05 Feb

2001: A Space Odyssey (on a movie screen), Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Everything You Want to Know about Sex, all of Mel Brooks, all of Monty Python, Life of Brian, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Annie Hall, Sleepers, and many others were films my parents subjected my brother and me to as part of our “culturing.” It started with my parents saying something like, “You have to see this to understand American culture.” And then without question we’d watch it.

Some of the stuff we knew we were too young to watch and instead of my parents objecting, we’d object, “Why are you making us watch this? Isn’t this too old for us?” They’d laugh and say it was good for us. My brother would sigh in those moments.

Then we got to our teens, and my brother would get a look in his eyes like he didn’t want to watch it anymore. I’d sit there with a determined analytical face to watch the entire thing. Some of the films I didn’t understand, and I would sit them out anyway. My brother would sit there as long as he could stand and then slink away. He didn’t watch all of African Queen.

This was the pattern we’d take with bad movies. I’d sit them to the bitter end to try to learn something, and he’d slink away or fall asleep. One of the worst movies we watched and he wanted to see was when we were on a car trip. The plot was circular where the hero didn’t really have to do all the things that he did with a hovercraft driving over ice. My brother fell asleep before the gratuitous sex scene that I saw coming three miles away. He never remembered the movie after that, but it was so bad for me and since he made me pay for half, I made him remember it again. He still shakes his head silently.

My parents were so into culturing that they had us memorize all of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They played it on every car trip. The sound of the doors opening and sighing would be so expected for me I could cue it up. We started to remember lines they forgot.

During “Everything you need to Know about Sex,” they said things that I wanted to purge from my head. Things about marijuana and other things that I won’t go into detail about, not because of their embarrassment, but mine–which they would delight over with a joke. It may be mean, but I’m not giving them the satisfaction.

The culmination of this was every time I said I understood something in a film, my Dad would laugh and then say sternly, “Then the culturing worked.” My mom would always be delightfully happy every time I would say it as it was a purposeful process that we had to go through like sitting through a required class in college you hated. Somehow there was an uneasy comfort to this.

There were moments where I got my sweet revenge by saying that they had to watch this or read this to understand current events. And not everything I gave them they liked. There were also moments where I’d give them Korean culture bits. So all in all it was a fair exchange.

I say this because there are those moments in between that have nothing to do with adoption. Through the noise of asking about birth parents and adoption, and tying all three identities through adoption, there are moments where adoption isn’t on my mind. So past the drama that people ask for, “Where are your real parents?” “Do you want to go back?” “Do you want to find them?” “What do you think of X in the adoption process?” there are moments where that never really matters. It melts away. I wish people would ask more about that in relation to my adoption. “What were the good moments you had with your adoptive parents?” “What are the good things you remember about your birth parents?” “When did you not feel like you were adopted?” “When did it not matter that you were adopted?” Because those moments define me too. Those moments are part of me as well. And I’m sure they are also parts of other adoptees too. Being an adoptee is not all thunder lightening and tears. Sometimes it’s a bit of culturing too.

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