Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Things That Take You Back

Ah well, sometimes you come face to face with the devil. As I did last night at a party on Shelter Island. I heard someone introduce someone as "Tom Junod" and immediately the wretched thing he "allegedly" did a number of years ago to the late Carole Anderson came roaring in. Carole, as some of you remember, was a leader in our adoption reform and a vice president of Concerned United Birthparents (CUB). While Junod was considering adopting, he wrote a piece for Esquire or GQ about all of us crazy natural mothers who go looking for our children, and egads, sometimes finding them and reuniting, having a relationship!

Carole told me she spent quite a bit of time with him, tried to make him aware and sensitive...as long as he agreed not to include in his story her personal saga--that although she had reunited with her son, he had not yet told his adoptive parents. He was an adult at the time, married with kids. Yet he couldn't bring himself to tell his adoptive parents.

When I hear about the "kinning" (a word I heard a the Pitt Conference last fall, there was much talk about how the adopted person becomes one with the new family, never mind the old) that goes on between people who adopt and their children, I can not help but think about the lack of honesty regarding the adoption process that still goes on between many an adoptee and many an adopter, even in our supposedly enlightened era when...it is not supposed to be that way.

On my bulletin board in front of my I have an old bumper sticker that says: Adopted People Are Not Allowed Ancestry Because It Might Upset Somebody. Now I suspect that initially the sentiment was to counteract the idea of the firstmoms in the closet, but it can also be read the other way, now can't it? Adoptees are not allowed to speak of that relationship...that will hurt the adopters' feelings.

I digress. When Tom Junod's story came out--I've been trying to find it on the web without success, help anybody?--it put Carole in a precarious position with her son as well as made birthmothers who simply don't walk away look like loons. Though she was devastated, Carole, a lawyer who worked in Des Moines, considered legal action but ultimately decided against it. I remember a long, long conversation we had about the story. To add insult to injury, the piece was one of the finalists (all of which get a certain amount of publicity, I know because I was a finalist once) for one of the big prizes in magazine journalism, the National Magazine Award. There's a big lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the winners are listed in the New York Times, the editor and the writer go home that day very happy with the bragging rights that come with winning. Before the winners were announced, I wrote an outraged letter to the head of the organization, ccd. the editor in chief of Esquire (who is still there, incidentally) but to no avail. I received no response. At least I let a few people know that he had gone back on his word. As least Mr. Junod did not win that year. Shortly afterward I heard that he and his wife adopted. Hmm, I wonder how open their adoption is?

So...last night on a crowded deck, ice cubes clinking against the plastic tumblers, I hear his name, and BAM! I'm right there, looking to see who he is, and he's chatting it up with other journalists/producers I know. At some point in the evening, we caught each other's eyes they way eyes do, but that was it. Fortunately, the party was big enough that I did not have to meet him. I think I might have at least said: I was a friend of Carole Anderson, and see his reaction.

I am not railing here against journalism or journalists because I've been a newspaper reporter or a journalist, and an editor, most of my life. It's just that when you promise someone you will not include certain information, that's it. If you are an honorable person, you do not go back on your word--no matter how much pressure the editor gives you, or how much better you think the story will be if you do.

Lord, the simplest things take you back. I think that the mothers who really put the children out of their minds, who really do find a way to exit the stage, are better off than we are, but then--they must be the cruel ones, who do not meet their children when the children come calling.

3 comments :

  1. I think this is why we must tell our own stories. Reporters will never get it right and the version that ends up in print will be colored by the writer's/editor's own experience with adoption.

    Adoptees and mothers are the only ones who can tell "the rest of the story."

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  2. Thanks for this vignette. I'm so glad you're here! We so much need movement and institutional memory. Tom Junot sounds vaguely familiar but I can't place him. I was unaware of the article.

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  3. “Adopted People Are Not Allowed Ancestry Because It Might Upset Somebody.

    I love this. And I think it refers t5o adopters, too, though that might not have been the original intent.

    ReplyDelete

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