Saturday, February 18, 2012

We're headed out on vacation tomorrow morning, to spend a week with my in-laws on Maui. That over there to your left is a picture from our last trip to their timeshare on the island. Looking at it makes me feel proud, sweet, and sort of old. Now, six years later, I'm headed back to paradise. This time with two kiddos, a much shorter and less blond hairdo and well...let's just say I'm not any thinner.

But on the plus side(haha, get it?? PLUS SIDE?!?) someone amazing made us matching family swimsuits and this time around I have a much better camera. We have big plans to spend most of our time lounging near sand and water, in sunshine, and possibly in the presence of whales.

Have a great week internet! Unless serious blogging inspiration strikes whilst I am away I will see you on the other side of next week.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No help for me.

Recently I posted a link to this altered movie poster for The Help on my facebook page, and a fairly typical conversation ensued. It's one I've had with a lot of white people lately, because many of my friends and family assume that of course I will have read, watched, and be interested or moved by The Help. This poster captured, in what I felt was a light and humorous way, why I'm not interested in that particular story. But I'm having a hard time explaining that to the nice people who are shocked and then shortly afterward sort of offended that I don't want to support it in any way.  I usually end those conversations by simply reiterating that if I am going to read something to do with the history of black civil rights in our country I would prefer that it be a work that is written by a black person and told from a black person's point of view.  This is especially true if the story is fiction.  It doesn't necessarily mean I think The Help is racist or that anyone who reads it is racist. (I am learning that when talking about race with my people -the white people - it is very important to be clear that whatever comes out of my mouth I am not accusing any individual person of being racist. It makes us very upset.)

So I've been looking for  a way to explain why I don't find The Help compelling enough to invest time and money in. And then I came across an article on Jezebel recently about a picture in a scottish clothing catalogue that featured a white model and a black model. Jezebel, one of my favorite feminist pop culture blogs (warning - if you poke around much there you'll find colorful language and the occasional NSFW item) points out that while it is nice to see a black model, she is basically a prop in the picture. Initially one might look at the picture and think "oh how great, some diversity- a white person and a black person hanging out, selling clothes together." But if you look closely, nothing the black model is wearing is for sale. The implicit assumption is that her presence in some way augments the desirability of the white model. Readers of the catalogue should want to be like the white woman, a pretty white person in a striped cardigan hanging out with a person of color, but they would never want to emulate or imitate the person of color. She's just there for show. This is problematic.

The Help is probably a fine book in that it may be compelling and well written. It is likely a good movie in that it features stand out performances by good actresses, nice costumes, accomplished cinemetography, etc. But it is, ultimately, a story about a white person who learns things from the oppression (by white people)that some black people she knows are suffering from. It's written by a white person who claims she learned things from black people who suffered from oppression by white people. Like the photo it features black people but I'm not convinced that it is about their experience as much as it is about the experience of white people who observed black experience. Which isn't compelling to me.

I also get this nagging feeling like it is a story that has been told too many times. The vast majority of African-Americans who were enslaved, belittled, and oppressed by white folk in this country did not have a plucky white person going against dominant culture to help them out. And yet somehow many survived, persevered, even triumphed. That's the story I want to see on screen, the book I want to read.

Friday, February 10, 2012

for the ladies

J and Auntie Carly
Last weekend was one of my favorite holidays of the year. You may not have heard of it because it is a holiday that I made up, along with one of my best friends. It involves gift giving and is only for the ladies and I will tell you more details about it some other time. But the best part is that this holiday brings my friends back to town, and so I got to have 2/3 of my far away best ladies back in town to talk to, play with, and watch as they built bonds of mutual affection with my girls.

Friendships are hard work - and I have been through some serious life with both D and Carly for the past 12+ years. But their visits reminded me how it is worth it to stick with the choice to love and be loved through the ups, downs, changes and reversals that years of relationship bring. One my core values is the belief that when it comes to loving blood relationships aren't the only relationships that last forever, or that make a people family with each other.  Being with each of these chosen sisters of mine and watching them love my chosen daughters was the best part of the best holiday weekend of the year.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Questions and Answers

There is a new Open Adoption Roundtable up, and it's all about questions and answers. Follow that link to read other bloggers responses.

It is likely that we've all had that experience at some time: someone asking us to speak to the choices or feelings of others in our adoption constellation. Perhaps it is someone asking a first parent how their child feels about being in an open adoption. Or someone asking an adoptee why their adoptive parents chose to adopt. You get the idea.How do you handle such questions when they are asked of you? How would you want the other parties in your open adoption to handle those questions when they are about you?
Despite being open about the fact that I have never met my daughters' first mom, I get questions like this all the time. In fact, since baby S arrived it has intensified. My theory is that while my girls' genetic connection to each other is something that is easy to celebrate it is difficult for people to come up with a mental backstory for it on their own. So as soon as someone ferrets out the relationship, something I wrote about here, then the questions about Z begin.

Are these her only children?
Why didn't she use birth control?
How did it happen again?
So...she gave up two babies?
Why did she do this twice?

and so forth. I can feel my defenses go up when anyone asks questions about Z and her motives and reasons for needing to place.  I see Z as our family, and I don't feel comfortable sharing all the details of what I know about her with everyone or conjecturing about what I don't know. So the challenge for me is to step back from my instincts - which are to defend or explain or simply shut down the conversation, usually - and instead to default to the time honored "Why do you ask?" response that is my standby. If pressed I will usually say that she needed to place and made the best choice she could for her children. I will not discuss her pregnancies or conjecture about the hows or whys there.

This is the thing I come back to over and over - while questions about Z and her reasons and situation and so forth are totally natural, they are not fair. This isn't stuff that my kids can understand right now but someday they'll have these questions too. I don't want them to glean answers from overhearing me talk to friends or strangers. I want them to get those answers from a direct conversation with, well ideally with Z. It's her story.

It's hard, and I do talk about our adoption experience. But I do my best to talk about MY experience or about Andrew's and my experience without telling someone else's story. And someday when I have a little more courage and presence of mind that's exactly what I'll say - that the answers to those particular questions just aren't my story to tell.