Dear Ms. Mix & Bitch,
My name is Pete. Yes, that’s my real name. I’m 20-years-old, am a junior in college in California, and I’m madly in love with my girlfriend, Anna. She’s a Chinese-American, first generation, and was adopted by her parents when she was three years old. While she loves her family, me, school, the whole bit, she is very seriously considering transferring next spring to Guangzhou Institute of Fine Arts (she’s a visual arts major) so she can live in the same area as the orphanage she was adopted from. By the way, she doesn’t speak any Chinese (her adopted parents are of Irish and Italian descent), doesn’t know a soul over there either. I know she’s trying to find herself, and I can’t assume to know what it must feel like to know your biological parents gave you up (whether it was due to economic reasons or because she’s a she, we will never know), but leaving everything you know can’t be the way to go, right? We’ve been together for a year now, and I can’t imagine losing her. She tells me I can come with her, but I really don’t know what I would do over there. She’s getting ready to talk to her parents about it, although I know she’s scared to because she’s afraid they will think she’s rejecting them (which is far from the case).
Anna recently confessed to me that she has a fantasy of finding her Chinese family over there, and that they will embrace her as their long lost Americanized daughter. I have done some reading myself, and have discovered that many of the girls given up for adoption over there were abandoned on the orphanage doorsteps, or even rescued by others because the families were going to kill the girl babies. What if she finds out that’s her story? I haven’t mentioned that to her yet, because I don’t want hurt her unnecessarily. But I’m at a loss here Ms. Mix. What should I do, if anything?
Well, this is sure some heady stuff for someone so young, and I think you two are lucky to have one another during this crazy time.
In American culture, one of our most pronounced individuation periods occurs in our adolescence through young adults years. It’s the time we attempt to discern our own values from those of our family culture. However, such emotional permutations add an extra layer of complication when you’re adopted.
Because no matter how completely rad your adopted family may be, the adoption process always begins with a heartbreak. With time and, usually, therapy, that wound may heal, but I don’t think that ever goes away. Because your journey began with someone giving you up. [Adopted readers: please write in and tell me if this is how you see this. Because I may be way off here and want to give Pete and Anna as balanced of a view as I can 🙂 ]
Now, let’s add another layer to this cake of issues (sorry, I’m watching Food Network’s Ace of Cakes while writing this)…you come from a country across the world, with the history of (how do we put this delicately) gender bias. That’s not the only reason why so many girls are given up for adoption in China – many families can’t afford to care for their children (imagine that kind of heartbreak as a mom and dad).
Long story short: your girlfriend has a litany of issues to contend with her…and no matter how much you love her, you can’t help her on your own.
I think it’s a great idea that she’s going to talk to her parents about her plans. And no matter how much they will respect the journey she needs to go on, it will hurt them a little too. If they’re smart, they’ll keep that part to themselves for now. What happens from that point on is between Anna and her parents.
What can you do – besides move across the world with her (let’s see if her parents really let that happen anyways)? Perhaps a compromise could help you all out…instead of her transferring to a university in China, perhaps over the summer, she and her family (and maybe you if you have the funds and get along with her parents) can visit the Guangzhou province…or go on one of those volunteer trips sponsored by relief agencies – and see her beginnings for herself. Then, in the meantime, she should really see a counselor who specializes in adoption issues. You didn’t tell me which part of California you all hail from, but I found someone who has a practice specializing in adoption issues. If you’re not in this part, write or email the therapist for recommendations in your area.
I would also rec a book I read a long time ago called Wuhu Diary: On Taking My Adopted Daughter Back to Her Hometown in China. Now granted, the daughter in this story was a young girl at the time, but the issues are the same, I think.
Meantime, just love her the best you can. You’re a good guy, Pete. I hope this helped!
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