
online pickup secrets -
partenon -
pc on point -
perfect optimizer -
perfect uninstaller -
pick the gender of your baby -
power cash secret -
profit lance -
publicrecordspro -
public records pro -
push button marketer -
quit smoking today -
registry easy -
registry easy download -
registry fix -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

registry winner download -
reverse mobile -
reverse phone detective -
richard mackenzie direct -
rocket spanish -
rss power plus -
sem business blueprint -
silent sales machine -
spam bully -
sports betting champ -
spyware cease -
spyware nuker -
spyware remover -
starting a day care center -
the bad breath report -
the cb code -
thedietsolutionprogram -
the diet solution program -
the super mind evolution system -
traffic travis -
truth about abs -
turbulencetraining -
turbulence training -
twitter affiliate cash -
twitter decoded -
video piggy -
video web wizard -
vincedelmontefitness -
vince del monte fitness -
warp speed fat loss -
wedding speech 4u -
windo fix -
your bill killer -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you will get paid -
zygor guides -
20 day persuasion -
advanced pc tweaker -
adware bot -
affiliate naire -
apple patch diet -
article submitter -
art of approaching -
burnthefat -
burn the fat -
carb rotation diet -
cold sore freedom in 3 days -
conversationalhypnosis -
conversational hypnosis -
copy that game -
cure for bruxism -
cure hemorrhoids -
cyber link pro -
dl guard -
driver checker -
driver robot -
drop shipping wholesalers -
earth4energy -
earth 4 energy -
easy backup wizard -
easy click mate -
easy photo biz -
eatstopeat -
eat stop eat -
epinoisis -
error fix -
error killer -
error smart -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

evidence nuker -
fap turbo -
fatburningfurnace -
fat burning furnace -
fatloss4idiots -
fat loss 4 idiots -
final uninstaller -
fitnessmodelprogram -
fitness model program -
fit yummy yummy -
flattenyourabs -
flatten your abs -
flat to fab -
governmentregistry -
government registry -
heartburn no more -
hippo jaw -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
honest riches -
hot video squeeze templates -
instant website creation -
jump manual -
keyword research pro -
linden method -
malware removal bot -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -
meet your sweet -
micro niche finder -
musclegainingsecrets -
muscle gaining secrets -
muscle gain truth -
my traffic strategy -

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nasty dirty money -
negative calorie diet -
no adware -
pc optimizer pro -
perfect uninstaller -
pergola plans -
pick the gender of your bady -
plr ebook club -
pregnancy without pounds -
profit lance -
publicrecordspro -
public records pro -
questions for couples -
quit smoking today -
ready made review sites -
reg genie -
registry easy -
registry easy download -
registry winner -
registry winner download -
retrievea lover -
reverse mobile -
richard mackenzie direct -
rocket italian -
rocket spanish -
roulette sniper -
rss ground -
secret affiliate weapon -
secrets book -
spam bully -
spyware cease -
spyware nuker -
spyware remover -
spy zooka -

1:26 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home