Sunday, November 29, 2009

Speaking of Reunions

I haven't been sure how or when to post about this, but I'll just say a little for now.

Last week, right before Thanksgiving, I made contact with my biological paternal family. They...sort of...found me. It's complicated, but probably the most unique thing about it is how the connection was made: through Facebook.

Out of respect to the family (my family!) I'll refrain from going into too much detail at this point. It's all very fresh and new, and these things are always tricky at first. I'm not sure what will come of this. I do know that there is a sense of relief because I have answers to things that have always been important but yet persistently remained unresolved because of that "secret" part of closed adoption--my family health history, my racial heritage, more pieces of the puzzle.

If you pray, think of me and these newborn connections as we navigate relationships and what exactly it means to be family. Thank you.

Adoption Reunion Show on ABC

Apparently ABC is taking a new interest in adoption--well, reunions that is--for its new show Find My Family. (Reunion is only one part of the life of a person who has experienced adoption as an adoptee, a birth parent, or an adoptive parent, but reunions provide good dramatic fodder for the big screen and always get all the attention.)

People in the adoption community are waiting to see how the show's producers will treat the complex issues surrounding adoption. Hopefully the show won't merely sensationalize what are often highly emotional reunion events. Hopefully it won't over-commercialize these personal experiences.

The show's host, Tim Green, is a reunited adoptee, so his personal involvement in adoption might abate some of these fears, but we'll have to see. A preview of the show aired last week, and Tom Shales of the Washington Post found it to be a touching tear-jerker in his review. If you caught the show last week, what did you think?

If you haven't seen it yet, the next show airs tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 30) at 9/8c on ABC.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adoptions Finalized in Pittsburgh

Today I read an uplifting article about 49 foster-care adoptions that took place in Allegheny County this weekend, a celebration of National Adoption Day. Check it out on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette site here.

Mixed Chicks Chat Radio Podcast Update

The radio show I was featured on in October is available for listen online, if you're interested :) Or you can select Episode 123 below. I read a section from my manuscript about the first time I encountered blackface.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interracial Couples: White Guys Can Understand Kinky Hair Issues

A recent Naturally Curly article discusses how one black woman's white husband totally gets her hair issues. Well, he might not totally get them, but he understands. He knows to tread lightly when she asks him about new 'dos. He would never shun her for doing a "Big Chop" (AKA cutting it super short to go natural) or for deciding one day to get microbraids. This is more than some can say for their mates.

We all know many black men have hair issues--issues with women's hair, that is. Some women might think that only a mate from within the black community would understand the importance of hair, since it's often such a big deal within the community as a whole. But there's something to be said for guys who have no prior hang-ups. And for guys who will truly love you for who you are--no matter your hair's natural texture or the way you decide to style it.


On another note, I found this article refreshing, not only because of the "hair freedom" topic, but because it emphasizes a particular interracial coupling: the black female with a white male. More often, you see white-woman-black-man couples (especially in Hollywood--but perhaps they just get more media attention and those depictions don't necessarily match reality?) There are people in the black community who get quite upset about this trend. They say there's already a lack of available black men, and it's just a slap in the face to see them step outside the race like that. Then there's the statistic that 60-70% of black female professionals are single. Essence magazine often prints articles about how to keep your man from wandering. The incarceration rate for black men compared to any other demographic in this country is overwhelmingly high. These facts are distressing, to say the least.

There's something to be said about dating someone within your community, whatever community that is most important to you--religious, racial, political, hair (ha!). But at what cost? What if a person is part of one of your communities but not all? What if he's part of your community but there are other problems, problems you aren't sure negate your commonalities? Isn't it more important that you find someone who loves you for you and will support you through all of life's toils and joys?

Easier said than done, I think. At least for me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Adoption is the New Pregnant"

Check out this hilarious T-shirt, which apparently--based on my perusal on Google--is pretty popular.


November is National Adoption Month

November is national adoption month. If you've ever considered adopting or fostering a child, think about doing it now. If you know an adopted person or there is an adopted person in your family, celebrate! Talk to friends about your experiences. Find community. Read up on current adoption issues and legislation.

Whoever you are or whatever your connection to adoption, there are lots of resources out there for you. One that I find particularly helpful right now is the American Adoption Congress: It's a national organization, with resources for adopting, searching, reuniting, state laws, etc. They host at least one conference per year, and actively continue the dialogue about adoption, from the perspectives of all members of the triad. Membership is discounted during November. Check it out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nappy or Not Hair Salon

While in Oakland last week I decided to get a haircut. More often than not lately my head has been a frizzball because I've been avoiding cutting the split ends.

I thought, Sure, I can go to a totally new salon (provided that it's an ethnic one). I'm not so protective of my hair or worried that something will go awry. My hair no longer carries the weight of hiding. Plus, it's easier to be adventurous when you're traveling somewhere new.

After asking for a few recommendations from Lisa, I picked the Nappy or Not Hair Salon, partially because I love the name.

I should have known.

A bored-looking girl in her early twenties reluctantly stopped text messaging and led me back to the shampoo area, which was a dingy corner half-partitioned off from the rest of the room. Dirty, unmarked tubs of various creams and shampoos dotted the shelf above the washing sinks. I'm not a snob, I told myself. A little salon ghetto is always comforting to me anyway.

The girl lathered my hair with about ten times as much shampoo as I normally use. It was the real sudsy kind, which meant it was full of irritating chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate and laureth sulfate. She scrubbed my head with her fingernails. I wanted to tell her, "You know, more does not equal better. Lather is NOT good (signals stripping away of nutrients, and it's the kind of soap that doesn't fully rinse out of hair). You should use the pads of your fingers instead of your fingernails." But I didn't. She smoothed a minty oil all over my head and attempted to start combing it but then gave up quickly and stepped into the other room to finish text messaging while the conditioner oil did its work. I combed my hair myself. The oil was good--it smelled of essential oils (hooray for natural ingredients!) and felt tingly on my scalp. That was something, at least.

After the rinse the beautician finally got to me. I told her I wanted a trim--not much length taken off, and maybe some shaping near the top. She smiled and began to cut, and my nervousness set in. I wanted to nibble my nails with every snip. I tried to concentrate on the Everybody Hates Chris show that was blaring from the TV. Girl was paying too much attention to it herself and not enough on my hair, I thought. She laughed, and doubled over several times, taking my hair with her. Oh Lord, please let it be over.

I did not bring up conversations about ethnic hair, about the natural hair movement, all the conversations I've been obsessing over for years. I am able to just get a simple haircut without considering the political implications of hair, race, etc. It's just hair.

And then a man who obviously knew the stylist came into the salon and began watching Chris Rock's show.

"You all know that movie Good Hair?" he asked innocently.

Oh Lord.

No one had seen it but me.

"What did you think," he asked.

Here we go.

Well, I told him. It was funny, but didn't really get too deep into the issues behind--


I sighed. Apparently I cannot escape this. It is my life. The man stood up.

I explained that what Rock didn't talk too much about was why black women are obsessed with hair, that some people think they're trying to attain a Eurocentric notion of beauty...


The stylist spoke up and said that more and more people are going natural and--


I looked from the shampoo girl to my stylist. We shared a knowing look. It wasn't worth it.

At last she finished by smoothing my hair with some sort of grease concoction she claimed to have created herself out of mayonnaise and egg. My hair looked incredibly short, but I knew it would look okay tomorrow. I paid her (girl charged me an extra $20 because it was a full cut instead of a trim, which was baloney) and left, shaking my head.

Hair. It never ends.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

AFAAD Gathering

The long-awaited AFAAD (Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora) Gathering took place last weekend in Oakland, CA. Friday through Sunday between ten and 30 mostly transracial adoptees (TRAs) gathered to share stories, discuss the myriad of issues we face in our uniquely bi-cultural positions, exchange notes on the shape of adoption in our various states, and share advice and support for those who are thinking about searching or are in the midst of searching for birth family.

It was refreshing, just as I knew it would be. To be around people who understand wholly the experiences I've been through--and have often experienced them in some form or another themselves--is still something new, something I didn't have for my first 25 years. So many of us TRAs grew up feeling tremendous isolation, within our communities and often within our families too. I wasn't the only one whose racial heritage was withheld from the adoptive family for one reason or another. I wasn't the only one who struggled with her hair. :)

Many of us never realized the impact our adoption would have as we moved into adulthood. It's annoying to face these issues, to deracinate our identities and admit that when things have gone wrong in our lives it might be a ghost of that first broken connection with the birth mother. Exhausting. But--like all things frail and human--full of hope.

Personally I've come so far this year alone. No longer do I have inexplicable, blooming anxiety every time I see my parents. No longer do I feel overcome with grief that I don't understand. I have found peace about my incomplete search. It's okay I'll likely never have a true relationship with my birth mother, that we might just keep exchanging occasional letters and phone calls that rarely move beyond pleasantries. It's okay that I might never find my birth father. I might never see his face and measure it against my own. Hold his arm next to mine and weigh our skin tone. Get a good look at his hair. Tell him if only I'd known growing up that he was black it would have made all the difference.... It is safe now.

As for adoption-centered gatherings as a whole, I think I prefer ones that include all members of the triad--adoptees, adopted parents, and birth parents. It can be helpful to remember the perspectives of all parties involved, to see the struggle of others too. The voice of the adoptive parent does not have to drown out the voice of the adoptee or the birth parent. No one's struggle supersedes another's. It takes more work sometimes to get there though, patience too. Fierce compassion when you might just want to go off and cry instead. And for those moments sometimes it's important to just be with others like you.

So, I urge anyone out there who is adopted and has never met another adopted person to find a gathering or a conference or a support group of some kind. Depending on where you are on your journey it is comforting--and sometimes downright crucial--to have someone you can talk to who will just get it.

Some say the devil's greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn't exist...I say his biggest trick is convincing people they are alone in their suffering.