When I was younger I put my stress in my stomach, but as an adult I largely put it in my neck and shoulders. This can cause blistering headaches, and I’ve had one to varying degrees of severity since the day I discovered. It had been waning a bit, but a new emotional challenge presented itself today and brought it back with a vengeance. I decided to go have a massage to try to work out some of the tension before my skull burst and freed the angry bees that have apparently taken residence in my head.
Within a few minutes of the start of the massage I began weeping. I was aware that might happen and warned my masseur that it was likely. Once it started he offered that he was a good listener and it might help to talk it out. I said simply, “I found out two weeks ago that I was adopted.” He said, “You’re lucky that your parents gave you a good home. You shouldn’t feel sad.” So yeah, reasonably good at massage but a pretty major fail at “listening.” Pro tip: Never, ever utter those words. Just. Say. No.
He chatted away and I half-listened, but mostly I was ruminating on his comments. The idea he presented is a common one, and I’m assuming meant to comfort, but reveals a stunning disassociation with essential human nature. To say that I was lucky to have been adopted is assuming that my life with my biological family would have been significantly worse (neither he nor I have any data on that subject), and that my particular adoptive parents did a great job of it (I have data on this, he had none). Moreover, it reduces the entire thing to a transaction with me the goods, and I am supposed to be grateful that I was sold to a kindly massa. Imagine if that idea was workable in a general sense: that anyone with the means (and yes, it would always boil down to who had the money) could just walk up and take a perfect stranger’s baby under the assertion that they could give it a ‘better’ home. What the Fuck.
And, more importantly, entirely misses the point. I am not unhappy and un-tethered because I had a rotten childhood. I suspect if I had had some nightmare childhood, learning I was adopted might have been something of a relief. No, it is because I suddenly have lost connection to the ideas about “me” both conscious and subconscious that I had ascribed to genetics.
I’ve had two daughters… I know what it means to hold a newborn and do the prerequisite toe-and-finger-counting before searching, searching over tiny face and fingers. ‘Dad’s eyes, mom’s chin,’ we say, ‘grandma’s skin, uncle’s feet.’ We are programmed to identify and celebrate our genes expressed in this new life; to assert their belonging to us, and us to them. How many features of my children did I ascribe as genetic heritage of my adopted family? How many of those things were a stretch, at best – a kind of genetic wishful thinking. I feel foolish now. No, my daughter’s red hair is not a long-recessive family trait, nor is my other daughter’s diminutive stature. Maybe someday I will know truly where these things originated.
I continued to weep through the massage, but I kept my tears to myself and reminded myself to be wary of those that consider me lucky.