One of the greatest tools we have in adoptee rights today is ridicule: satire, parody, and humor. Unfortunately many adoptees fail to see humor in their situation. Spending $20,000 and 20 years of your life to find out where you came from is enough to take the edge off.
.I’ve always found that adoption lends itself perfectly to the Theater of the Absurd (albeit a catch-all phrase, but let’s not be academic.) In our own one-person shows, birthdays, including years, are changed. We’ve been turned from Jew toCatholic, , Irish to German, Korean to Dutch, Greek to Danish, Russian to Canadian, Disciples of Christ to Catholic, African American to Norwegian, Korean to Italian. Muslim to Cathokc (and yes, Muslms do get adopted) Ethiopian to Polish. Native American to anything, but. Mothers become our sisters (as in the case of Jack Nicholson and Eric Clapton). OK, they’re not adopted, but the pathology is the same; and plenty of adoptees have learned their “siblings” are indeed their mother or sister or brother–or worse.). And of course, some people never know they’re adopted or find out later in life. I once had a boss whose youngest brother was actually his son from a teen tryst and adopted by his parents.Nobody was supposed to know this, but I did. So if I did, then just everybody else did, too. I assume the brother-son did as well, but I never asked. I did not want to be the bearer of bad tidings. If this isn’t open to absurdity and satire, then nothing is. Only it’s not theatrer. It’s real life. It’s adoption.
While adoption and/or it’s pathology can be seen or at least interpreted in the work of Ionesco, Beckett, Genet, and later Christopher Durang. After reading Baby with the Bathwater and hearing Durang read excerpts from it, I was sure he was adopted, and asked if he had adoption in his background. He said he wasn’t and didn’t. Basically a absurdist take on identity, it sure sounded to me like it was written by an angry adoptee. Then, isn’t adoption about queered identity?
It’s Edward Albee though,who broke it open. The American Dream, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance,and Three Tall Women with the “minor” adoption plays Zoo Story, Tiny Alice, and The Play About the Baby inform more about adoption than any activist or academic could hope to accomplish, though I doubt that the Not Adopted get that point of it. Albee has been fairly reticent about his adoption, but he was one of Jean Paton’s original 40 interviewees for her groundbreaking work The Adopted Break Silence. (1953). They stayed in touch for years.
When I worked in theatre, Albee’s long-time agent (a cranky old woman) would call a couple times a month to demand we invite her client to come speak or do a residency. She was very upfront. He’ll cost you $xxxxx. We always wondered if Albee knew that’s how she was presenting him, if kept her on the books for long-time service, or if she ever actually got him a booking He’s from New York, you know. Anyway, for some reason my boss (not the one with the brother-son) really disliked Albee and always refused to talk to her, so it was my job to send Edward to the woodshed. How I hated that. If internet crowd funding were around back then, I’d have probably set up a GoFundMe page to bring Albee to Columbus so I could sit at his feet in awe of his bastard genius in bringing the absurdity of the adoptee experience to the stage. A friend of mine once attended a cocktail party in his honor and says that Albee spent the whole evening silently in a corner with a cat.
But this isn’t about Edward Albee tonight as much as I would like it to be.. I was just running away with an introduction. The real subject of my blog tonight is Bastard Nation’s Bedtime Stories. BN’s gracious and talented Secretary Emm Paul has been producing them nearly daily and posting them on our Facebok page. Taken from Little Golden Books and otherpopular grocery store popular children’s books that we all read or were read to us, Emm has seriously #flippedthescript with parodying the vastness and vapidness of the common adoptee narrative–that is, the narrative written by others. You know, like The Chosen Baby. Here’s some random samples:
ADOPTED CHILD SYNDROME (we have a lot of these)
Obviously, our book collection is not on a par with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but it’s damned good, and I’m proud to have such creative minds on the Bastard Bus. (For more Bastard humor go here.) For some reason, though, our humor exposing the absurdity of adoption offends the PC gang of happy adoptees who seem awfully angry about being happy, and scurry around Facebook clucking and tsk tsking. They probably think that Daniel DeFoe actually ate Irish children and they’d probably walkout of an Albee production. If Bastards can’t offend then what good are we?
We’ll have some news about Bastard Bedtime Stores in the near future. In the meantime, see our library on Pinterest. We also offer collections of unicorns, Bastard Nation Thoughts of the Day, men in kilts, Christopher Walken, and many more Bastardly visual delights.