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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Book Tour #5: The Kid

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about The Kid? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Tour by visiting the master list in the post above. Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #6 (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman) and all are welcome to join along (see the post above to sign up). All you need is a book and blog.

This was my second time reading the book. I love Dan Savage's column, Savage Love, and I've always enjoyed his essays and contributions to This American Life. I laughed a lot more the first time around--not sure if it was a matter of remembering the lines or whether I'm in a different place in life. But overall, it's a fantastic book about his experience with adoption.

Dan Savage comes to truly appreciate doing an open adoption, particularly at the moment that Melissa transfers the baby to him and Terry. He states that seeing her pain and feeling the pain of their separation "drove home the logic of open adoption, its absolute necessity" (pg. 216). How do you feel about open adoption? Did reading Savage's book influence your feelings?

I have mixed feelings about open adoption, and many of them have to do with a lack of true understanding about the day-to-day realities of open adoption. I have many assumptions about the arrangement, but I know they're just assumptions based on my own fears, beliefs, and stories I've read. It's difficult to sort out my feelings while standing outside the situation. Plus, I've only observed closed or semi-open adoption situations. It's really a matter of the semi-known vs. the complete unknown. I reserve judgment on which form of adoption is best for me and my family until I'm deeper in the process. How is that for vague and noncommittal?

I am always wary of any statements of "this is the best way." I don't think there is a best way--there is simply the path that is most right for you and your family and for the birth parents (because I'm not sure a single path can be everyone's best choice in this complex decision-making process, but I think you can choose the one that is best for the most people). I like the honesty that comes with open adoption, but like everything in life, there are also many drawbacks that need to be taken into consideration when making your choice.

How did you feel about a gay male explaining the emotions of infertility starting on p. 22? Were you offended or impressed? Do you think he got it right or was he far from the mark? Did you feel that he was correct when he said on p. 26, “I understood what they must have been going through”?

There were a few times when I thought Dan got the emotions of infertility correct, but they weren't necessarily the times when he was explaining the emotions of infertility. I marked a passage on page 29 that begins "This was my first personal experience with lesbian deep-process, and I can't say I cared for it." The powerlessness and lack of control felt more like infertility to me.

I thought his line "I understood what they must have been going through" was a tad condescending. Does the opposite hold true too? I understand the experience of being a gay male because I'm infertile? I never felt like Dan got his thoughts about infertility right, though he grasped aspects of infertility such as the powerlessness, anxiety, and frustration. But I also didn't need Dan to get the feelings right. His book wasn't about explaining infertility, it was about telling his own adoption story. And for that, he did a damn fine job.

When I first read The Kid, one of the things that struck me was how different Dan and Terry's experiences were because they hadn't experienced infertility. They were coming to adoption from a different place than I am and it sensitized me to how much time we spent talking about infertility issues and losses in some of the adoption classes I've taken. How did that aspect of the book change how you think about adoption literature, classes, groups, etc or how you interact with people who are pursuing adoption?

I think--like in so many places in life--adoption literature as well as fertility clinic literature is heterocentric. I think all pamphlets and materials are written with the majority in mind and I think only those who are in a minority notice the telling language choices. Not being represented rarely bothers me unless I've already raised the point. If I've mentioned the nature of the word choice and it is repeated again or my feelings are dismissed, I'm no longer as forgiving over the gaff.

We're all a product of our own experience. I think we can train ourselves to be sensitive and thoughtful. I think we can think before we speak. But, at the end of the day, we are a product of what we know. I think we often don't even know that we're not being sensitive because our word choice feels so natural to ourselves. Plus, there's a big difference in the level of sensitivity I can extend to a person one-on-one vs. the sensitivity I can extend to a wide audience. I'm sure I have inadvertently offended someone with my thoughts by writing widely like this rather than having a conversation one-on-one with another person. Adoption is also a very sensitive subject where the feelings of numerous people have to be considered at once. I don't envy the people who have to write these pamphlets.


Lori said...

At the start of Adoption School (3 day class at the end of the homestudy), the facilitators had us line up according to our comfort level with open adoption: 0% to 100% comfortable.

Would you be surprised to know that all 12 of us huddled to the left of center?

It was because we didn't know. But we were open to learning.

We 6 couples now have varying degrees of openness, each finding what works best for our situations.

I'm also a big fan of vague and noncommital. I think. ;-)

Bea said...

I like your rule about forgiving first, but not subsequent offenses.

As far as the "best way" goes - I guess the problem is too many people confuse "best" with "good", and then they try to generalise too much. If people kept in mind that the "best" solution is not necessarily good for everyone, we'd all get along much better.


Ellen K. said...

Great review. I admit, I bristled when he said of their lawyer friends who had adopted twice and then conceived, "They discovered they weren't infertile after all." But to me, what was more important than total accuracy was a sense of validation -- and I so much appreciated Savage saying, in so many words, "Infertility must really suck."

Ruta said...

The Kid has to be one of my favorite adoption books, hands-down. :-)

On open adoption -- I'm not a fan, and actually would put myself in the 0-5% camp. That's not as an adoptive parent; that's as an adopted kid. Working through a lot of issues was tough enough; handling the presence of a bio-mom would have made it harder for me, personally. I began communicating with my bio-mom when I was 26 (took 3 years for us to meet). It's been 7+ years and it's been tough maintaining my boundaries (she wants a much closer relationship than I do). Could not have managed those boundaries as a kid, no question about it.

As for #3 -- I approached infertility very differently from others because I'm adopted. To me, adoption was always the natural step; having bio-kids was the exception, the oddity. Heck, I'd never seen a bio relative until I met bio-mom at 29. I took it as a given that we would adopt one day and when infertility hit, it affected me strongly ... but I never saw it as preventing me fron becoming a parent because I always planned to adopt. Does that make sense? It's a hard thing to explain, a very different mind-set from most people.

Josh said...

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that Dan gets certain aspects of the emotions of infertility right. And it is a far leap to get from there to claiming total empathy. But what strikes me is how universal some emotions can be, even though analagous situations can vary so greatly. Being a gay man does not give you automatic insight to the feelings of infertility any more riding the metro to work gives me automatic insight to the life of a hobo because we both like the rhythm of the tracks. But both the gay man, the infertile woman, the guy on the metro and the hobo are all humans -- and sometimes it is good to remember that while our experiences are unique to us; our emotions are part of a much larger palette common to humanity. End of sermon.

Deb said...

I agree with your point about not needing him to understand the feelings. That wasn't why the book was written.

Thanks for sharing!