I was going to name this post Great Expectations but some English asshole decided to write a book with the same title back in 1861. So you have to just deal with the silver medalist in the headline competition. Sorry about that, but what can I say, this is a second-rate blog. Anyway, invariably, every week after the Sane One reads the post, she sighs and tells me that being called the Sane One doesn't give her a lot of latitude for going nuts. Now the funny thing is that the "let's get crazy" chromosome is nowhere to be found in her DNA, so I honestly don't think she could even go nuts if she wanted to. But I do understand a little why being put on a pedestal can feel a little...uncomfortable. Having any unwanted attention on you can feel the same way. Which is a perfect segue into what I want to talk about this week!
"You're so lucky!"
If I had a nickle for every time I head that statement growing up, I'd probably be the owner of The Washington Post. I heard this mostly from adults -- teachers, random people at church, strangers at the shopping mall, but most often from my grandparents. My grandparents were remarkable people in many ways, but neither one of them had a degree in international adoption. First, let me be clear, my grandparents were very doting and very loving. Even when my grandfather would give me my daily lecture of "If you don't apply yourself, you'll be done for when you grow up," I knew it was because he wanted me to live up to my potential. So this is not a bitchfest about my grandparents at all. Having said that...What the fuck, Grandpa? Why did you have to consistently remind us (mostly me) how lucky I am to be living in the US? I get it, Korea sucks and America is #1. You really needed to give this consistent lecture more to my brother and sister, who were much, much younger when they were adopted and have very few memories of Korea. I, on the other hand, was "lucky" enough to have lots of them.
Having well-intentioned comments from older people constantly being told to you creates a little bit of a guilty conscience. I can't speak for domestic adoptees, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was similar. I would guess the opinions were just probably not as strong and possibly less frequent, because they probably looked more like their parents. It's pretty clear when you take a look at my parents and me how the whole family came about. Which, on a side note, kind of sucks. The Sane One and I were visiting my parents in Florida not too long ago, and we were dining out, and I looked around and realized that everyone would probably assume that my parents were in fact the Sane One's because they are all white. If someone were to hear me say "Hey mom, try the bisque" they would probably think it's really sweet that the wife's parents have really embraced their son-in-law into their family. So it's a nice warm and fuzzy, but totally the wrong warm and fuzzy! Ok, that's the required tangent out of the way, so now back to our regularly scheduled rant.
Where was I? Oh yeah, guilty conscience. Getting adopted puts the adoptee into a very powerless position. No one will ever come up to me and say, "Wow, I can't you believe you left your claim to the Kingdom of Korea so that you could grow up in middle-class affluence in the United States and be racially discriminated against on a semi-constant basis! That's so cool!" Adoptions normally come out of tragic situations. So yes, we, as adoptees, are truly fortunate to come into (ideally) a loving home that we can call our own. International adoption provides an additional level of inferiority, because our native lands are such....let's see, what's a real presidential way of saying this.....got it.....third world shit-holes. Yes, Grandpa, I get it that I probably wouldn't be eating clams casino in Korea right now. I get that the Lego castle set that you got us for Christmas would never even be an aspirational item for a Korean kid in the 80's. You are great and I am pond scum. You are magnanimous in letting the pond scum be in the same room as all of you saints.
Because of this guilt, I think many of us felt an unspoken pressure to be better than we really had to be. We had to be the best behaved and the best students. When I would act out in school, I didn't get the same lecture as Jason or Erica. They would get "Stop being an asshole." I would get "Do you know how lucky you are to be here?" I somehow had involuntarily forfeited my right to be an asshole because I was adopted. And if you know me at all, you must know that the right that I cherish the absolute most is getting to be an asshole when I want. Basically, when I failed, I just didn't let myself down. I let my parents, who so graciously imported me, down. I let my grandparents down, who so graciously looked after us when my parents were both working. I let Korea down, because all Korean kids are just perfect to adopt. I let the United States down, because I'm taking a spot that thousands of other people want to have. I let society down because a kind act deserves as much gratitude as possible. That's kinda a lot of pressure for a ten year old who just wants to run down the hallway.
I think it's somewhat hilarious that Koreans were considered the gold standard for international adoption. I can tell you right now, a lot of those "perfect kids" in the 80's and 90's turned out to be "seething on the inside" adults. Look, I get it. Childhood is tough for everyone. But for those of you who aren't adopted, I wonder if you can truly understand what it would be like to grow up in a community where you are always picked last, made fun of daily, thought of as ugly and undesirable, and everyone instantly knows your situation. Now, for the cherry on top, how would it feel if multitudes of people were to consistently tell you how lucky you are to be in that situation?
So, to my darling wife, I may have a tiny inkling what it feels like to have pressures of expectation put on you. I certainly don't want to Grandpa you into feeling you can't be a little whacko at times. You absolutely can. So when you get home, I have some mattress tags and some scissors. I dare you to cut them off. Throw off the shackles of being labeled "the Sane One!" Just make sure you consult Consumer Reports on the best scissors to use and most popular North American cutting techniques, you sexy, sensible beast!
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