Sibling rivalry gets taken to a whole new level. You spend twenty (20) years of your life competing with your older sister, following in her footsteps and trying to beat her at every possible thing, only to give up once you realize you’re only a failure whose own birthparents didn’t even love. You talk to a therapist and realize that this rivalry may be rooted in the fact that your older sibling is your adoptive parents’ biological child. After this realization, it becomes easier to put things into perspective. You have your own strengths, and your sister has hers. You come to terms with this fact.
You aren’t “Asian” enough to for first-generation kids’ parents, while simultaneously being “Asian” enough for fetishization. When you go to your Chinese or Korean friends’ houses, their parents try to speak to you in a language that makes about as much sense to you as Latin. You learn to smile and explain that you’re adopted – that you’ve been living here since before you were one (1) year old. Funnily enough, you have to explain that to strangers who compliment your “good English.” You have a response to that compliment ingrained in your brain, with four different tones: sweetly, bluntly, aggressively, and sarcastically. Somehow, explaining to a stranger why you speak English so well never comes off your tongue with the exact amount of exhaustion, disbelief, and anger for your liking.
Your friends tell you that you’re the “Whitest Asian they know.” You want to respond that the drunk frat boys who yell “Ching Chong” at you while grabbing at your body seem to think you’re very Asian; tell your friends that everyone person who asks “No, where are you really from?” also seem to think that you’re pretty Asian.
When your white boyfriend brings you home to meet his whole family for the first time, you don’t feel white – you feel other. Despite only the kindest words and warmest welcomes, you are on edge the entire time. When you get back in the passenger seat with a wave and smile back to his family, you break down as soon as the door shuts.
“Do you think that you’ll end up with a white girl?” you ask
“No. I think I’ll end up with you.”
You don’t feel so sure, and end up crying on the car ride home, while your boyfriend holds your hand and tells you he loves you over and over again.
Your boyfriend brings you home to meet his newborn nephew. You are filled with sudden rage at seeing the mother and baby together. You can’t place a finger on what your fucking problem is until you get back to your apartment that evening.
“Do you know what it feels like?” your voice starts to rise. “To see a mother, who never even had to think about what would happen to her baby? Who never had to question if she would get to watch that baby grow old? What would happen to it?”
“I know, it must be very hard.”
“I can’t stand it. I can’t do it. You don’t get it,” you start sobbing as your voice continues to rise until it beings to screech. “Do you know? I will never see where I got my long fingers or intense personality from. I didn’t have the option. My mother didn’t have the option. We were torn apart; the beginning chapters of my story ripped away by a force beyond us.”
“You don’t,” you’re screaming now, and you can tell your boyfriend is getting irritated, “You’ll never get it. You know why you have bad eyesight and long legs. And guess what? Whatever your nephew turns out to have, he’ll get to see too. He’ll see his mother’s eyes and father’s facial hair. He’ll see his mother’s mild temperament and father’s intellect. He’ll never wonder if his mother truly loved him, if she really wanted to keep him. He’ll know his story, right from birth. And why don’t I get to. I hate it. I hate him.”
“Don’t ever say that again. He’s my family.” Your boyfriend’s usually warm and open eyes turn cold and narrow.
You suddenly realize how crazy you must sound. Hating on an infant, who has hurt no one. Hating on a woman who you do not know at all, who has also hurt no one. How crazy it must sound, to someone who has not once thought about their own mother abandoning them at two weeks. How crazy it must sound, to someone who has not once thought about abandoning their own child at two weeks.
You shut down. Completely.
“Okay,” you say. “I’m going to go to bed.”
You don’t discuss the topic again.
Months later, you go to speak to a life coach about it. A life coach who is also adopted. Who understands loss like you do. Because telling people who don’t know how angry and jealous you are of pregnant mothers, of infants with their mothers, makes you sound crazy, sound heartless. Because they will never know the hole in your heart. The monster that claws at your heart when you see an infant and its mother.
A monster that rips your heart to shreds and reminds you that your mother never looked at you like that, reminds you that you were disposable enough to be left in a box. A monster that has slept for many years; one that has slept since you killed it and realized there were other facts involved – politics, socioeconomics, quality of life expectancy. It does not matter, because your heart tells you that your mother could never possibly look at you, hold you, coddle you, the way mothers do their newborns. If that was true, how could she possibly give you up?
You cry, and scream into a pillow. You cry some more and your cat wanders up, suddenly no longer hungry, and curls up at your feet.
You feel crazy still, but on top of the craziness, there is a feeling of inadequacy. Of loneliness. Of no one understanding how strong the monster inside of you has grown since you last slain it. You fall down a dark hole, and everything seems very far away – where do you turn to when there is no one? You fall, deeper and deeper; the voice telling you you’re worthless and unloved gets louder and louder.
Suddenly, your cat meows and slow blinks at you, pulling you out of dark walls caving in and the screams inside your head.
“Not yet, you fatty, I’ll feed you once it’s actually dinnertime.”
Your cat seems to glare at you as he jumps off the bed and take your favorite chair in the living room, but it’s okay.
You stand up and stretch. It’s not good, but it’s okay; and maybe someday it will even be better.