I stumbled across this seemingly innocuous celebrity story about Kelly Clarkson, the first American Idol winner, online this afternoon:
(March 10) - Kelly Clarkson's plate is too chocked full of hit singles and concert dates to be thinking about actual dates or marriage right now, and the 'My Life Would Suck Without You' singer says in a new interview that being a rock star "is too selfish" of an enterprise for her to be a good mom.
“Oh, my God, I have no desire. I would not be a good mother," Clarkson, 26, tells USA Today about having kids. "I used to want to, like, adopt 10 kids -- because I had friends who were adopted, and I thought that was the coolest thing, to be chosen. But again, my job is too selfish." (Bold emphasis mine).
There’s a bit more to the piece, but I stopped reading after the bolded sentence. Early in my reunion, my daughter told me about a male colleague, also an adoptee. He overheard her telling another colleague about finding me and he peered over the cubicle wall and said, “So you’re a chosen one too?” That phrase--"chosen one"--stayed with me. And after reading this gossip item I thought, “Hmm, I don't think the adoptees we know feel that being chosen is the coolest thing...” But then, I’m not adoptee, so readers, please weigh in. Is being chosen the coolest thing?
Last Thursday I made one of my favorite dinners--beef paprika served with basmati rice--and looked forward to Holy Night, which is what I call Thursday night TV, the only night of the week that I’ll watch for three hours straight. Once again, I couldn’t get away from all things adoption. Regular readers may remember last fall’s blog about how it seemed television writers couldn’t come up with anything new so they were sticking to the tried and true birth mother/adoptee plot lines all across the dial (I’m dating myself, what’s the nickname for digital television?). I take great pride in being on the cutting edge of hipness, except when it comes to adoption. I can’t get away from it--it’s in my head, it’s in my e-mail, at times it makes me feel as though my heart was cryogenically frozen and splintered into thousands of shards. Consequently I don’t want adoption in my living room!
The first show, Ugly Betty, is about a bright ugly duckling with a heart of gold who works, where else, at a fashion magazine, Mode. There’s a subplot involving her self-absorbed coworker Amanda, who has only recently learned that she’s an adoptee and her mother was the late editor-in-chief of Mode. Last season we followed her slapstick search for her birth father, now she’s not speaking to her adoptive parents because they lied to her all her life. She’s chatting with the surrogate mother of the magazine’s evil female editor’s baby boy; (the surrogate mother gave birth to a Petri dish baby created with his dead father’s sperm procured while dead dad was on the slab in the morgue, still with me?) and the surrogate mother is of course attached to the baby she carried for nine months but says something to Amanda along the lines of, “Well, you’re adopted. You should know. The baby has two “real” mothers, the one who gave birth to him, and the one who’s raising him, kissing the boo boos, making sure he’s well cared for.”
Well, that was a lovely sentiment, but it’s not a sentiment shared by the other two sides of my particular adoption triangle. By the end of the show, Amanda phones her adoptive parents out of the blue after a year’s absence. Nice, tidy, ending, no one wants reality to be messy.
Then, on my favorite/won’t miss show, CSI, a 16-year-old girl (played by country star Taylor Swift) is found dead. This was adoption noir. The girl, an adoptee, never knew her adoptive parents had a biological child who died in infancy (right there, that's some secret to keep); the baby was murdered by a negligent, drug addict babysitter who left the girl to drown in the bathtub. The babysitter was sent to prison for the murder, bore a daughter, in prison, and asked this couple to raise her daughter as their own, sort of a life for a life. And they do.
Of course this child is a bad seed, just like her junkie birth mother, or is perceived as such by the adoptive mother, who just can’t bear the sight of the girl because every time she looks at her she’s reminded of the woman who killed her child. She didn’t want this kid to begin with, but she endured. When the birth mother was released from prison she went to Vegas just to steal a glance of her daughter from afar. The adoptive mother kills the woman who killed her daughter, and then the adoptive mother, in an argument with her adopted daughter over a hairstyle (identical to the birth mother she never knew), accidentally thrusts a pair of scissors into her torso, killing her. A real Shakespearean tragedy.
And it continues. I know House has a story line of the single female doctor in the midst of adopting an infant who was born to a teenage patient of hers…how convenient for the doctor! And Lorraine has been following Brothers and Sisters and gave me this report after Sunday’s show:
"Brothers and Sisters was worth seeing just for how ludicrous they made the birth mother. Throughout the show there were many references made to "our" birth mother having "our" baby--the guy who is running for governor (Rob Lowe) even says that at a press conference...so I gotta go. During labor someone says: "Our birth mother is in labor," and "Your baby is on its way." You get the drift. It was so detached from reality that I could not get more than repulsed but not emotionally invested. The mother is not shown ever holding the baby, wanting to hold the baby, shedding a single tear or otherwise having any emotion that would make her real. In fact, a day after giving birth this wonder woman is up and dressed and leaving under her own steam, nary a tear, nary a regret, nary a desire to see the baby. It was as if she were an automom, which is what I suspect a lot of adopters long for.
When Kitty (played by Calista Flockhart, an adopter in real life) asks if the mother would like to be more involved than the pictures once a month they had agreed on, she says, No, I think that will be fine. The sense was that the deal to hand over the kid was signed, sealed and delivered before the woman actually gave birth. Then of course the baby goes home with Kitty, and all is well. Either serial adopters conceived, wrote and acted the script, or this is the picture they have of NATURAL mothers. The show portrays a woman/mother who may have gone through the deprogramming that Elizabeth Bartholet espouses (see earlier post). But then...this mother was hardly poor: she was--get this--a doctor. An African-American doctor. I doubt it is even worth letting the show or ABC knows that their premise is un!@#$in" real, but what I hate is that maybe this is what is forming public opinion about first mothers today."I wrote letters to NBC during the Chandler-and Monica-adopt-a-baby years of Friends; my pleas went unacknowledged. The only time I can recall television listening to its viewers who raised quite a brouhaha was for the once-and-it-was-gone Who’s Your Daddy on ABC, where a woman had to guess who among several men was her birth father. It was downright creepy on several levels; there was even a rose ceremony a la The Bachelor.
Most television programming is designed to entertain, not necessarily inform (though it happens occasionally), and can’t possibly capture the emotional impact of adoption on the birth parent[s] and child. But still--could we have at least a nod to reality? Probably not, not when the world is so enamored of adoption. So I’ll just brace myself for the next very special adoption episode that will show up where I least expect it…Dancing with the Stars perhaps?
Coming up Friday: Coraline, the movie, and Perfection, the play.