The Sort of Help We Don't Need

Adoption

Adoptive parents like measured, positive stories about adoption. We like stories that promote the idea that adoption is an acceptable and normal way to build a family and that adoptive parents and adopted kids are not freaks. It's true that some of us have a regrettable preference for stories that hew strictly to the happy-happy joy-joy stance. But most of us like to see a balance — portrayals that recognize that adoption (like so many other social interactions) can involve very difficult issues, but that also recognize that adoptive families are "real families" in every meaningful sense of that term.

Unfortunately, the media likes to give us stories either in the form of insipid celebrity gossip or in the form of I-know-what's-best-for-everyone pontificating from douchebags like Mike Seate, who think that only certain family racial mixes are socially acceptable.

Part of the problem is people who think they are promoting adoption by tearing down other family choices — choices that are, to be blunt, none of their dammed business. But that doesn't promote adoption. Sneering at other paths to parenthood because they are unusual, or expensive, does not help convey the message that the unusual and often expensive choice of adoption is normal and socially acceptable. Rather, it promotes the default stance of being a judgmental asshole about other people's family choices.

Someone tell Andrea Peyser.

The New York Post pays Andrea Peyser to be an asshole, in print, to people who are famous for no good reason.** This week Peyser is employing her modest typing skills to be an asshole to Alexis Stewart, who is "famous" for the silly reason that she is the daughter of an ex-con housewares fetishist. Peyser, I believe, thinks that she is promoting adoption by savaging Stewart for pursuing various high-tech fertility methods in an attempt to have a child.

Now it's reported that Alexis (pictured right, with Mom) will get her bundle. After wasting hundreds of thousands on unsuccessful fertility treatments — and thumbing her nose at donor eggs and adoption — Alexis is going the Frankenstein route.

She's hired a surrogate, The Post first reported this week. She's picked a rural Pennsylvania woman as her rent-a-womb, wrote The National Enquirer.

A younger woman is just the trick to carrying Alexis' "dry, crusty eggs" — as she told Oprah in a nausea-provoking interview — combined with the sperm of an anonymous donor.

Martha, who nagged Alexis for grandkids to fill a void left by the death of her mother and a breakup with her longtime beau, is said to be thrilled. But at what cost?

Peyser is full of digs at Stewart both for being who she is, and for not choosing adoption:

Alexis, who takes the anti-depressant Zoloft twice a day and exercises thrice, according to the Web site of her Sirius satellite radio show, "Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer," never considered the message she sent to women: By draining all available medical resources, you, too, don't have to settle for a used kid.

Peyser wants us to think that she's promoting adoption and attributing, in what passes for irony, the "used kid" sentiment to Stewart. But Stewart hasn't said anything about adopted kids being inferior; that's Peyser's sentiment. Moreover, Peyser's mountains of scorn for Stewart demonstrate that she thinks that adopted kids really are second class: she thinks that Stewart is a freakish pill-popping narcissist, and that she ought to become a mother to a child through adoption. Huh?

Peyser offers a gesture towards quoting adoption professionals to say that there are kids out there who need homes — but does so only to savage women (not men, mind you) for pursuing biological motherhood over adoption:

People are out of work. Children are alone. But rich, neurotic women spend cash, work out mommy issues, and grab attention by having kids.

With training and therapy, Amanda Peyser could probably learn to simulate a decent human being.

I have no doubt that the various fertility and surrogacy methods that Stewart is pursuing are hideously expensive. But it's her money, and her family that she's building. Would Andrea Peyser be bashing Stewart if she spent the $27,000 per month on apartments and cars and dining out and travel and jewels? Well, probably. Because that's all Peyser knows how to do. But most of the judgmental "adoption proponent" twits who bash would-be parents for pursuing fertility treatments wouldn't care. They live in the sub-rational, my-way-or-no-way universe where it's narcissistic to spend $27,000 to have a biological kid but not narcissistic to spend $27,000 per month to live large. Would I be happy if Stewart spent $27,000 a month to buy a thousand copies of Firefly until Fox renews it? Yeah, sure. But I make an effort not to tell other people how to spend their own money. Being pro-adoption does not make me less of an asshole if I do so.

I recognize that it is silly to expect a New York Post gossiper to act decently. But Andrea Peyser's noisome column illuminates a too-frequent theme, albeit in an exaggerated way. Andrea Peyser – and her more obscure but equally judgmental imitators — are not pro-adoption. They aren't helping promote adoption. They're helping promote the social norm that there's one right way to build a family, and if you don't choose that way, everyone ought to judge you. That doesn't help adoptive parents or adopted kids at all.

** Conflict disclosure: Though Popehat writers receive no monetary remuneration, we are also tasked to be assholes in print to people who are famous for no good reason.

Via Gawker.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. John David Galt  •  Dec 2, 2010 @11:57 am

    Was that double entendre intentional? (That is, are Andrea and yourself being a**holes "for no good reason", or are you targeting only people who are "famous for no good reason"?)

  2. Ken  •  Dec 2, 2010 @11:59 am

    I guess it works either way.

  3. SPQR  •  Dec 2, 2010 @12:10 pm

    Sheesh, what an ugly story.

  4. Grandy  •  Dec 2, 2010 @12:10 pm

    Also, we're better at it than she is, by a wide margin. That matters.

  5. SPQR  •  Dec 2, 2010 @1:24 pm

    But even you guys wouldn't ridicule someone's attempts at reproduction … unless they got arrested attempting it in the back seat of their car near city park.

  6. Grandy  •  Dec 2, 2010 @2:03 pm

    That's part of being better – target selection. To paraphrase the great zen master: if we show up at your door, you have done something to deserve it. Alexis Stewart is not in that category, as far as I can tell.

  7. bw  •  Dec 2, 2010 @4:58 pm

    Geez! Ken, tell us how you REALLY feel.

    She's entitled to her opinion, which is apparently that certain medical techniques for reproduction are beyond the pale of moral acceptance. It's not like it's a fringe point of view that isn't shared by, say, religions representing a quarter of the world's population.

    Adoption is only mentioned because it's an established alternative. Her rhetoric actually made me feel a lot better about adoption than did your hair-trigger hypersensitivity as an adoptive parent. Ever think how your overreactions might impact how people view adoption?

    Last month you were flagellating yourself for a rather tame put down response to a jerk who badly needed just that. You'll sleep a lot better at night if you either take that chip off your shoulder, or get more comfortable with it.

    As for criticizing people's reproductive choices, let's face it, that's a common enough behavior, from Jay Leno to half the tables at the nearest Starbucks.

  8. Ken  •  Dec 2, 2010 @5:02 pm

    bw, if you can read her column and take that away from it, then I really don't know what we have to say to each other.

    Also, "she's entitled to her opinion" is a non-sequitur.

  9. Scott Jacobs  •  Dec 2, 2010 @8:18 pm

    "** Conflict disclosure: Though Popehat writers receive no monetary remuneration, we are also tasked to be assholes in print to people who are famous for no good reason."

    I am glad that you choose to not sully your gift with money…

  10. Scott Jacobs  •  Dec 2, 2010 @8:21 pm

    Also, I'm thinking that, for it to really take, Amanda's Human-Simulation Training would have to involve electrical current.

    A lot of electrical current.

  11. bw  •  Dec 3, 2010 @12:16 pm

    Reading the parts of her column you didn't cherry pick just made your post look more over the top. There are people who feel very strongly that the enhanced fertility procedures are condemnable when there are so many children needing homes. There are also those who think the same about narturally breeding when there are too many parentless children. Her rhetoric sounds like theirs with more of an edge, but then, that makes people pay to read it. I've heard very similar comments from people who find out I went to a breeder instead of a shelter to get my dog, and some of them just as hard edged. I didn't get my knickers in a knot. And please don't play the obtuseness of thinking I'm comparing dogs to kids – it's about criticising other people's choices in a colorful way, whatever the realm of those choices happens to be.

    You disagree with her, I get it. How about some reasoned rebuttal to her position and her basis for it, rather than ranting like some PC whiner that it's not so much that she's wrong, but that she offends you?

    I agree with her that it's shallow and narcissistic to go to extreme measures to get genetically reproduce when there are so many children needing a home, It's also a little pointless for a jet setting celebrity who's likely going to take all that hard won nature and hire a nanny to nurture it.

    Your hypersensitivity on the adoption front is starting to sound a little like the mental health organizations that protest any movie that isn't PC about mental illness, or that get all in a lather over words like "brainstorming" Aren't you secure enough in the value of your choices not to have a fit every time anyone mentions them in anything but a glorifying way?

    On every other topic, I enjoy reading what you write.

  12. Ken  •  Dec 3, 2010 @12:50 pm

    hair-trigger hypersensitivity
    flagellating yourself
    take that chip off your shoulder
    knickers in a knot.
    ranting like some PC whiner
    hypersensitivity
    Aren’t you secure enough
    have a fit

    Yeah, okay.

  13. Patrick  •  Dec 3, 2010 @1:52 pm

    Reading the parts of her column you didn’t cherry pick just made your post look more over the top. There are people who feel very strongly that the enhanced fertility procedures are condemnable when there are so many children needing homes. There are also those who think the same about narturally breeding when there are too many parentless children. Her rhetoric sounds like theirs with more of an edge, but then, that makes people pay to read it.

    I'm inclined to agree with most of this bw, but your "get personal" screed following it makes me unhappy. Ken is a big boy, and can take it, but I'll point something out here:

    We don't know each other, Ken and I, though I sometimes feel as though we do because we read and comment on the other's writing, and hold other discussions to which almost none of you is privy. Still, that is mistaken. I couldn't pick Ken out of a crowd, I've never had a beer with him, and I'd have to wrack my brain for ten minutes to remember his kids' names. We live in very different parts of the country, culturally speaking, have very different religious views, and very different views on children. It's possible that we would repulse one another if we met.

    Yet for all that, I know Ken a lot better than you know him. And, though I have a very sharp tongue as I type on my computer, I wouldn't use the tone of very personal criticism that you're using in disagreeing with him about anything, much less a topic which I know (and which you know – you're a regular reader) is of deep personal significance to him. Because it would be quite rude. It would be familiar, and it would be a familiarity to which I haven't earned the right.

    This is a sort of paradox: internet familiarity is not real familiarity, but it gives us a sort of knowledge of the people we frequently encounter. I can be shockingly rude (I do it for effect) to some yahoo showing up out of the ether, some non-regular reader, who has pissed me off. But I won't do it to a regular reader (just as I won't ban you for this, though I would if you weren't a frequent commenter whose comments have improved a post or two of mine), because I have a slight, internetty connection to that person.

    Ken invites comments, as we all do, and that necessarily entails a greater degree of openness. But not so much as you may think. You don't know Ken, and you're getting rather inappropriately familiar, and personal, here.

    I don't think you would ever speak to a person you know in the tone with which you're writing. What is it about our site that makes that tone appropriate?

  14. Charles  •  Dec 3, 2010 @2:22 pm

    I'd also like to add, bw, that regardless of how many people share Peyser's position on the relative merits of adoption vs. infertility treatment, that doesn't make it a reasonable position or, at the very least, one which anyone is honor-bound to treat as reasonable. It wouldn't be hard for either of us to think up a long list of very unreasonable things that a majority of people have believed, either now or in the past.

    Furthermore, you seem to miss the larger point of Ken's post entirely. I understand that the part that concerns you is his broad sense that Peyser's judgmental screeching about surrogacy is within-bounds commentary but the larger point here is that Peyser is a bad friend to the adoption community because she still sneers at adoption while pretending to praise it. It is still obviously, in her mind, only the second best choice – and one that celebrities undertake because they are less sincere about their desire to be parents than non-celebrities. If you don't see that in the column, you are reading it wrong.

    The column is a series of grotesque moral judgments about a subject so intensely personal that it takes someone with the completely broken sense of decency of Amanda Peyser to write.

  15. SPQR  •  Dec 3, 2010 @2:27 pm

    Well said, Charles.

  16. David  •  Dec 3, 2010 @3:56 pm

    I couldn’t pick Ken out of a crowd, I’ve never had a beer with him, and I’d have to wrack my brain for ten minutes to remember his kids’ names. We live in very different parts of the country, culturally speaking, have very different religious views, and very different views on children. It’s possible that we would repulse one another if we met.

    I have met both Patrick and Ken, albeit on separate occasions, and I can confirm that they would repulse one another.

  17. Ken  •  Dec 3, 2010 @3:58 pm

    I have met both Patrick and Ken, albeit on separate occasions, and I can confirm that they would repulse one another.

    I AM NOT AN ANIMAL! I AM A HUMAN BEING!

  18. Patrick  •  Dec 3, 2010 @4:11 pm

    I have met both Patrick and Ken, albeit on separate occasions, and I can confirm that they would repulse one another.

    I understand Ken has a strong gravitational field.

  19. Ken  •  Dec 3, 2010 @4:15 pm

    O no you dint.

  20. SPQR  •  Dec 3, 2010 @8:22 pm

    So the consensus is that David is thread winner?

  21. bw  •  Dec 4, 2010 @2:11 pm

    "I don’t think you would ever speak to a person you know in the tone with which you’re writing. What is it about our site that makes that tone appropriate?"

    I admit my last paragraph may have taken liberties, and you're right, I don't know Ken. Ken also doesn't know Ms.Peyser, in fact, I'd wager that as little as I know Ken, it's more than he knows her. How would you compare my tone toward Ken with his tone towards Ms. Peyser? I typically let the person I'm addressing set the ceiling for such things. Do you think that's inappropriate, or do you think my measurement was faulty?

    I really do think that Ken's rant (he refers to her as an asshole who, with training and therapy, could probably learn to simulate a decent human being, that warrants the term in my view) goes screeching past the the personal behavior limits he implied for himself in the post about the jerk at the soccer game. I find that inconsistent – perhaps in pointing that out, I ventured into more personal territory than was called for. Your point about unearned familiarity is an insight that didn't occur to me, but it seems obvious now that you've expressed it.

    By the way, I have spoken in that tone to people in person, including some who have subsequently become among some of my dearest friends.

  22. bw  •  Dec 4, 2010 @2:48 pm

    Charles, I didn't miss his point, I think his post contradicts its own point. His post, especially in the context of is other adoption-related posts, paints a picture of adoptive parents as uptight, hypersensitive and prone to seeing adoption haters under every rock. It's an image not unlike that of many people/groups at which this blog often pokes fun.

    Further, the larger context of what I know of Ken from his writing reinforces that image. To explain, Ken is an educated, intelligent professional – not the sort of person for whom the gossip column of the NYPost is likely to be regular reading fare. My impression of this blog's readership is similar, and I somehow doubt most readers here were even aware of Peyser's column before reading Ken's post. That makes me wonder – does Ken, or does some group of adoptive parents with whom he associates, regularly comb the Internet seeking out questionable references to adoption and getting all George Costanza about them? So, yeah, maybe I'm overthinking it, but the whole thing doesn't exactly boost my regard for adoptive parents. Especially when the only way I know Ken IS an adoptive parent is from his (in my opinion) over the top reactions to perceived slights to adoption.

    As far as Peyser disparaging adoption, sorry, but the emperor looks naked to me. Her "used kid" reference looks to me like a negative characterization of her target's attitude. I don't see the "second best" characterization in her column either – what I see is a criticism of someone for whom adoption was the only other option, and an assertion that it's the superior one. If Stewart is spending $27K/month on fertility treatments, then the "old fashioned" method is clearly not in the picture here, and after just re-reading her column a third time, it's not held up in any comparison there. It even appears Peyser spoke to some prominent adoption advocates, who don't appear to share Ken's view.

    Finally Charles, your point about the reasonableness of Peyer's position regarding the merits of adoption versus surrogacy (because that, not fertility treatments, is what Peyser actually mentioned) is something that would be interesting to discuss. I would have liked to engage Ken on that point, but, although I tried to mention it in each of my comments, I seem to have obscured it by poorly explaining my perception of a conflict between what you call his larger point and the effect of his post.

  23. bw  •  Dec 4, 2010 @2:52 pm

    "I understand Ken has a strong gravitational field."

    Patrick, regarding taking an unearned familiarity – waistline comments? I was feeling really guilty from your other comment until I saw this.

    Kettle to pot, color check, over.

  24. Patrick  •  Dec 4, 2010 @3:46 pm

    Swish.

  25. SPQR  •  Dec 5, 2010 @5:17 pm

    One waistline comment and he's justified in whatever he wrote,post hoc, Patrick.

    ;-)

  26. bw  •  Dec 6, 2010 @8:17 am

    swish, back at ya. Geez, I thought you had a sense of humor.

  27. Patrick  •  Dec 6, 2010 @9:30 am

    Senticous.

  28. Chris  •  Dec 22, 2010 @12:34 pm

    bw writes:

    There are people who feel very strongly that the enhanced fertility procedures are condemnable when there are so many children needing homes. There are also those who think the same about narturally breeding when there are too many parentless children. Her rhetoric sounds like theirs with more of an edge, but then, that makes people pay to read it. I’ve heard very similar comments from people who find out I went to a breeder instead of a shelter to get my dog, and some of them just as hard edged.

    You know what? It's none of their damned business. Nothing about their moralistic screeching is reasonable. Whether to adopt or have biological children is a personal decision. Others may be asked for their input, and may then give it, but to rail against someone in public, as Peyser did, because the choice one makes made isn't the choice that the columnist believes is the correct choice is beyond the pale. Sing it with me again, with feeling: it's none of their damned business.