In my 2023 “Welcome” post, I included a video by my Sister-in-Bastardy, Annette O’Connell I thought it was fantastic! I wasn’t aware or didn’t catch it, but Annette is making more videos this month. Please go to YouTube and check out her work.
November 3rd’s video on the subject of adoption propaganda (adoptaprop) really struck home with her discussion of among others, the adoptaprop myth: “Your mother loved you so much she gave you away.” While most adoption mythology and adoptaprop bounce off my insensitive self, (that is, I don’t take it personally), this one always sets me off. It makes no sense. The height of cognitive adoption dissonance. The height of adoptee commodification. A weird binary of generosity and greed. How is this trope supposed to make someone, especially children, feel secure or good or ultimately safe and loved?
Annette discusses the absurdity of this myth. She points out that people who dearly love someone or something (such as a child loves a beloved stuffed animal) do not joyfully give them away, shut them out of their lives. People don’t cut off a beloved family member, never talk about them again much less think about them because they love them so much and it’s the right thing to do. I think the promotion of this idea, especially by church and state, is pretty sociopathic, but then what else can we say adoption is, but sociopathic? No other social policy turns lives into a game of Trivia. No other relationship is treated like The Black Death. No one but adopted people and their biological families are told to shut up and stuff it.
I remember quite well when I was told I was adopted. I can’t quite remember my age, but I was very very young, 3 but no older than 4, since I’m sure we hadn’t yet moved to Canton, and were still in in Warren, Ohio.
We were in the grungy, ill-lit basement, where clothes hung on a line and coal lay scattered in the corner–appropriately gothic for the task at hand. I was “helping” my mom do the laundry. I think she was ironing. I remember the sweater she was wearing: beige with a neck that looked like braided chocolate. It is one of the few pieces of my mom’s clothing back then, that I remember. It was my favorite.
I’m not sure how she brought up the subject, but I do remember, “Your parents couldn’t take care of you” followed by something like “So you came to live with us.” I am pretty sure that “she loved you so much that she gave you away” wasn’t said, but it was presumed. But worse, the message came across–not then since I filed this bit of information away, and went on with whatever I was doing that day, but as I got older. I translated the message into ” your mother loved you so much, she threw you away.” I felt like I didn’t deserve much of anything. I was never bullied, but my mom worried that I deferred to other kids; I didn’t stand up for myself like I should. She, in fact, always stood up for herself, which made it worse.
It’s been a long time since your-mother-loved-you-so-much-she-threw-you- away has popped into my head in any serious way. I think the last time that happened was an evening when my boyfriend Charle U was drunk and acting like an asshole. We were in his kitchen and arguing about something. More like a quibble. Something triggered me and I blurted out, “You’re throwing me away like my mother did.” There was so much rage there.
This was in the early days of Bastard Nation, an outburst or serious throwaway thought. Since then it hasn’t seriously crossed my mind–at least not with that rage. I am a firm believer that activism is a cure, or at least a balm, to the fake mother-love lie and other “adoptionis beautiful” slogans that are supposed to make everybody feel good, but make us feel like nobodies and worthless.
And the stuffed animal…
When I was a kid I had what I believe is called a camel coat. It was tan wool with a tie belt and epaulets. I had a thing for epaulets (still do). I felt like a soldier or spy wearing it. At the same time I was enjoying my winter coat, my hometown received a number of Hungarian refugees from the 1956 uprising. My mom got involved with a local project collecting household goods and clothing for our local refugees. She decided that I would “donate” my beloved coat. It was supposed to teach me a lesson in sharing or charity, I guess. Well, I had plenty of stuff I would have gladly donated, but not my coat. I remember screaming and crying–I assume acting like a big brat. This did not teach me a lesson in sharing. I equated it with the she-loved-you-so-much-she-gave-you-away lie, though didn’t say it out loud. It taught me, as Annette suggests, that love = loss.
I’m still mad about about my coat.
(No, it will never be X!)