Tag Archives: This American Life

Geez! You must be “adopted” …

This blog post has been housed in my head since I heard This American Life’s Episode 498 a few weeks ago.

You can listen here.

On our way up to the Korean culture camp on July 4th, I took the opportunity (long car journey) to catch up on my listening. My husband and I were seated in the front seat, listening.

Act Two, The Gun Thing You’re Not Supposed to Do, began playing. A woman from Texas told the story of how her family prided themselves on their responsibility in teaching gun safety to the children. However, this woman, after the Newtown shootings, revealed to her family that she had, as a teen, secretly used the handgun hidden in her parents’ dresser, and narrowly missed shooting herself.

The father and mother were devastated but changed their behavior by locking up their guns. Her brother, Matt, (at minute 45:59) says, “I kept callin’ her how stupid she was! That she must have been adopted!!”

At these words, I sucked in my breath. My husband looked, wide-eyed, at me. We both glanced to the backseat, but both kids were busy and distracted.

The brother continued to talk about how his sister asked him if it changed the way he would handle gun education with his children.  At this point, the host, Ira Glass responded, “So your plan is when you have kids, they’re not going to be idiots like your sister.”

The brother answered definitively, “Right.”

Ira Glass then said, “You know I’m making a joke here, right?”

That joke and the comments were not funny to me. I wanted desperately to stop the car and write it all down. Luckily, I was not able to do so because my post would have shown my initial anger.

I like to think that I am not an angry person, but the misuse of the word “adopted” upset me. It hurt. Being adopted does not make you immediately “stupid” or an “idiot,” but hearing those words in the same conversation, in jest or not, does not help. I have the utmost respect for Ira Glass and listen to him every week, but his attempt at irony was lost on the brother, on me and who knows what countless others.

This misuse of the word, “adopted” happens everyday. The Twitter page, @AdoptionHonesty, is documenting all uses of the word “adoption” and its derivatives.

In the last post, I spoke about my calculated and careful writing when I write about race. But in actuality, I am mindful when I write every post.

My goal in writing this blog began in 2007 as a way to record my feelings on my adoption, my race and my life for my children and their children. It would be my way of creating a family history that wasn’t oral, but concrete.

As I transitioned from a private life blog to a more public presence, parents and grandparents began contacting me and writing me. They wanted to hear my stories.

Since meeting other transracial adoptees and learning more online, I have heard many angry stories. I fear that anger only shuts down a conversation.

To keep the conversation going, I can merely give my personal story and impressions. Hopefully, these stories will become threads in the fabric of families and the quilt of adoption.

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Asian Attraction?

Recently, one of my new Asian adoptee friends qualified her Caucasian husband, as “not one of those men with Asian fetishes.”

I must admit, I was puzzled by this, and I questioned what she meant. She and another friend quickly explained that there were men who had Asian fetishes. This week in This American Life’s episode called “Tribes,” Act 3, tackles this subject by highlighting the filmmaker of the documentary “seeking asian female.” The outcome is surprising.

Watching the trailer for the documentary (see below),  and having heard Jennifer in the film, Adopted, talk about Asian fetishes, I began to wonder how I had been so naive.

My Asian friends and I have all married Caucasian men. While my two closest friends and I have joked about our “white hubbies,” none of us ever spoke of the Asian fetish. If anything, we all talked about our own attractions to Caucasian men. One friend’s parents often tried pairing her with “nice Taiwanese” men.

Growing up in rural Tennessee, young boys were more repulsed by my ethnicity than enamored. There would be no talk about the Asian fetish. That was unspeakable in Appalachia.

My first date occurred when I was 17. My date was a young college man from the big metropolis of Knoxville, who had been traveling back to Wake Forest, North Carolina. He had stopped at the Cracker Barrel where I worked, and I had mistaken him for a movie star. He took my contact details, and we wrote long letters. I enjoyed sharing with someone who didn’t solely see me from the outside. When he escorted me to my senior prom, a popular young woman asked me the following Monday, “So, where’d your mom and dad find such a cute escort to hire?” She couldn’t understand why an older, Caucasian man would want to take me to the prom.

Throughout my life, I shied away from Asian boys, as I had often been paired with the only

Asian boy in my grade; his family moved to our town in fourth grade. That year, we studied square dancing in gym.  This was the only time boys and girls mixed for gym. I was always paired with this Asian boy. Our peers saw us as a match made by race.

Some may hypothesize that my attraction to Caucasian men is a product of being raised by parents of a different race, or a product of living in a community where the racial “pickins were slim.” They may also blame racial confusion for my seemingly Caucasian fetish. I theorize that we all have initial attractions that are based in physical attractiveness. But as Act 3 proves, those attractions are only the spark that may or may not lead to a lasting relationship.

My daughter recently asked me what attracted me to her father. My reply was that I thought he was cute. He had long sideburns, wore a denim jacket and sported a Smiths button on his lapel. That was all I needed to be attracted.

As we became more acquainted, I quickly fell in love with his optimism, idealism, humanitarianism, and finally, his dedication to wildlife. We were, as my mother would have said, “two peas in a pod.”