Dear Adoption, I Want Center Stage Back
I’m Mike. I was adopted as an infant. I have told my happy adoption story over and over for most of my life. I’ve performed on command as the all star of my family. I’ve said, “I’m grateful” at all the right cues. I have shouldered the weight of being all my parents hoped for and all society needed me to be in order to fulfill my role as adopted child.
Me and my life story was a main topic at dinner parties, birthday parties, shopping malls, in 7-11’s, and at my school.
On command, I smiled the special smile; the one that forced a dimple on my left cheek to appear and made my eyes even more squinty to enhance that I was Asian. The rest of the time I tried like hell to bulge my eyes into an almond shape like the rest of my family, friends, and city.
When friends and strangers told me how lucky I was and how I must be so grateful to be raised by such good, unselfish parents, I beamed at them with wholesome gratitude and inferiority.
I took center stage like a professional adoptee. Damn. I was good.
And you liked me there, Adoption. You gladly shone your spotlight on me and my ability to be an Asian orphan when it brought glory to your name and to the good, white people who rescued me.
On my 27th birthday it happened. Small amounts of buried grief and loss began trickling out of me until eventually a tsunami of sadness and ingratitude knocked me on my ass.
Later, I learned the term for what happened to me was “coming out of the fog”.
You can call it that of you want. Maybe I just stopped giving a shit?
I found myself responding in frustration and truth when my adoption story was brought up. Sometimes people literally gasped.
I have never, will never speak ill of my adoptive family, but I also will not ignore my grief. They were not my saviors and I was not their rescue dog.
It’s pretty awful that everyone around me celebrated major losses in my life and then didn’t have any regard for me: the person who actually lost a family, a culture, and an identity. Instead, they ignored the sad parts and praised my family for taking me in.
Everyone wanted to hear my story in the middle of the store when I showed you my dimple, my Asian eyes, and praised adoption. Now, they shake their heads when I don’t declare gratitude as my permanent state of mind. Now, they have the nerve to be offended.
I was center stage when I agreed that my parents were saints who rescued me from certain death (or as I like to more accurately call it now, “a different life”).
I want center stage back. Give me your ears now. Listen to me now. You try staying afloat when the waves keep crashing in order to drown and quiet.
You gave me center stage when I was the happy adoptee and I’ve decided I want it back. I’m going to take it back with my fellow adoptees and until I do, you may have the back of me: no dimple, no eyes, not anymore.