You are currently reading from the Trials and Tribulations of a Crazy Asian Series
It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I kept telling myself I was going to sit down and do it but more and more time went by and then it became something I swore it never was – a hobby. The chapter I’m about to write I initially wrote three years ago and looking back, it doesn’t stand. So, I guess this is the rewrite.
Some people say life begins when you fall in love when really it begins when you fall from grace. I think life begins with your first fuck up.
Six years ago, I started becoming who I am today. I fell in love, got fucked over, did a bunch of drugs, went to college, dropped out, broke ties with my family, made amends and started over – not necessarily in that order. But, for now, I guess we should start at the beginning…wherever that is.
I was three months old when my parents picked me up from the airport and named me Lauren Joy. My mother thought it was not only what I would fill her life with, but mine as well…it’s a shame that the only way to learn is the hard way.
Originally I was supposed to be named “Jasmine” (which would have been totally kick ass and at least I’d have an excuse to be as fucked up as I am now but, alas). However, my grandfather, Laurence Joseph, had passed away from stomach cancer prior to my becoming a part of the Sharkey clan. The day of the funeral was the same day my parents were informed they had been approved for the adoption…and the rest, as they say, is history.
So yes, South Korea was history and life with a white family was a mystery. And, let me tell you, being Asian is a hard job. When you’re Asian, customer service representative is your default setting because you are responsible for answering stupid and inappropriate questions for the rest of your life. Having slanted eyes makes people strangely curious. For example, one FAAAQ (Frequently Asked Adopted Asian Question) is, “Can you see?”…dude, really? Yeah, I can fucking see. And if I couldn’t – would I really know?
I do wonder about it sometimes though. I mean, what if other ethnic groups can really see better than I can? What is there is a whole spectrum of the world I’m blind to as a result of my full, Oriental lid? I guess I’ll never know. That would, however, explain why Asians are such terrible drivers. It also, however, begs the question, “How are they able to make such intricate designs on the nails of white women and sew meticulously?”
Yet, despite how difficult it is to be Asian, it is infinitely more difficult to be adopted. You tend to see things differently than the rest of the world. And I’m not talking about waking up each day grateful that you were spared a life in a rice paddy – I’m talking about the concept of what is. When you’re adopted, words like “official” and “real” take on whole new meanings.
But I was always cool with the fact that my parents saved me from sweatshops and a potential career in the pleasure industry. But I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t use it to my advantage…more on that later though.
I remember the day I found out I was adopted like it was yesterday – I was five years old and it was my first day of kindergarten. My mom had put my hair into pigtails with maroon ribbons to match my uniform. I was super psyched about my Cinderella lunch box and making new friends based on mutual interests such as coloring and finger painting technique.
We waiting in the school yard for the teacher to come out to do a meet and greet. I saw little boys and girls playing hand games and tag, occasionally staring at me as my mother held my hand tight.
Soon, Mrs. Matthei came outside and I saw the other moms smiling and waving good-bye as their children made their way inside with the aid, but my mom never let go of my hand. She turned to me to speak and I thought she was going to say, “Not today, Lauren. Maybe next year.” and we would go home to more important things like watching movies and making cookies.
However, Mrs. Matthei took hold of my hand and my mother let go. My mother looked sad, whispered in Mrs. Matthei’s ear who simply nodded and assured that I would be well taken care of.
“Now,” my mother said, pulling me close, “you’re special no matter what anyone else says, okay? Don’t let the other kids tell you you’re not – you hear? I love you pumpkin pie.”
“Okay – I love you too mom.” I said, hugging her tight. She then gave me a kiss and walked away as I went inside.
Mrs. Matthei then sat me down at a round table with four other boys. I said hi to them but they ignored me (I don’t know anyone else who can trace their inital rejection from the opposing gender back to kindergarten but I guess it’s just one of those things). Then, one boy budged the other and implored, “Ask her! Ask her!”
“Okay,” the boy said taking a deep breath while turning to me, “why don’t you look like your mommy.” he asked, putting his fingers at the ends of his eyes and pulling back to mimic my own.
“My mom says I’m special.” I retorted proudly. Good job, five-year old Lauren, you totally nailed that.
At this point, yet another boy at the table chimed in and said, “My mom said special kids can’t go to school with normal kids because they’re retarded. Are you a retard?”
“No!” I pouted.
By this time, our conversation was gathering more and more listeners and the girl at the next table interrupted. “My mother told me that you’re adopted. Your mommy isn’t your real mommy.”
My original interrogator was shocked and gasped, “Are you adopted?!”
“No!” I shouted. They all looked away and as we returned to making shapes on construction paper I remember being extremely confused – after all, that’s a lot of information to take in on a first day.
Now, some of you may be wondering how it is possible for me to remember all the details of a day that has long since passed, but, consequently, the day I found out I was adopted was the same day of my first near death experience.
I was so happy to see my mother that I nearly knocked her over upon finding her in the school yard. She scooped me up, placed me in the car seat and we began to make our way home.
“How was school, Pumpkin? Did you learn anything today?” she asked.
“Mom…” I said tentatively. “Am I…adopted?”
The car came to a halt and the only sound I heard was a loud crash from behind as we launched forward into the Lexus in front of us. We were hit with such force from both ends that my mother was found unconscious and my car seat and I were flung into the front of our Chevy Astro.
I don’t remember being hurt…I don’t remember going to the hospital. All I remember is my mother crying as we finally pulled into the driveway. She couldn’t even look at me – she whispered to my father, “Please, I can’t.” and slammed her bedroom door.
I remember thinking it was my fault. That if I had just trusted in the fact that I was special that everything would be all right and none of this would have happened.
My father tucked me into bed, and asked, “So, I hear you have a question?”
“I don’t want to ask anymore questions.” I said, “Mommy hates me because I asked a bad question.”
My father laughed and hugged me close. “Mommy could never hate you. Mommy is just upset that she wasn’t safe driving.”
“Dad,” I cried, “am I adopted?”
“What does that mean?”
My father sighed deeply and said, “Lauren, it means that another woman, who isn’t Mommy, brought you into the world. But, she couldn’t take care of you, so Mommy and I are going to take care of you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, baby,” my father continued, “the woman who gave birth to you loved you so much that she gave you to your mother and me to love you even more because she didn’t think she would be a good mommy.”
“Does that mean Mommy doesn’t love me?”
“No, darling, it just means Mommy loves you a hundred times more than any other mommy.”
And it was then, at the age of five, that I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that love…love was fucking complicated.