Tag Archives: men

Dear Birth-father: Woman up. Please.

This is a copy of a letter I wrote almost 23 years ago to my birthfather. Literally half a lifetime ago, before marriage and children. I wrote it after the adoption agency which handled my placement and had received a court order to contact him did so, by registered mail. His response was to call the social worker charged with fulfilling her legal responsibilities and yell at her for sending mail to his home. No denials, but he did ask for all of my identifying information, which she gave him. Afterwards, I noticed a rash of hang-ups on both my work and home answering machines (this was before VM, though after the Internet).

Not surprisingly, my birthmother was waiting for me to contact her, and had left her information in my file at the agency in case I wrote to them with questions. It was she who gave me his name, and his address. His college class. I gave all of that information to the adoption agency, as they had no intention of contacting the father. I had to tell them that it took two to make me, and I wanted to have information from both. (I think they couldn’t believe how lucky they were with my birthmother that they thought I should have been satisfied.)

In reading this, I realized that in spite of my youth and what others would consider an abrasive, obnoxious personality, I really like the woman who wrote this letter, and I love how clear her heart is. I love how she invited him to do the right thing, not because she had an exclusive on it, but because it was well within his abilities to do, and perhaps it was a matter of his just not knowing. Of course, much of what I wrote here was incorrect – over time, more things reveal themselves, or perhaps I just learned how to recognize them. But also in transcribing it, I realize how I was trying to convince myself as much as him, that I was worth getting to know – or at least meeting. I want to hold this young woman in my old lady arms and tell her she’s wonderful, that not belonging is real, but so is loving yourself without pre-conditions, and that the latter is something she can control.

I also remembered that, as I read it aloud, I felt so vulnerable. It was so clear what I was pleading for – accountability, acceptance, apology, acknowledgement – and the closer to my heart I got in the prose, the more I realized it would take me nowhere good. Instead, I kept it in a manila folder.

For laughs, it’s worth noting that when my dad read it, his eyes welled up and he said, “Jan, you need to become a lawyer.” And my response? “Dad, being argumentative doesn’t mean you have what it takes to get through law school.” I think we were both right.

1 August 1990

Mr. John W. Caputo, Jr.

address known, but withheld

Dear John,

“My Name is Janet X and I am Information Officer for Project Athena. I schedule visits to Project Athena and am responsible for presentations as well as the dissemination of written materials.”

This is the way I begin any one of a hundred letters every month. I tell people who I “am”. It was only four months ago that I began to really understand who I am and how many people it took to make me.

Each person had a different role. Two people created me, literally. Two new people worked with the raw matter and molded me, shaped me, and then removed their hands. There was part of each creator that was visible in me – my adoptive mother’s speech patterns, my adoptive father’s irrepressible personality, as well as their shared sense of ethics and morality were “givens” for as long as I can remember. No one knew where my height came from, my bawdy sense of humor, my voice, my artistic abilities, much less how I learned to read at age 2 1/2.  No one even knew so much as my ethnic background. Two of the four creators were lost behind a curtain of vague allusions, and it was assumed to remain that way.

You cannot understand what that is like. We as human beings base much of our self-perception and identity on belonging – looking to where we “came from”. To not be able to point to a person and say something as simple as “This is who I came from” impacts your sense of identity. The impact becomes stronger even as you age and begin to think of creating children yourself.

I have always known about the shadowy “other” creators. Because my parents told my brother and me from the start that being adopted meant that we were chosen, we grew up without social stigma concerning our origins. Yet, the faces, the tangibles of our starting points remained unknown… always shrouded, veiled from light. And as I grew older and learned where babies came from, the tangibles became veiled in shame and I felt the drape of guilt become leaded, impenetrable, as if I had destroyed the life of another person.

After years of not knowing, I have found you and (my birth mother). And regardless of your feelings and decisions at the time, you must realize that I am now a living, breathing adult, who is fully entitles to know her origins. You can refuse to see me; that is by law your right. However, by denying me access to to essential information about my medical history, you are clearly denying me my basic rights. You may be afraid to see me, to acknowledge that you are, in part, responsible for my existence, because I represent a point at which you were irresponsible in a time of need. John, we are all adults now and all adults make mistakes: those of us who face our mistakes are more adult than others. Those adults who forgive are more human.

You see, I already have one birthmark that required cancer screening when I was fourteen months old. Next month I must have a number of lesions biopsied. If they prove malignant, I will require major surgery – skin grafts, possible chemotherapy, etc. In the last five years, already there has been a genetic pattern determined for skin cancer. This is only one example I choose to cite in this short letter. The questions I face each time I make a visit to the MD seem endless, because I am unable to answer them.

John, I am not unaware that you ahve gone on and created your own life and family. I assume that you did not tell your partner about the people you left behind. I can even understand that you may not want to see me, and by ignoring that court order, you can deny my existence. The information you can choose to keep from me, what is referred to as “identifying information”, is no linger an issue. I did all the investigative work myself, and in fact, was the one who provided the adoption agency with your name and address. I accessed information available through public records, and am aware that you have a family.

The straight information I need regarding medical history is invaluable to me, an adult about to engage in the full breadth of activities of adulthood. But equally important to me is removing the veil, the shadow from your face, seeing who had a hand in making me. Aren’t you interested in seeing your mortal legacy as well? An observation that in any other circumstance would be forgettably minor: when I met my birthmother face to face, she remarked that I have your smile and teeth. I cannot articulate how I felt at that moment, hearing that your hands, your contributions to me are palpable, tangible.

I am not asking to be part of your family; I am asking that you give me a chance to meet you. I am giving you a chance to realize that your greatest “mistake” did not spoil what may be one of your greatest achievements. And, more importantly, to thank you for the gifts you have unknowingly bestowed on me.

You can either write me at the above address (ed note: this was on my work letterhead) or call me at work after 5pm. I know you may feel as if you have a great deal at risk. I do sympathize. Please realize that I am also risking more than I’ve ever had to in my life. I believe my efforts will be worth it. I want to assure you that  making a courageous effort at this crucial time will be worth the risk as well.

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Filed under adoption, birthstory

Two minutes in heaven is better than…

I’m only about 6 months behind on this, even though the Dilettante tipped me off in her usual ahead of the curve way. That said, I was one of the first to get the DVD. These guys, the Flight of the Conchords, are my new favorite guilty pleasure. I sat through 12 episodes and only moved for laughter, which was frequent.

H doesn’t want to admit how much he likes them, but I notice that even he knows the lyrics. Now, it’s time for business.

Thanks to both BlueMilk and OhTheJoys for spreading the word.

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Filed under comedy, Flight of the Conchords, funny, men, real life, really funny, women

Love and breakfast

I’m not going to write about what I had for breakfast today… but I am going to write about the evolution of my lifelong love affair with breakfast as an event and experience.

It began with the simple pleasure of a hot dish in a cold kitchen. My brother and I would sit on dinette chairs so cold the vinyl was cracking. The warmest place in the kitchen before mealtime was by my ankles, next to the forced hot air vent. Then came our prescriptive dosage of Sudafed (given to us the way other children received vitamins) and the dishes of Cream of Wheat. I’d take a dollop of applesauce on mine; my brother would drown it in milk and sugar. If we weren’t squabbling, there would be a moment of warm, homey, contentment, an occasional bright streak of applesauce that had yet to be mushed in, and then we’d be off to school in the snow.

Easter Sundays brought us the singular predictable occasion of my father making breakfast, which, as one might guess, was a major production. Eggs of all kinds, bacon, toast, all the orange juice we wanted, sometimes even a half-grapefruit which my father made quick work of with a steak knife. We’d leave the table a little distended, and a little less interested in the candy the Bunny left behind in our baskets.

But tThese are the pleasures of childhood, the little tender, determined shoots, green and going somewhere.

On my way through my teens, I’d drive my slower-metabolized friends insane with my summer breakfast habits, which consisted of rolling out of bed around 10:30 in an old t-shirt and sitting down to whatever was left of the half-gallon brick of Heavenly Hash ice cream and a spoon… and the stereo on. By then, the vinyl piping on the dinette chairs had been stripped away, lying loose, ready to take a slice out of uncovered legs. I made a point of wearing sweatpants in the summer swelter.

College brought the first of the quasi-adult breakfast pleasures – the all you can eat dining hall, where I did just that. Consequences were not immediate, but they were lasting. And while my trousers became less comfortable, I did have the joy of singing together in harmony with my girlfriends from VanMeter South – mostly selections from Squeeze’s 45’s and Under – and dishing about who did what the night before.

The second of the quasi-adult practices, the morning-after breakfast, could go either way. But these I remember fondly with the serious boyfriend I made my junior year, coinciding with an off-campus move. Saturday or Sunday morning, we’d get into his car and head off to Rooster’s or Steeplejacks, the bustle of plates and hangover remedies around us, eggs, bacon, toast, and … Coffee. Well, that made me an adult and then some.

Then he was gone to greener, faster pastures, and I began to have breakfast with friends, but also alone. Sitting at the counter, I could watch the interactions, quiet and otherwise; pine for my lost love, or not; keep my eyes peeled for friends or someone I might like to meet.

Post college, other boyfriends brought other breakfast habits and locales – Pie in the Sky in Woods Hole, Country Life in Falmouth, the best blueberry pancakes I ever had in a diner in Woburn. There was also the coffee at the table, or, if I was lucky, black coffee in bed with the newspaper.

But more often than not, breakfast became what I gave to myself as a treat. At my first startup, the one time you could not find me at my desk was Sunday morning/early afternoon. You’d likely find me at the counter of the Blue Benn, appreciating the perfect attention of the wait staff, sipping a third cup with the NYT crossword puzzle and some kind of fab veggie breakfast. Or at the Miss Adams, admiring the wood bar. I’d enjoy watching others at work, the smell of the grill, and the coziness of my seat. There’d be some pining there too – after all, spoiled romances and broken hearts don’t stop with a B.A. – but I became more accustomed and even happy with my own company, along with the casual kindness of the women checking on my cup.

I returned to Boston, and took visiting friends to the Blue Room Brunch on a regular basis. Or my father would visit, and we’d head off to the Rosebud. Or I’d find a counter seat at Carberry’s, and work my way through an apricot Copenhagen (is that foreshadowing or what?). And a chocolate croissant. And the NYT crossword, and a book, and a journal entry, and interruptions from guys on the make on a Sunday morning.

Then came HFN, which took us to Carberrys when geographically convenient. Morning afters, on the way to the airport, latte and americano; the 5-Spot (where more than one waiter referred to us as lovebirds); the full plate of eggs and potatoes delivered to me at the parker house a few hours before the wedding, with tabasco; waddling into KrispyKreme 2 weeks before Ben arrived, only to miss Dunkin’ Donuts all the more; the ritual of the Whole Foods breakfast bar, and Mommy making pancakes in the middle of the week.

On the road though, a warm meal in the morning and the reliability of my own company became a treasured prize. Croissants or japanese seaweeds and pickle, bread and cheese; the delicious plum tomato and spinach omelet with grilled turkish bread, and always, the kind server, usually a woman, making sure that I could have a perfect moment with a coffee and myself.

But now there is a new bloom to the rose of my breakfasttime love. Sometimes, with pancakes at home. Sometimes, sitting side by side in a vinyl booth, Ben and I talk about eggs, and a kookaburra bird in the old gum tree. He tells me that he’d like me to cut up his pancakes, and he’d like some blueberries too. He tries things out, he follows my lead. He thanks the woman who checks on his milk and mommy’s coffee. A new love is born.

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Filed under black coffee in bed, breakfast, children, coffee, dating, eating, Food, hot meal, Love, meals, men, morning, pleasure, tradition, women

is it hot in here, or is it just you?

The urban legend of men thinking of sex every three seconds or some other frequency akin to breathing is bad enough, but when you’re in a career where people happily work for 16 hours a day and you do the math, it can stop you in your tracks.

I’ve chosen the sophisticated coping mechanism of putting my fingers in my ears and singing “LA LA LA LA NO NO NO NO” in an effort to not spend anytime contemplating the inner thoughts of my straight male colleagues wrt me, though admittedly with some more human compassion than I might have had 15 years ago. (I know, get over myself already. But if I was, I wouldn’t be blogging. Or at least writing this blog.)

For example, now I can even joke about being seen by some as first prize in the Nerd Derby, seniors division. (If you want to know who “won”, it’s as simple as HTTP – Henrik Takes Total Power. ;)

Back to the dudes. Maybe the thoughts cross their minds about me and others, and the closest I can get in terms of a confession is from a couple of sympathetic double-agents who assure me it’s nothing personal, just biology. I’m beginning to believe them.

Still, it’s hard not to take it personally when it’s your person being, uh, thought about. I doubt there isn’t a woman who hasn’t looked a colleague in the eye and was startled to feel the shirt and straps slip from her shoulders, then had to cross her arms to keep from the draft. Is that why shawls, wraps and pashminas are so appealing? Easy cover?

For the record, I’m not saying that women don’t “think” about “it”, but it’s not omnipresent. We’re too busy working. (Oh snap!)

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Filed under biology, biology is not destiny, denial, don't go there, hot in here, men, modern love, penny for your thoughts?, sex, thoughts, wishing you could unthink it, women, work

maybe I’m not that brave

I put up some fun pictures in flickr of me and Marie. She looks fabulous, blonde and french – as she is – and I look like a doofus, as I am when I am most happy. The pics brought some chuckles to my friends and colleagues.

Then something weird happened.

The pageviews for one of the pictures started exploding. It wasn’t even the better of the two pictures of me alone; but suddenly, the imageview rate is at 200+ per day. (By comparison, I usually don’t get more than a view a day on even my most interesting pictures.)

Since you can’t get referrals from Flickr, and as google revealed nothing I didn’t already know about links to the photo, I put a request in my photo description asking viewers to let me know where they came from. Nothing.

I think that’s the part that reeeeeeeeallllllly creeps me out. How did they get there? Why won’t they say? After all this time, I was thinking that it’s ok for me to be out there, face to faces in the Web. But where are those other faces? Could it be they’re even less brave than I?

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Filed under anonymity, creepy, flickr referral, hostile environment, men, online bravery, online cowardice, photos, safety, transparency, voyeur, web, web of trust, women