Some adopter or other, possibly Binkie or one of Binkie’s ilk, commented the other day on how we adoptees should try to be more humorous about adoption, have a good laugh at our own expense and we’ll all feel better! Your Blogger is so long in the tooth she saw the birth of Rock and Roll and later the modern Women’s Movement and currently the sad decline of many things that were once considered important, part of the rights of women, children and of course men. But that’s another story. It takes a very long time for people who are disenfranchised to reach a point in their progress towards empowerment, rights and recovery from abuse and/or trauma before they can begin to find humour in their situation, to be able to make jokes at their own expense and about their painful and impoverished situation. We are just beginning to see that time in adoption.
We have some wonderful fellow adoptees doing their thang – Jeanette Winterson with her own particular brand of humour; neither truly sardonic or ironic but somewhere uncategorisable. Judith Lucy, stand up comic and author with her Australian flavoured humour telling of the craziness of adoption and her adopted life. We have wonderful actors like Brian Stanton with his show BLANK; neither true comedy nor straight acting, but such a valuable contribution to our move forward, how we view ourselves and how we view and support each other. We have Mary Gauthier, with her heart-breaking songs of mother loss and adoption trauma – she speaks for most of us with words many of us would be hard to find but especially to write or sing to an audience and hold it together. Perhaps these expressions of creative talent are therapeutic, healing and the way forward for those who are able. There are so many talented people out there, adoptees who make a difference not just to life for adoptees but to the lives of all.
All of us have available to us some way forward, however deep the despair, the hurt and the pain, there is a step forward we can take once we find the direction. Tiny steps might be the way, baby steps to freedom. The freedom of becoming a survivor and if we work at it, a thriver. We can’t unmake our adoptions, the law in most countries doesn’t allow it, we can’t wipe out the past as our friend Binkie has suggested, we can’t forget it ever happened nor should we, it is our history, ours to view how we will, interpret as we like and do with what we wish. We surely cannot be asked to be retrospectively blank slating our childhoods as well as our conceptions, gestations and births!
Perhaps some of the strengths and the power of the messages of those already mentioned, lies in their abilities to interpret their adoption in their way, to take control of the story and to cease living it as others have dictated, as adoption has mapped out for us. We need to make a new map with our name on it, whatever name we choose that we can be comfortable with.
Part of my own journey took off in a rather curious, almost mundane way, a few years ago now, when I regularly purchased certain vegetables from a beautiful stall at the Farmers’ Market. The couple running it, ageing hippies and loving their life as producers, are very into names and called their farm Starlight Springs because there are big skies, lots of stars and a great view of the Milky Way most nights up on top of the hill were they live and farm. Maureen, half of the couple, began calling me Von. After a couple of times when I felt knocked over by that but couldn’t express it, I took her aside and told her briefly my story! She too was knocked out by it and said she did it because I look like ‘a Von’. We were both a little stunned, amazed and enjoyed what she had done, her perception and whatever had led her to think that and act on it. The joy of the synchronicities in the adopted life!
Those of you who have been reading my posts for a time, may remember that I was named by my mother after her cousin, a talented survivor who raised seven children after she was widowed, wrote film scripts on the kitchen table at night after the kids were in bed and had a warm wit and a sharp intellect. It was she who said I would never have become an adoptee if she’d given birth to me; very comforting and inclusive. I am proud to carry her name, to have learned from her some valuable lessons about survival, the value of humour and the way in which both can work together.
With that in mind, it is some time now since I claimed the title bastard and am proud to be one; a genuine love-child! Words that were meant to shame and brand, carry stigma and intent can only be dealt with by constant use in other contexts. A humorous one often works well, defuses the sting for the receivers, but let’s them know it’s serious! Great shock value too when it’s dropped in there after a Binkie has made a gross assumption! I was apparently commonly known, when a child in a small community, as B’s Bastard! I won’t use the full name out of respect for my long dead aparents’ anonymity; it’s a good slave name and carries with it many connotations, much history and appropriateness. A dear friend imparted that choice piece of information years after we left school and were long grown up. I was of course well aware of the other implications as a child, even if I didn’t know the word as intimately as I do now.
Dare say our resident Mrs Shrink would have something to say about that!! I hope so. So next time a non-adoptee reflects on your parentage, adoptee bastards, in what they believe is an insulting way, acknowledge it proudly and quote whoever it was who first said I was born a bastard, what’s your excuse? And if you want to know more, how about bastardy.html?