I was young, maybe 4, when I learned where babies came from. I was sitting on a leopard-print couch in my mom’s bachelorette apartment, and her friend decided on a whim to read to me that seminal ’70s book on the nitty-gritty of conception, “Where Did I Come From?” I remember experiencing a gag reflex and wanting to plug my ears and sing lalalalalalala.The piece also talks about her limited contact with her birth parents as an adult, so go read the whole thing. I was mostly interested in what she shared about her childhood adoption talks and emotions, including what sounds like a god-awful adoption talk at age 6 (!).
“Ewww, that is so gross,” I said.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
“No, it’s really, really gross,” I said and held my ground for the next decade.
When I was 6, I learned where I came from, which was one step removed from the usual circumstances. I was adopted. The adoption talk was less nauseating but equally perplexing. My mother, who has a penchant for tangents, got sidetracked by a lengthy explanation of black-market adoptions before reassuring me that that was not how I’d been acquired.
There was the time before I knew and the time after I knew, but I’m unaware of there being any significant emotional shift. If I’d been given the choice of meeting my biological parents or getting a nice dossier on them, I would have chosen the latter. I was never obsessed with being adopted. I was simply curious about my biological parents.
I didn’t feel a strong bond with the parents who raised me, and I had anything but a happy childhood. My mother was overly sensitive; my father, ascetic. I was neither. I felt as if I were living with complete strangers. I suspect that my parents felt the same way. They had always been unnaturally suspicious of me, going so far as to check my arm for needle marks before I’d ever gone to a party or gotten drunk. But knowing that I was adopted untethered me from some of that unhappiness. I was alone but happily so. I was free to make up any story I wanted about where I came from.
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