By Marissa Day
“I don’t mean to be rude, but are you Filipino?”
That is probably the most common question I’ll ever get asked in my life. Living in a community like Grosse Pointe, people are curious, but courteous, when they ask me questions about my ethnicity, even though they tip toe around it for fear of offending me.
For those of you who don’t know, which is most of you, I was adopted when I was seven months old from China, from the city of Wuhu in the province of Anhui. With a population of over three million, it wasn’t uncommon for families to abandon their children, particularly their second born girls.
Lost Daughters of China
A survey from 1992 showed that 12 percent of the female population of China was just “missing” aka abandoned. According to Karin Evans’ novel, “The Lost Daughters of China,” that number equates to the country losing 1.7 million girls each year.
An element that factored into the 12 percent was the 1979 one-child per couple policy. This was implemented to control the population, and was supported by all of the Chinese government, according to an online article, “Women and China’s One-Child Policy.”
Unfortunately, couples have multiple babies, and they always keep the boys over the girls. Boys traditionally take over the family and provide for the parents when they grew older. Girls are just a burden, extra baggage to carry along unless they can be married off into another family.
Since 1991, over 60,000 girls each year have been adopted by American families, an article in “Vanity Fair” stated. That number is staggering. While it is almost inconceivable, it grounds me as well. The number serves as a reminder. I am not the only adopted child out there; thousands of families want a child to love, regardless of their blood-relation.
My story is stereotypical of thousands of Chinese girls. I was abandoned pretty soon after I was born, found later in a restaurant. At the same time, my parents were in the process of adopting a girl from China, something that takes months at least to go through, and seven months later I somehow became their child.
My parents already had my two brothers (adopted from the States) when they flew to China to get me, and just a couple years later, they adopted my little sister, also from China. We spent our first years in Detroit, where my differences didn’t make me stand out among people. My friends were a mix of cultures, so I became accustomed to being “normal” because they embraced me, no questions asked.
Right before I started first grade, we moved. Mom and dad talked about “Grosse Pointe,” this great community known for its prestigious educational institutions where a majority of graduating students went to college. But I didn’t care, I was leaving my friends, and at six, that’s all you care about.
At first, growing up in an area like this one, it was hard to adjust, especially when I was younger. All my friends were white, they all looked like their parents and they were all curious about what made me so different.
The thing about kids, unlike adults, is that they have no tact. If they have a question, they’re going to ask you, no matter how sensitive the topic.
“What does adopted mean; what’s wrong with your real parents?”
It got to the point where I was frustrated with my heritage. Why couldn’t I look like everyone else? Why did I have to be the one who came all the way from around the world? Why didn’t I know a thing about where I came from?
I don’t want to say no one else who is adopted hasn’t gone through the same things that I did, but it’s different when you don’t look “American.” There are people I know who are adopted from Russia, or even the United States who are white, but being Chinese was a far cry from having fair skin and blonde hair.
I know my parents tried to help me embrace my differences, but when you’re a seven-year-old kid who just moved to a community that values prestige and tradition, you are automatically scrutinized for being different. My parents recalled when I was younger a time when I came home and just cried because I didn’t have “blonde hair like everybody else!”
I don’t remember that happening, but I’m embarrassed and saddened for that young girl. I wish I could tell her that everything would be ok, that soon, in just a mere few years, she would be able to accept who she is.
If I could go back in time, I would tell her not to worry about blonde hair and blue eyes. That those traits don’t matter in who you are but what matters is what’s inside and how you choose to live your life.
National Adoption Day
The reason I’m choosing to tell my story now is because Nov. 17 is National Adoption Day. I know it doesn’t do much, but telling my personal experience makes me feel like I’m doing something for the girls and boys who still want homes and parents.
Children who would gladly stand in my place if they could.
Adopted kids should feel proud of their backgrounds, and Grosse Pointers need to celebrate this day as well. National Adoption Day is a time where everyone’s differences should be recognized. There are so many unique stories to people in the community, and tomorrow is a day where people can be proud of those stories.
I think that 7-year-old girl who was too afraid of her differences would be proud of me, too.
Reprinted with permission from The Tower Pulse and Grosse Pointe South High School.