What’s so funny?

One thing I’ve noticed about adoptees is that most of us seem to have a wicked sense of humor. Anecdotally, at least, I can’t think of any other aspect of identity that seems to correlate to a person’s tendency to take comedy a little too far (for most people, anyways). And I wonder why that is.

A long, long time ago I remember catching part of a TV interview with comedic actor Dom DeLuise in which somehow the topic of overweight people’s sense of humor came up. This was at a time when being fat wasn’t quite as common an experience for most Americans as it is today and I guess the interviewer was trying to get the fat person’s point of view. In any case, DeLuise said something to the effect that although heavy people may seem funny and like to laugh a lot, they are usually very sad on the inside.

Well, I am overweight and adopted, and people tell me I am hi-larious, so maybe there’s something worth looking into here. When I started this blog, I really didn’t anticipate adding a humor category but now there is one. I wonder if this is a laugh-or-cry type of thing. I haven’t blogged about my mother or about grieving in a while, and I wonder if I’m trying to avoid dealing with it.

I think that humor is an amazing defense mechanism. I remember a couple months after 9/11 when I first saw that photoshop of the Death Star blowing up the World Trade Center and I just laughed and laughed, even though I had been horribly affected by the actual attack. It was a release; a huge weight lifting off my shoulders. When we live in a world where people openly call their adopted children from Guatemala “Guatlings” or dress their adopted children from China in shirts that say “Made in China” in big letters on the front, where people talk about adoption as charity or engage in obvious collecting behavior, where children are reduced to commodities and anyone who says anything critical about that is called bitter, well I guess we could either lose ourselves in despair or make jokes about it.

But I wonder if what we’re really defending ourselves from (or at least what I’m defending myself from) is the real, inescapable tragedy that lives within each of us and is lived by each of us daily. 9/11 photoshops only started to become funny (for some people–for others they’re still not funny) after time had put enough distance between us and the actual tragedy. When a tragedy is right there staring you in the face, humor just isn’t going to help. But maybe if we can laugh at something else, something related but not too close to our own inner tragedy, then we can deal with the painful facts of our own lives that can’t be laughed at.

I can’t laugh about my adoptive parents not calling me at all since the day I told them I’d found my mother’s identity, in spite of feeling closer to them on that day than I had in a long time and in spite of their claimed support of my search. I can’t laugh about my two phone calls to my adoptive mother being so short, her lack of interest in talking to me so obvious, or the one time since that she came to visit with my daughter but didn’t stay long enough to talk to me or my wife. I can’t laugh at how much closer my adoptive parents are to my sister, their biological child, than they are to me. Closer to her fiance, even. And I can’t laugh at how none of those things really bothers me all that much, even though they all should bother me a lot.

Of course, I can’t laugh at the things that do bother me, either. If my natural mother were still alive, we would laugh and laugh at how much we looked alike. A picture of her at 18 could be a picture of me at 18 dressed in drag. But I’m 8 years too late to share that laugh with her. I can’t laugh at all those times someone in my adoptive family would remark on two relatives’ family resemblance in my presence. I can’t laugh about my 3-year-old daughter wondering why she sees so little of one of her grandmas, all of a sudden.

And then I see these people out on the internet, these idiots, talking about adopting a child like it’s the same as adopting a puppy or even a highway and what am I supposed to do? My adoptive parents were actually pretty good, just human, and their human mistakes made adoption into a pretty big clusterfuck for me, one that only became apparent years and years after I became an adult. Most of these people aren’t even that good. But of course they all tell themselves and each other how they’re different, they’ve got love, or God, or wealth, or something on their side and it will be different. Oh, sure it will. You are a beautiful and unique snowflake. Whatever.

So I can get mad at these people and sad about all the kids who will be raised by nincompoops. Who won’t know what a family resemblance feels like when they’re growing up. Who will be told that they are loved as much as their parents’ bio-kids but will secretly know better. Who will have a wicked sense of humor.

Or I can laugh and make jokes about how dumb these people sound. It probably won’t change anything they do, but what will? And maybe it’s that laughter that will carry me through my own pain, just as similar laughter will carry each of their adopted kids through, too. Maybe that’s what’s so funny.


11 Responses to “What’s so funny?”

  1. 1 imtina July 15, 2007 at 7:52 am

    Sigh. God that is awful that your parents ditched you after telling you they supported you. It’s better to just say the usual, “If you find that woman, it’ll kill me and your father.” That way, the guilt is right out there for everyone to see and own.

    I’m so sorry for all of your loss and rejection. Reunion is not for the meek and mild-mannered.

    I have been exiled after reunion from my first mother because I got angry with her. I had a tiny, tiny problem with the way she would ignore me while I would be visiting and I kind of sort of didn’t like it when she would shut down and act cold toward me after inviting me to come visit. I also didn’t like it that she would put me down and criticize me for all kinds of things. Yeah, if you want to mess up an adoptee, that’s pretty much the fast track. So, I shared that just as a way of letting you know that I understand how much loss you’ve been through.

    It’s all so hard.


    PS will we ever know your name so that I don’t have to write things like, “Oh, ibastard…I understand ibastard….did you hear what ibastard said the other day….” LOL

  2. 3 Reunited Dan July 15, 2007 at 10:28 am

    My adoptive parents were supportive at first. After the initial contact, they freaked but they are swinging the other way now.

    My counselor said the adoptee often is pulled in three different directions during reunion. Paternal, maternal and adoptive family all want a piece of you and it is can be a difficult time.

    My experience ? It does get easier with time. Try not to take it too personally.

    Did you hear the one about the traveling salesman…

  3. 4 Julie July 15, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Maybe that IS what’s so funny, iB. You know, I saw that Dom DeLouise interview too – or a different one in which he says the same thing. And I think there is much wisdom in the saying “if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry.” The more wicked the sense of humor, the more sadness there is inside. The thing with adoptee humor, though, is that there is a lot of it that only adoptees can even recognize, much less appreciate.

    The adopters who cannot lol about much of our humor are, I suspect, people who have experienced little, if any, real pain in their lives. And that makes me sad for their adopted children who will never get the kind of empathy they will surely need.

    I am so glad you are out here, iB. You’re a gift to adoptees.

  4. 5 iBastard July 15, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    I was made for you. I grew in your heart. lol

    Seriously, though, I think you made a really good point. The adoptive parents who can’t get our jokes are probably not going to do so great at meeting their adopted children’s emotional needs. Maybe adoptee humor should be integrated into home studies!

  5. 6 iBastard July 15, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    Oh, Tina, you can call me iB if you want. Or maybe since Joy says I’m a tonic, you can call me Bubbles. I’ll answer to either one.

  6. 7 imtina July 15, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    Ok, I think I choose bubbles.

  7. 8 joy21 July 16, 2007 at 1:42 am

    It makes me sad when you take a post away.

    boooh hhooooohohohohohohohoh

  8. 9 iBastard July 16, 2007 at 2:38 am

    What are you talking about? I didn’t take a post away.

  9. 10 joyjoy July 16, 2007 at 8:34 am

    Sorry, I am a dork, I thought I had memorized your order and that moving to blogger came before the AAT.

    Nevermind, says Rosanna Rosanna Danna

  10. 11 cynthia July 16, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I’m sorry about all this loss too. It really breaks my heart, and I hope that you aps will come through- though its obviously now that you need them. Parents so often fall short, but the comparison you experience with your sister is awful. Your writing is heartbreaking and funny and usually both at the same time which makes it that much more amazing. I’m so glad you’re writing.

    Cynthia (adoptive parent to 2 year old in open adoption)

    ps if i ever saw a child wearing a guatling or made in china shirt i think i would have to call child protective services. i mean seriously, people. wtf.

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