What's Your Genre?
"All the world's a stage..." - William Shakespeare in As You Like It
If the bard's words apply to the drama and dynamics of relinquishment and adoption as we approach November, National Adoption Awareness Month -- and I suspect they do -- then what genre best describes your story?
At the outset, we can all agree that comedy is off the list of choices. Though life as an adoptee, or parent by birth or adoption, can certainly have humorous moments, most of us would be surprised if anyone living the experience described it as an ongoing barrel of laughs. The issues run too deep, and the way forward is complicated and, at times, intense.
Some, wishing to paint a rosy picture of love, redemption and happy endings, might prefer to view their adoption experience through the buffering lens of a Broadway Musical. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love, or not, and sing Foreigner's Hot Blooded in a tender duet. Boy and girl have sex, and when girl becomes pregnant she sings Madonna's Papa Don't Preach...to no avail. What appears to be a problem for boy and girl evolves into a courageous decision to give their baby a better life. Enter adoption agency workers and potential adoptive parents, singing and dancing their hearts out in the big production number, a cheerful, grief-free adaptation of Easy Terms from Blood Brothers. All ends well as the new parents ride into the sunset with the baby singing the Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher version of Lullabye in Blue from Bundle of Joy. The original parents get to move on and live their lives unencumbered by the new life they created; and the system scores another win-win-win in the big finale, All for the Best from Godspell. The End (cue violins and angelic voices). Audience members produce handkerchiefs, dab a few tears from their eyes, and leave the performance feeling moved, warm and fuzzy.
Adoptee Edward Albee is recognized for his Theatre of the Absurd plays, rooted in an existentialism in which "humankind seeks meaning in a universe that does not provide it," and plays "share a rejection of realistic settings, characters and situations, along with conventional logic, and offer instead portrayals of meaninglessness, isolation and the breakdown of language." Albee's The Play About the Baby and Three Tall Women are considered among his more autobiographical works. Gulp.
Science Fiction lovers might be drawn to the eugenics-linked saga of assisted reproduction, surrogacy, frozen embryo adoption, and designer babies in demand as a result of the desire on the part of prospective parents to avoid infertility or the inconvenience of pregnancy and delivery. What promised to be a happy ending has, in thousands of cases, ended up like Vince Vaughn in Delivery Man, confronting troubling stories of over five hundred half-siblings he fathered, finding each other through the Donor Sibling Registry. Today, there is no question that the industry has become a lucrative worldwide business, as reported in the new documentary Big Fertility from the Center for Bioethics and Culture. Whether your perception of this type of drama labels it as miraculous, macabre, or manipulative, those living this reality are unquestionably subject to "all the feels."
On the other end of the spectrum, the elements of Greek tragedy might seem to be a better fit, but not completely. The prologue begins with the main character or characters providing backstory and setting the scene, followed by the parados, in which the chorus comments on the main theme in the background. The episode, in which the action takes place, generally involves hamartia, a tragic human flaw or mistake, combined with hubris, or pride that causes the main character to ignore warnings from the chorus or the gods about future calamitous results. Catastrophe and catharsis, the point of the tragedy, ensue. The play closes with the stasimon, in which the chorus chants its thematic wisdom and "I told you so's."
One final genre being played out as adoptees and parents by birth and adoption are finding their voices is the Hero's Journey (check out the informative charts!) Examples might include Pip in Great Expectations, or Graham Holt (William Hurt) in Second Best. This one is my favorite, though, if you're like me, it appears that after moving from ordinary life to the call to adventure, it's easy to get sidetracked by refusing the call, being unable to find a mentor (though many adoptive parents are wonderful mentors), or getting stuck in the abyss, which makes it harder to team up with allies in order to conquer enemies and return with the healing elixir. But in the end, it's worth the struggle. Don't give up.
On any given day, I might be found singing to make myself feel better, struggling to extricate myself from the Theatre of the Absurd playing out in my head, or flailing about in either the Greek Tragedy or the Hero's Journey. But the latter is the primary stage on which I am trying to play out my issues. Which genre best describes you?