Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tried and True Trick for Itchy Scalp

As a teenager, whenever I'd complain of dandruff or itchy scalp, my mother would tell me to douse my head in mouthwash. Though I hated to admit when she was right, this little trick worked every time. Even after I went away to college and discovered that the reason most every scalp/hair explanation or ritual my mother had proposed ended in epic failure was that my hair was actually "ethnic" (vis-a-vis birth culture discoveries/identity crisis) and could not be treated as simply White-person-curly hair, the mouthwash strategy remained a go-to for irritated scalp. Inevitably, the mouthwash will come in contact with hair, but it seems that hair, in any texture, doesn't react--it made no difference whether my hair was relaxed, bleached, half-kinked, or all natural. The roots never complained.

Say you have dry winter head when December hits, which is what happens to me. Or after a workout your head itches to no end and you just washed your hair yesterday and can't wash it again today or it will bloom into a giant, dried-out Afro. Get out the mouthwash. (Fluoride rinses do not work. Nor do non-alcohol based mouthwashes.) Pour a capful on your scalp, and immediately the minty liquid tingles and seals the pores. Rinse. Done. Problem-free scalp that lasts at least a week or two.

The only other thing I've found that comes close to soothing scalp is tea tree oil, but it doesn't always work right away for me. Mostly I stick with the mouthwash, and every winter when I reach for the bottle of Scope before stepping in the shower I think, "Guess what, Mom? You were right." 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Adoptees in Philly Discuss Searching

Philly-based adoption advocate Bob Hafetz was featured on the local news. In this short interview he discusses searching for birth family and what he found. It's not the rosy reunion you'd see in a Lifetime movie.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ode to Black Hair from Willow Smith

You've probably heard Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair," but did you know it was inspired by Sesame Street's song "I Love My Hair" released weeks before? (I blogged about it months ago here.) The Sesame Street version was a direct result of an adoption story (the creator is a White adoptive dad of an African girl who told him one day she wished she had straight blond hair), and Willow is continuing the trend. Forty million YouTube hits. Nice work, Willow--we need more positive hair reinforcement like this in the mainstream!

Of course, there's always the voice of dissent and bitterness when you talk about Black hair. The most recent viewer comment in response to the video is this: "Black women have an identity complex and thats why so many of them try to emulate white women by wearing perms,weaves, and even blonde wigs and blue contacts lol slavery really screwed you people up."

Sigh. That person needs whipped in the face with some hair--the braided and beaded kind.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Calling All Birthparents

The American Adoption Congress has taken this opportunity with Oprah's story in the media to encourage biological/natural/birth parents to come forward and sign petitions for support of original birth certificate access for adopted adults. I recently heard that when advocates in Oregon collected 500+ signatures on a similar petition in 1998, they drew the attention of a Seattle newspaper that ran it as a full-page ad, which helped change public opinion in that state regarding the need for access. Oregon is now one of the few states that allows adoptee access to original birth certificates.

Please forward the link below to any birthparents you know.

Calling All Birthparents



Thanks for supporting adoption reform.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Panel on Adoption Writing at National Writing Conference

Last week I attended the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in DC, and was surprised to find a panel on writing about adoption. Normally I only see those discussions at adoption-specific conferences, so it had me wondering if adoption writing is becoming more mainstream. The panel was called "Finding Identity in Cultural Margins: A Reading and Discussion on Transracial Adoption" and featured Korean-American poets Dana Collins, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, and Lee Herrick. (Two AA memoirists were scheduled to participate but couldn't make it due to weather.)

Dobbs read from her book Paper Pavilion, containing poems written before and after she visited Korea. Dana Collins read poems about connecting with her family abroad, specifically a sister. The essence of poetry, of course, lies not in what it's about but rather in its words, the images it conjures, the emotion it renders. Dobbs poetry to me is like a breath. It is ethereal, imaginative, stern. She dreams about pulling back a curtain and seeing her own conception. Collins poetry describes contrast and bright colors--it is a painting, a bright red cherry atop a white cupcake.

Why are so many adoptees drawn to write? The writers explained that "For transracial adoptees, separation from biological lineage leads to searching for what defines family and home." Keyword: search. To write is to search. To search for answers, to make real an experience of unremembered separation. In many ways we are blocked from searching for our families, due to sealed records, rules/regulations, or even our own emotions. But nothing can block someone from searching on the page for answers, for an image to rest against when you can't find your mother's arms. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Oprah is Touched by Adoption: A Sister Given Away

I'm a few weeks behind in posting about this, but sometimes it's good to let the stories simmer for a while before jumping in--often what remains unsaid is what I hope to highlight here.

On her show two weeks ago, Oprah revealed that she has a half-sister, named Patricia, who was given up for adoption in 1963. Oprah was nine years old and living with her father at the time, and she hadn't even known her mother was pregnant.

Patricia began searching for her birth mom, Ms. Vernita Lee, in 2007. Ms. Lee refused to talk to her. Eventually she got through to Oprah via a niece. Oprah was naturally skeptical at first, but finally her mother--as the reports say "reluctantly"--revealed that it was true. Oprah seems most touched by the fact that Patricia kept the whole thing a secret instead of selling the story to the media. 

What's our take-away lesson? There are several, I think. Many of us in the adoption community hope that when adoption touches a celebrity and results in media attention people will recognize the underbelly of the adoption process and help us change the system. Most of all the closed-records structure that perpetuates a culture of unhealthy secrecy. Some of this secrecy is rooted in shame, and laws that conceal personal information only reinforce this.  Obviously Ms. Lee was not keen on being contacted by her relinquished daughter. Rumor blogs say that she didn't want the show to run, either, but participated because she felt she had no choice (she appears later on the Jan. 24 episode). No doubt Ms. Lee needed time to digest the reappearance of her daughter. I suspect, though, that part of why she was "reluctant" about meeting her daughter or letting word get out is because of shame, a feeling many birth parents report experiencing.

People should be able to keep personal matters private, yes, but it gets complicated when your perceived "right" to secrecy or your feeling of shame or embarrassment impinges on another person's right to knowledge of self and family. I hope Ms. Lee is working through any shame now, and has sought supportive resources for sharing her story with others who have similar experiences (such as Concerned United Birthparents). I hope people are telling her again and again it's not shameful that she placed a child for adoption. I hope the media will stop using the words "hidden secret" in headlines about this story--why not "surprise sister returns" or "lost sister found"?

I hope, too, that people truly hear Patricia as she talks about why it was so important that she find her roots. Even her children expressed joy at seeing someone who "looks like [them]" and "has the same mannerisms." We must recognize that this knowledge is important in an unquantifiable yet fundamental way. Let us allow for openness and acceptance. Let us heal together these wounds of separation.

Further reading:
Huffington Post
Speakeasy (Patricia's failed attempts for contact with Ms. Lee)
Declassified Adoptee blog (excerpts from several bloggers' responses to Oprah's story)

Note: Oprah's new network OWN will begin airing a series called "Searching For," which follows a professional genealogist who helps people connect with lost loved ones, next Monday at 9 PM EST.