My Little China Girl, You Shouldn’t Mess with Me


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?

Dear Pete,

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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1. Cat Stevens – On The Road To Find Out  
2. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – American Girl  
3. John Mayer – Daughters  
4. David Bowie – China Girl  
5. The Cranberries – Ode to My Family  
6. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Teach Your Children  
7. Damien Rice – Rootless Tree  
8. Grateful Dead – Box of Rain  
9. The Decemberists – Engine Driver  
10. Death Cab For Cutie – Cath…

11 responses to “My Little China Girl, You Shouldn’t Mess with Me

  1. cool blog. haven’t seen anything like it yet. i’ll have to email you my love story.

  2. i just came across you through pajiba and think its great , nice tracks .

  3. It is good that Anna wants to go to China, but I think someone does need to tell her that adopted little girls are often ones that would have been killed. That is a very different culture than the one she was raised. Finding that out after she gets there is going to be traumatic, to say the least, perhaps even turning her against her birth country. That being said, I would agree with Ms. Mix & Bitch that a summer visit is de rigueur before such a semi-permanent move.

  4. Thanks for dropping by folks. I owe the staff of Pajiba a kidney or something, for all the referrals I get from them 😉

  5. Ah, you got me. I followed Pajiba on through to here, and can I just say.. I am totally delighted by your entire blog?! Therapy and a mix list?! Is it crude so say that’s FUCKIN’ AWESOME?! Because it is.

    Anyways, I did a little poking around and 1) I’m from the DC Metro area, too! 2) you teach at CUA? Two of my best friends just graduated from there last spring! Whoa nelly.

    This site is so getting bookmarked. Also, I have a boatload of neuroses and a hungry ear for new music. Just a heads up, ;).

  6. Hi,

    OK, so the common perception that I’m getting here are the warnings from people about killing babies and girl-prejudice in China. Now, I’m not saying this isn’t true, but there’s another thing which is fairly common in China but which isn’t talked about much, and that is child-trafficking TO orphanages. There was, and continues to be, a surge in adoption of Chinese babies by American couples, and because of this, people in China capitalize on this. Couples end up paying lots of money to adoption agencies in China. Not all, but some of these agencies, pay people to bring in particularly adorable children so they can entice potential, for lack of a better word, couples.
    I know this may sound like some kind of craze, but I would consider a few things. 1) What kind of contact did the family have with the orphanage? Did they go to China or was the child brought to them in America? 2) In countries with corruption like China, it can often be incredibly hard, even in country, to figure out exactly what’s going on. I worked at an orphanage in Cambodia for a year, and while there I got the dirt of quite a few orphanages in the area. It would be pretty common for them to advertise to tourists to come over or make donations. Routinely the donations would go into the pockets of the directors; if the tourists donated things like crayons or toys, they would have the orphans sell them and the money would again go into the pockets of the directors. Cambodia doesn’t have this kidnapping-children phenomenon, but I know from experience that corruption can be easily hidden from Western eyes.
    And if this is the case, and she is such a child, there is very little chance of her discovering where she came from. And there is the more widely-known fear of being unwanted because she was a girl. And there is the possibility of her being given up for adoption because of the childbearing limits, in which case the parents would not want contact because of the trouble they could get into.
    That being said, I knew two girls in Cambodian that were children of the Khmer Rouge, children that were lucky enough to be adopted into American families, and who knew their parents had probably sacrificed their children for a chance at life. Both girls came to Cambodia to track down their families, and neither were successful. Despite having that kind of tragedy at the beginning of their life, and despite the tragedy of seeing the poverty and corruption of their country of origin, both were glad they went to Cambodia. I also have a friend of Japanese origin who spent a year in Japan. I think that with overseas adoptions, it’s very important, almost a rite of passage, to visit and spend time in your country of origin, so I don’t think the boyfriend of this letter should discourage his girlfriend. Go to China, boy! It will open your eyes a bit wider if nothing else.

  7. Pheagan,

    Wow, you’re right…and I totally forgot about those possibilities. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about child trafficking. Thank you, thank you for these points…

    monkey_b: Flattery WILL get you everywhere…one correction, I don’t teach at CUA…I am grasshopper, learning from the mastas 😉

  8. I love your blog! As an avid lover of mixes (tapes, CDs, or otherwise), this is a great place to find inspiration for playlists. We have very similar musical tastes.

    I wanted to speak to your call for adopted folks to send in their opinions of the process. I don’t think adoption is always a heartbreak for the adopted child. I assumed that my biological mother gave me up because she felt someone else would provide a better life for me than she could have at that point. I’m sure there are less noble reasons for women giving up their babies, but I would like to think that if she just didn’t want me flat out, why not just terminate the pregnancy?

    So I don’t see my journey beginning as being abandoned – if anything, I see my biological mother as being thoughtful and loving enough to want me to have a better life. All of this to say that I never felt a “wound” growing up. I would occasionally wonder my life had been like, and I couldn’t help but think every time that it would probably not have been as blessed and comfortable as it is. My parents are wonderful, loving, amazing people. I could not have lucked into a better circumstance.

    My sister is Korean (I’m white, so are my parents) was abandoned in an alley in a small town in South Korea. Her experience is a lot different than mine, so I’m sure her story is much different. She has never expressed any desire to visit her place of birth and frankly, she dislikes Korean people (because they assume she speaks Korean, which she does not, and is a huge source of frustration for her.) I will forward her this entry and see what she thinks.

    Sorry to post such a looong comment. You are fabulous!

  9. I had to chime in…I am adopted. My biological mother found me about 12 years ago and I’ve had a relationship with her, my bio-dad, and all of my bio-sibs (6 total) ever since. Until bio-mom found me, I didn’t have much interest in “discovering my roots”. Not saying that I wasn’t somewhat curious but it wasn’t something that was important enough for me to pursue myself. While I do believe that any adopted child inclined to find their biological family should do so, I also think that they should be prepared for the upheavel that it will cause – cause it WILL cause upheavel. Even if your bio-fam is “normal”, they are NOT the family you grew up with, and there will be conflicts. Like Kristy, I didn’t have any issues with my adoption – until AFTER the bio-fam found me. That’s when all of the negative feelings rose to the surface and made themselves known. I had to take my ass to therapy to deal with it all.
    I also agree with everyone who has urged a bit of caution regarding the different environment in China. My mom who raised me is Chinese; her mother was pregnant with her when she came to America on a boat from Hong Kong. My grandma watched her sisters being drowned – how she escaped that fate, she won’t talk about. Girls are simply not as valued as boys are.
    Let me wrap this up so I’m not posting a novel on this board – I think the boyfriend should support his girl’s efforts to find her roots – she may never feel complete until she at least makes that journey to her homeland. But he should also be prepared to support her through the process. Regardless of how it turns out, it is going to be a difficult journey and she will need the support, reassurance and love of the people in her life to get through it. She is going to discover all sorts of things about herself that she never even thought to wonder about, and it’s rough!! To this day, even after 12 years, I find it extremely difficult to resolve the conflicts between my biological heritage and the environment I grew up in. It’s a tough spot to be in sometimes.
    For both the LW and his girlfriend, I wish them the best of luck. I hope she finds what she’s looking for. 🙂

  10. Thanks for adding so much to this conversation. You see? There’s nothing like hearing from people who have first-hand experience.

  11. Ahhh! The links to the next Jesus post don’t work!!! HELLLPPP!

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