SHE IS ANGRY (A personal account of transnational adoption)

by Maja Lee Langvad


SHE IS ANGRY (A personal account of transnational adoption)

She's angry that in literature, adoptees are often represented as a threat to society and the family idyll. Think of King Oedipus by Sophocles, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In all three, adoptees are portrayed as troublemakers.

 

She's angry at the idea of adoptees being troublemakers.

 

She's angry at the idea of ‘the angry adoptee’. Just because she’s angry doesn’t mean she wants to be labelled ‘the angry adoptee.’

 

She's angry with Mette for calling her a ‘ball of anger.’

 

She's angry with Mette for referring to her as her sister. Just because they are both Korean adoptees doesn’t make her anyone’s sister, and with Mette’s views on transnational adoption, there’s no way she would refer to her as her sister.

 

She's angry that she doesn’t have an adopted sister or brother from South Korea who she can share her experiences of being adopted with.

 

She's angry with herself for believing she would be able to share her experiences of being adopted with a sister or a brother from South Korea. There’s no guarantee she would be able to do that. Most sisters and brothers she knows relate very differently to being adopted.

 

She's angry that she is adopted.

 

She's angry that Laurent is adopted.

 

She's angry with Laurent for blaming all of his problems on being adopted. Being adopted might have something to do with Laurent’s problems but it can’t be the only reason he hasn’t finished his studies yet or still doesn’t have a girlfriend. She knows from experience that being an adoptee is no excuse for not dealing with your problems; that’s an easy way to shift the blame, she thinks.

 

She's angry with Laurent for playing the victim.

 

She's angry with herself for playing the victim. She might be the victim of an unequal global power structure, where children from poor families in poor countries are adopted by rich families in rich countries, but playing the victim is not a particularly constructive way of relating to being adopted.

 

She's angry with Korean adoptees who don’t relate to being adopted.

 

She's angry with Nikolaj because he doesn’t relate to being adopted.

 

She's angry with herself for believing Nikolaj doesn’t relate to being adopted just because he doesn’t show any interest in South Korea. Being disinterested or simply disassociating yourself from everything that has to do with South Korea is also a way of relating to being adopted. It’s a defence mechanism and she of all people should understand that.

 

She's angry with herself for not stepping out of ‘the matrix’ until she was twenty. ‘The matrix’ is a term she heard Andrew use when they discussed the process Korean adoptees go through. Not all Korean adoptees go through this process but for those who do, Andrew says, it’s like stepping out of ‘the matrix.’ She has never seen the film, The Matrix, but from what Andrew tells her, she understands the comparison. Korean adoptees grow up with the idea that you are born the day you arrive at Copenhagen Airport, or in Andrew’s case, Los Angeles International Airport, and that you might as well be your adoptive parents’ biological child. Letting go of that notion can be associated with both fear and sorrow. It’s the equivalent, Andrew says, of a Christian losing faith in God or a Communist losing faith in Marxism. You experience an existential crisis, he says and adds, once you leave ‘the matrix,’ there is no turning back.

 

She's angry that there is no turning back once you have left ‘the matrix.’ It feels like, she tells Andrew, there’s a before and an after ‘the matrix.’ Sometimes she has a hard time believing that the person she was inside ‘the matrix,’ is the same person who left ‘the matrix.’. You could say, Andrew says, that you only start to live an authentic life the moment you step out of ‘the matrix’.

 

She's angry with Andrew for implying that she wasn’t living an authentic life before she left ‘the matrix.’

 

She's angry that being adopted is a lifelong process. She doesn’t feel like spending the rest of her life discussing transnational adoption. Spending a year of your life addressing transnational adoption ought to be enough. There are other things in life to worry about. She could be a mother now, like many of her friends her age, but instead she has spent the time writing a book about transnational adoption. Child or book, she remembers Mikkel saying, when they once discussed whether having a child would get in the way of writing. If you want to be an author, you can’t have kids, he had said.

 

She's angry with herself for being ruled by heteronormativity. Maybe some people’s purpose in life is to have kids, but she knows she’s not that kind of person.

 

She's angry about heteronormativity. If there was no heteronormativity, then there would be no transnational adoption, she thinks. Childless couples choose to adopt because they are ruled by heteronormativity, just as single mothers are ruled by heteronormativity when they decide to give up their child for adoption.

 

She's angry with single mothers who allow themselves to be ruled by heteronormativity.

 

She's angry with childless couples who allow themselves to be ruled by heteronormativity.

 

She's angry with her adoptive parents for allowing themselves to be ruled by heteronormativity.

 

She's angry with her adoptive parents for adopting her.

 

She's angry at being adopted by a couple who were about to break up when they adopted her.

 

She's angry with her adoptive parents for adopting a child who had already been separated from her biological family and her indigenous culture when they were about to break up.

 

She's angry with her adoptive father for not doing more to keep in touch with her when they split up.

 

She's angry with her adoptive father, who with a few exceptions, never called her or invited her to visit. Apart from the years just after her adoptive parents’ divorce, she usually only saw him when Laura and Jonas invited her to their joint birthday party every year.

 

She's angry with her adoptive father for not calling her on her birthday.

 

She's angry with her adoptive father for never seeing her on her own. She only remembers seeing him on her own on one occasion. They made burgers together at Vibeke’s place. For some reason, Vibeke and the kids were out that evening. Otherwise, she never got to see him without the rest of them being there too. She sometimes wonders if Vibeke was jealous and that’s why she didn’t want him to see her. At any rate, Vibeke was not particularly welcoming when she visited her adoptive father as a child.

 

She's angry with Vibeke for not being particularly welcoming when she visited her adoptive father as a child. Maybe it’s not easy having a husband who is divorced and has kids from a previous marriage, but that certainly didn’t have to impact her.

 

She's angry with Vibeke.

 

She's angry with her adoptive father.

 

She's angry that she grew up without her adoptive father.

 

She's angry that she grew up without her biological father.

 

She's angry that she grew up without a father.

 

She's angry with herself for even thinking of her adoptive father as her father.

 

She's angry that her adoptive mother didn’t adopt her as a single parent. If her adoptive mother had adopted her as a single parent, then she would never have considered a man who was only her father on paper, her father.

 

She's angry that when her adoptive parents adopted her, single parents weren’t allowed to adopt.

 

She's angry that it’s generally considered better for a child to be adopted by a married couple than by a single mother or father.

 

She's angry with Mira for believing it’s better for her child to be adopted by a married couple than by a single mother or father.

 

She's angry with Mira for thinking it’s better for her child to be adopted by a married couple than to be brought up by her own mother.

 

She's angry at the status attributed to marriage.

 

She's angry that marriage even exists.

 

She's angry that children are given up for adoption because they were born out of wedlock.

 

She's angry that children are given up for adoption because their parents divorced. Maybe the child’s father wanted to remarry, Laurent says, so he left his child at an orphanage. Later the child is given up for adoption.

 

She's angry with fathers who give up their child for adoption so they can get married later.

 

She's angry with mothers who give up their child for adoption so they can get married later.

 

She's angry with Eun-Jin for deciding to give up her child for adoption so she can get married later. She was invited to Ae Ran Won to share her experiences of what it’s like to be adopted, so that the women, most of them no more than girls, were able to make a more reasoned decision. Previously she had been told that the women she was going to meet had not yet decided whether they would keep their child or not, but there must have been some misunderstanding, because all the women she met had decided to keep their child except for Eun-Jin, who sat on a chair away from the others. Her face was covered by a towel, so it was impossible to make eye contact with her.

 

She's angry about the shame associated with giving up your child for adoption.

 

She's angry that some women have been forced to give up their child for adoption.

 

She's angry that some men have been forced to give up their child for adoption.

 

She's angry with fathers who have given up their child for adoption.

 

She's angry with mothers who have given up their child for adoption.

 

She's angry with Narae for giving up her child for adoption.

 

She's angry with herself for being angry with Narae. It’s punishment enough for Narae that she has been plagued by guilt ever since she signed the relinquishment papers. There’s no reason to kick a woman when she’s down. After giving up her child for adoption, Narae even considered taking her own life.

 

She's angry with Narae for considering taking her own life.

 

She's angry with Narae’s mother for calling her own daughter ‘hwanyangnyeon,’ for being pregnant but not married.

 

She's angry with Narae’s mother for pressuring her to give up her child for adoption.

 

She's angry with Narae’s boyfriend’s mother for pressuring her to give up her child for adoption.

 

She's angry with Narae’s boyfriend for pressuring her to give up their child for adoption.

 

She's angry with Ji-Young’s boyfriend for refusing to marry her unless she gave up her child for adoption. He didn’t want to marry a woman with a child who was not his biological child, Ji-Young says.

 

She's angry with Ji-Young for giving up her child for adoption in order to marry her boyfriend.

 

She's angry with Ji-Young’s boyfriend.

 

She's angry with Hyuna’s boyfriend.

 

She's angry with Hyuna’s boyfriend for trying to convince her to get an abortion.

 

She's angry with Hyuna’s boyfriend’s parents for trying to convince her to get an abortion.

 

She's angry with Hyuna’s parents for trying to convince her to get an abortion.

 

She's angry with Hyuna’s parents for thinking that abortion is preferable to adoption.

 

She's angry with people who think that abortion is preferable to adoption.

 

She's angry with people who think that adoption is preferable to abortion.

 

She's angry with people who oppose abortion.

 

She's angry with Ulrika’s uncle. He was the one, Ulrika says, who convinced her biological mother to give up her child for adoption. He believed that abortion was murder, she says.

 

She's angry with Ulrika’s uncle for convincing his sister to give up her child for adoption instead of getting an abortion. On the other hand, Ulrika says, he’s the reason she exists. Had it not been for him, she would not have been born, she says.

 

She's angry that Ulrika would not have been born if it hadn’t been for her uncle.

 

She's angry that she would not have been adopted if it hadn’t been for the lady next door who mentioned the possibility of adoption to her biological mother.

 

She's angry with the lady next door for mentioning the possibility of adoption to her biological mother.

 

She's angry that she doesn’t know the lady next door’s motives. Could the lady next door have been paid to find children who could be given up for adoption? Could Korean social services have paid the lady next door? The conspiracy theories are not helpful. She knows that.

 

She's angry with her biological mother for following the lady next door’s advice.

 

She's angry with her biological mother for abandoning her.

 

She's angry that she was abandoned.

 

She's angry that Laurent was abandoned. Laurent believes that’s the reason he suffers from separation anxiety. It’s not easy to know if that’s the only reason Laurent suffers from separation anxiety, she thinks, but there’s no denying that the psychological consequences of being abandoned by your mother are significant. Thinking of the adoptees she knows, there appears to be two ways of responding to being abandoned by your mother as a child. You can either respond like Laurent who, even he would admit, is too outgoing for his own good, or by retreating into yourself, like she has done. How many times has she been told that she is reserved or arrogant, for that matter? She was even called arrogant as a child. She didn’t know what the word meant back then but she knew it wasn’t a positive word.

 

She's angry at being called arrogant. She doesn’t think she is arrogant. What some people interpret as arrogance is her way of protecting herself against further betrayal but not everybody can see through that. Astrid can see through it, and that’s the reason she likes her. Astrid says it’s like there is some unreachable place inside her. That place is what makes her write, Astrid says and adds, sometimes it makes you think she is an island.

 

She's angry with Astrid for comparing her to an island. Maybe there is some unreachable place inside her, but does Astrid really have to compare her to an island?

 

She's angry with Astrid.

Translated by Paul Russell Garrett