Rockcrit and A-Mama Ann Powers thinks way too hard sometimes

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stars Are Blind (To Propriety)

What a sucky week for megastars. There's the whole Macca kerfuffle, which has just really messed with my childhood crush. My pop puppydog, the man who taught 11-year-old me what heterosexual desire was via that pin-up photo included in my friend Anne Miller's mom's copy of the White Album, denied his disabled bride the use of a bedpan at night? He wouldn't let her breastfeed the kid because "those breasts are mine"? Paul, where is the silly love of which you sang?

And then there's the Madonna adoption complexity. Wow, did Madge blow it. She had the chance, not only to adopt a child, but to do the Angelina -- lending some image-enhancing stardust to adoption in general, and drawing attention to a part of the world that could certainly use some compassion from more privileged climes. (Not to say Angelina's adoptions haven't inspired some naysayers, but in general she's done it with class, and I think it was Brad who insisted on the bio-kid.)

Instead, Madge acted as she always had -- flaunting convention. There's a difference, however, between the conventions of sexual representation in pop, and the laws of a nation regarding custody of a child. Yes, Madonna's 48, and ever year feels like forever for a prospective mom over 40, no matter how many chatarangas you can bench press. But she could have risked domestic open adoption -- gee, I bet she would have been picked quickly! -- or chosen an international adoption that doesn't require 18 months of residency in the child's native country. So not only does the path she chose make her look like an imperious richbitch, she casts more suspicion on the motives of adoptive parents in general.

I have no idea what is in Madonna's heart, assuming she still has one under those abs. Surely she must have experienced the "magical thinking" so many adoptive parents rely on -- she saw a pic of little David (presumably better than this one) and felt a deep sense of connection, of inevitability. That child is my child.

Such thoughts are one way that adoptive parents deal with the inevitable grief enmeshed within the process -- the ever-present knowledge that the birthparents are experiencing terrible loss, and our own shattered dreams of a bio baby (in my case, I've found, the grief is more about never being a biomom -- I really can't dream of a better babe than Bebe!) . Magical thinking hides, though never erases, adoptions's thorniness.

But as a would-be Buddhist and a feminist -- that second label means I believe rethinking our assumptions about "natural" roles like mother/father/birthparent/child is essential for human progress -- I believe that we need to pull the illusions from our eyes. Every adopted child has two sets of parents, if not more (given stepfamilies, young grandparents, et cetera). Every adoptive family must grow into itself. This kind of talk doesn't allow for the pink patina of privilege that preserves nuclear-family bio-momism, a sense of singularity which I am sure Madonna treasures; after all, it's right there embedded in her name. But it allows for reality, and helps us appreciate the fullness of human life, in its joy and its pain.

All I have to say, Madge, is you've got a lot to do before you can justify this love. Here's an idea: make a visitation schedule with David's grieving bio-father, who's being awfully understanding so far. Better yet, buy him a plane ticket to London so he can see David within the first month of separation. Show you're not afraid of that bond. That would be a start.

POST-NOTE: This affair just gets worse. Now bio-dad says he didn't understand adoption in the first place. Though I totally support my pals who've done international adoption, the specter of this kind of deception of the bio-parents is exactly why open adoption was the only option for us.

(Credit: Madonna and Child by Sister Anysia Keating.)