"On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings… in opposition. The prefix, as in "ambidextrous," means "both." The rest of it, in Latin, means "vigor." The word suggests that you are torn… between two opposing courses of action." – Dr Wick, Girl Interrupted
Several months ago, in a restaurant in Northhampton, Mass:
"I am adopted, you know" he said.
"Yeah, I recall you mentioned that" I responded. Internally I found myself puzzled that he forgot he told me that before. Did he also forget that I am a mother who surrendered her child to the adoption industry?
"Yeah, well, so anyway. While I grew up partly in the States, I also grew up in the French countryside as my adoptive father was French" he continued. "It was tough at times but now, as an adult, I am thankful for all that it gave me. I am multilingual, cultured and have had many opportunities. I learned to better appreciate the challenges of my adopted life after I met the gnats" he continued.
"The gnats?" I inquired.
"Yeah, you know, my natural parents. Nats." he said with a smile.
"Oh, I thought you meant gnats, like those small annoying bugs that attack you at dusk or in damp places." I responded.
"Ha ha, no. Nats. My bio parents. It is my preferred word. Bio and birth seems so cold and harsh and doesn't give enough respect. Nats is more appropriate and comfortable for me." he said as he stuffed two pieces of his sushi roll into his mouth.
For a second I pondered debating what others feel about the natural parent reference. (Does that make adoptive parents "un-natural"?) I decided against it. I really wasn't in the mood to debate adoption terminology. If he wants to call his parents "nats" thats his choice. I wanted to enjoy my spicy tuna roll and watch the passing foot traffic in NoHo Center.
"Yeah, I found my mother many years ago and lived with her for a while. It was interesting." he continued on without my prodding.
"Oh?" I responded. I was hoping that my lack of dialog would make it clear that I really did not want to discuss this topic but he was steadfast.
"Yeah, I found her and lived with her for a few years. It was really nice to finally see people that looked like me, had my talents, talked like me and such. I felt like I belonged there. I never really felt that way with my adopted parents. That was really weird but kinda cool. She was very nice to me. She really missed me and was glad to get to know me." he said with an odd tone to his voice.
"You lived with her for a few years?" I asked rather incredulously.
"Yeah, I needed a place to crash for a while and she was very willing to let me stay with her for as long as I wanted. So I did." sushi eating friend says.
"Wow. How did that go? Do you still see her?" I asked with a renewed interest.
"No. I moved on a few years go. I found a better place to stay and I left her place." He said quite dryly.
"Oh, do you still talk to her?" I asked.
"Nah, not really. She still wants to hear from me, still writes me, but I have no desire. I got what I needed. I have moved on. She means nothing to me. Family is the people you grow up with. Not the ones who give birth to you." He continued.
I choke on some sushi rice.
"She still contacts you and you don't respond?" I asked with a tone that was probably a bit too emotional.
"Oh, I do sometimes, but not because I want to or because she matters to me or I care. I just do it to pacify her. She will text me. Sometimes I answer her. Sometimes I don't. She will write. I don't write back. She calls. I don't call back. Sometimes I email but I am just doing it to be nice. I don't really want her in my life." He states firmly.
I begin to feel a bit sick and wonder if it is the sushi I just ate or the company I have chosen to keep for the day. I curse myself for getting into this conversation in the first place. I feel the need to escape.
"Will you excuse me, I need to use the ladies room" I say.
He must have forgotten who is he talking to. Would he be so callous if he remembered that I lost my child to a baby broker? Do I want to remind him or do I just want to get the flock out of here?
After quickly paying the bill, saying goodbye to the friends at the table, I flocked.
A few days ago in a restaurant in Hartford, CT:
"I only answer her because I feel obligated to. I don't care about her at all. I wish she would not text me or write me or expect anything from me. She may have pushed me out of her crotch but she is not my mother. She is nothing to me." says the young, reunited, female adoptee standing in front of me.
I am reminded of my experience in Northhampton a few months back and experience this times wins out.
I left the conversation.
Today, as I sit and recall these conversations I find myself actually grateful to my daughter.I am glad she chooses not to talk to me. I would much rather her be true to herself and her feelings than to be fake and pacify me or "tolerate me" or send me empty messages out of some sense of obligation.
I find the alternative quite sad and even a tad bit insulting and offensive, maybe even outright cruel.