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Wednesday, March 12, 2003


Early Adopter Section

I finally broke down and did it.

I adopted an Asian orphan.

Well, three, actually.

I know that I've been threatening to do this for some time. Those ubiquitous stories about infant Asian girls being left exposed on the sides of Asian mountains as a crude form of "population control" tied to that culture's value of male heirs horrified me, just as I am sure they disgusted you. With the constant does-North-Korea-have-long-range-nuclear-missiles talk has made this issue far more pressing, and now was the time for me to act. I can't stomach the thought of tiny little babies crying on the sides of mountains being instantly vaporized after an unprovoked nuclear strike. And out here in Hollywood, celebrities have already blazed the trail for the adoption of Asian babies -- Angelina Jolie and Calista Flockhart have taken the plunge, and its widely rumored that Julia Roberts is ready to start a family non-biologically. I can hardly find a bar that doesn't have a corner booth with some actress bouncing an adorable Vietnamese bundle of joy on her knee as she sips an apple martini, flanked by a coterie of young, childless, utterly hot high-fashion models.

I had to get in on this.

So yesterday Hwan-Yi, May-Jin, and Que-Lan joined my family. Infant supply from the Far East so far outstrips Hollywood demand (though this won't be the case for long--don't you remember the pashmina shortage of two Christmases ago?) that the adoption process has been quite effectively streamlined. My pager blew up on my hip, I called the number, and an hour later I was ushered into the back room of a Venice Beach tattoo parlor sifting through bassinettes brimming with the cuddliest babies imaginable. After a cursory finger and toe check, my girls and I were on our way; the adoption agency even threw in a three-seat stroller, a fully stocked baby bag, and a complimentary tattoo. I wheeled the girls to the front of the parlor to have their names etched into my bicep in Chinese characters. I found the ink to be a fitting metaphor for parenthood, a symbol of the commitment and deeper-than-flesh bond between parent and child. I misted up as Stain's mechanical needle stabbed, scores of times a second, a permanent reminder of the great sacrifice I had undertaken.

The girls and I decided to celebrate our instant family at the poolside bar at The Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. The girls squealed with delight as I cannonballed into the pool, splashing their stroller with a wave of refreshing, perfectly chlorinated water. Surely, they'd never seen a swimming pool before. They were learning about their new land, where they enjoy unlimited possibility. The gleam of delight in May-Jin's eyes as I did my "pool shark" routine is an image I will take to my grave. Que-Lan took an instant liking to the miniature umbrella from my Mai-Tai--there was something delightfully Oriental in the tableau of my new daughter and her tiny parasol, bathed in the twilight of a perfect setting sun. And when I emptied my drink glass, Hwan-Yi licked the melting ice cubes to ease the ache in her teething gums.

It didn't take long before we were surrounded by an adoring circle of young lovelies staying at the hotel. They could hardly believe me when I told then that I'd just adopted all three babies. Amy, the most comely of my family's new fans, repeatedly expressed her admiration for my taking in all three girls, keeping the "triplets" together rather than allowing them to be scattered in America. I did little to disabuse her of the notion that the babies split from the same egg. For all I knew, they weren't even from the same troubled country. Things were chaotic in those back-room bassinettes at Venice, and I hardly had time to conduct a survey of their parentage. I was more concerned with rescuing them from the cruel traditions of Laos, or Thailand, or Upper Manchuria.

Amy nearly fainted when I cradled all three babies in my arms, a move I'd perfected moments earlier. I looked like a poster on a freshman girl's dormitory wall, a fever dream cooked up in Anne Geddes' photography studio. I'd always suspected that instant fatherhood would suit me.

It may have been all the Mai-Tai ice cubes I'd let the babies play with, but they calmly endured being passed around a circle of aspiring actresses, au-pairs, and hotel service staff. They insisted on feeding and burping the girls as I laid back in my deck chair, recounting to Amy the horrors the children would surely have faced had they not been smuggled out of their backwards homelands to the golden coast of Southern California and the total safety of a foster home within the upper echelon of the entertainment industry.

After what seemed like hours, the babies finally started to get a little cranky. I couldn't blame them; we'd all had a long, important day. I checked them into The Standard's excellent child-care facility and retired to my suite with Amy and one of the au-pairs who’d been impressed with my parenting style, which she’d glowingly described as "European, naturalistic, and hands-off.” I returned the compliment by ordering a third bottle of Moet to my room.

I drifted off to sleep in a tangle of soft, female limbs and satin sheets, thinking about the utter joy of parenthood that had been awakened in me.

The next morning, Amy, the au-pair and I drove to Malibu for some brunch. Two miles into the Pacific Coast Highway, with its sweeping ocean vistas, my cell phone rang. It was The Standard's child-care service. They wanted to know when I would like to pick up the girls.

I told them to have them sent up to Susan Sarandon's room. She'd stopped by the pool and had gone ga-ga over the babies' beautiful, alabaster eyes.

She'd make a wonderful mother, I'd always thought.

About this site

This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
If You Like Bunsen, Then You'll Love Bunsen