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March 24, 2008 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant (Penguin 1999)

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant (Penguin, 1999) is Seattle-based sex advice columnist Dan Savage’s autobiographical account of how he and his boyfriend, Terry, adopted a baby. As Savage tells readers, he wrote The Kid partly to fill an empty niche in the gay book market: “Some gay men were writing books saying gay men should get married and have kids, but none had actually done it themselves – had the kid and written about it. So, I sat down and started writing the ‘Gay man actually having kids’ book.”

As well as dispensing some sensible advice to gay (and straight) couples considering adoption, Savage’s book is fleshed out with frank and often amusing digressions. He talks about his hilariously tortured adolescence, which would appear to have been spent in constant terror of being discovered while furtively masturbating over a stolen Playgirl magazine; he expounds the virtues of having a boyish lover (“I’d enjoy the pleasures of pederasty without any of the legal trouble”); and he offers one or two interesting observations on the changing face of bigotry in the United States (“these days even the biggest antigay bigots take pride in appearing indifferent in the presence of homos”). All of which makes the book readable, if not exactly profound or original.

Things pick up steam a bit when Savage relates his and Terry’s experiences with their open adoption agency, and with the birth mother of their adopted son. As Savage talks about it, open adoption sounds like the most sensible, enlightened form of adoption currently available: unlike adopting from overseas or through a closed adoption agency, “doing an open adoption ensures the birth mom an ongoing relationship with her child”. Of course, adoption costs thousands of dollars, and women who put their children up for adoption tend to be poor. Part of what’s interesting about The Kid is reading how Dan and Terry, a relatively well off DINK (“That’s ‘Double Income, No Kids’, our by-default consumer demographic.”), attempt to build up the semblance of a relationship with their ‘birth mom’ Melissa, a homeless twenty-year-old ‘gutter punk.’ Savage is characteristically frank in recalling what he thought when he first met Melissa: “I caught myself assessing her in the crassest possible way. It was hard not to look Melissa over as if she were a horse we were about to bet on. Was she good stock? How do those teeth look? Any hint of inbreeding in the slope of her forehead or the shape of her eyes?” He describes his and Terry’s fears (which at times border on panic) about Melissa’s drug and alcohol use, and the possible effects on the baby. Presumably these kinds of thoughts are common to many would-be adoptive parents.

Melissa remains enigmatic to the end of the book, and while Dan and Terry end up with what Savage calls “the Holy Grail of adoption agencies” – a blond haired, blue eyed baby boy – it’s clear that she faces a continued harsh existence on the streets, catching rides on freight train cars and being harassed by the pigs for sleeping in parks.

While there is something to be said for The Kid as an account of what it is like to adopt as a well-to-do gay couple in Seattle (gay and lesbian couples, by the way, are still not allowed to adopt in New Zealand), its level of social critique is limited. Savage does not make much of an effort to go beyond relating his immediate impressions, nor does he reflect very deeply on his own actions and motivations. These limitations, coupled with Savage’s not very absorbing style (he tends to waffle inconsequentially), mean that The Kid is never more than mildly amusing and mildly insightful.


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