Ask Amy: Readers respond, correcting assumptions
Dear Amy: I am a 50-year-old woman who was adopted as an infant.
I've been reading letters from readers of yours who, when they find their birth family, are extremely disappointed with the experience.
It seems as if they expect their birth family to welcome them into the fold as if they were always there.
I had a family for 25 years and although my parents were far from perfect, they were mine.
When I was 25 years old my birth mother found me and although I adamantly did NOT want this experience, it was forced upon me by a group that touts reuniting family.
Unfortunately, it turns out my birth mother had deep-seated mental problems.
I was sucked into her drama and through no fault of my own was then blamed by her (and her other children) when she would constantly threaten suicide.
My birth father committed suicide after I found out (through my birth mother) who he was.
My point is that there are usually reasons why we are placed for adoption. Sometimes, years later, those reasons are still good ones, and we should appreciate the families that we have and the lives that we've built.
It is helpful to be able to get a medical history, and it is quite refreshing to see people that actually look like you, but sometimes that is not worth the disappointment and dashed expectations.
We need to remember that sharing DNA doesn't automatically make us family. In my experience, family are the people that are there for you, whether you share DNA or not.
– Adopted in Ohio
Dear Adopted: DNA discovery stories and “biological family reunification” stories are becoming a regular presence in this column.
Any time secrets are revealed, extreme adjustments are required, and although some of these stories do indeed have surprising and happy endings, I thank you for pointing out that no particular ending is guaranteed for any of us.
A moving essay by writer Steve Inskeep outlined his own complicated story. As an adoptee (and now an adoptive parent) from the state of Indiana, he wrestled with the frustration of that state’s closed adoption records, which meant that he had no access to information about his own beginnings.
As he notes in his essay, (published in the New York Times), “Should adoptees and biological families contact each other, after the law forbade it for so long? Not without mutual consent: It’s an intensely personal decision. But information alone is powerful. When Indiana finally made its records more accessible in 2018, so many people requested documents that state employees were overwhelmed. A 20-week backlog of requests built up and has persisted — a testament to how many human lives were affected.”
More than a dozen states are currently considering legislation to open adoption records (to varying degrees).
As more states open their adoption files, more families will wrestle with the challenges of discovered relationships, and more people will be inspired to define “family” in new ways.
Thank you for sharing your own story.
Dear Amy: I recognize that the use of substitute names in the letters you publish is a necessity.
In a recent letter concerning four longtime friends, you used “John, Paul, George, and Ringo” as clever stand-ins. But I feel it’s unfortunate the name “Yoko” was used to identify the sullen and angry woman mentioned as “John’s wife.”
Many readers may recall the torrent of criticism, if not hatred, directed at Yoko Ono in the late 1960s, which, 50 years on, may be viewed today as misogynistic and anti-Asian vilification.
She was blamed for breaking up The Beatles, an unfair and mostly untrue accusation. (The Beatles broke up The Beatles.)
The real Yoko Ono is now 88. Her pioneering avant-garde art and boundary-bending music, not to mention her tireless dedication to peace causes, have brought on a reassessment of her brave impact on the creative community.
Forgive me if I am over-analyzing this unintentional slip, but to new generations of feminist rockers, Yoko Ono is their favorite Beatle!
– Tom in New Orleans
Dear Tom: I supplied those substitute names in the letter about four friends, and I take responsibility for replaying a very tired trope about Yoko Ono. As you rightly point out, “The Beatles broke up The Beatles.”
I apologize to Ms. Ono, who I recognize as an important artist, creator, and inspiration to many, including, of course, John Lennon, who did such important work in collaboration with her.
I also apologize to Beatles fans and other readers, who I know deserve better.
©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.