Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A-list adoption

Are celebs really putting the child's needs first when they adopt from overseas? Lauren feels celebrity adoption is happening for all the wrong reasons.

Nicole Kidman and Sharon Stone have been doing it for years. Angelina and Brad are famous for it, and apparently even Britney's thinking about it. Now it's Madonna's turn. Adopting babies is becoming as crucial to celebrity status as appearances on red carpets and in magazine spreads. But, I think the impact of the new international baby shopping trend may actually result in a negative impact that could last a child's lifetime. It seems to me that the rich and famous are bending the rules and pushing the boundaries to bring babies back to their own countries.

When I was nine I bought a Tamagotchi. Remember them? The little electronic pets designed by a crazy Japanese man in the hope of getting young people to learn about responsibility and parenthood while he made a buck or two. The pets, mine was a cat named Kevin, appeared on a small screen and needed to be fed, loved and played with or else a big RIP sign would flash up and the pet would appear six feet under. Kevin lasted about a week. The first day I had him I over-fed, over-played and smothered him with love, but as the novelty wore off and boredom set in, I forgot Kevin and after six long malnourished and neglected days Kevin kicked the bucket.

Now, I'm not comparing Madonna's newly purchased baby, David Banda, to Kevin. I'm not even comparing her parental skills to my own. I'm sure as a mother of two she will do a far better job than I did. I'm merely saying that her decision to adopt in the way that she has comes with far more responsibility and potential problems than may first appear. It also raises big questions about power and money, over ethics and morals.

Madonna should be commended for handing over nearly £2 million to help Malawian orphans. She is raising the profile of a country in desperate need of help and is highlighting an issue many would rather ignore. And, of course, she is providing a child with an opportunity to live in health and wealth for the rest of his life. But we must remember that David is not an orphan, he has a father who simply could not afford to keep him and who claims he was misled when signing adoption papers that he says he could barely understand. Could Madonna not have offered David's father money to give him a better life or adopted an orphan instead?

The laws on international adoption aren't simple. Most childless couples who are desperate to adopt an African child wouldn't have been able to do so with the ease of Madonna and Guy Ritchie. Most people aren't able to hand over a few million quid so that the authorities view them in a rosier light or bend and break the laws for them. The law in Malawi states an 18-month inhabitancy within the country before potential parents can adopt a baby and take them out of the country. However, Madonna and Guy claim they began the adoption process months prior to their trip to Malawi and have followed the adoption procedure according to the law like anyone else.

"This child will now live a life of invasion, his identity may never be more
than as 'Madonna's son'."

Get beyond the law breaking and there's still the issue that this child's future has completely changed. Who is to say that this child will be happier being brought up in the western world, spoiled with expensive living and excessive goods? How can anyone be sure that this society won't have a worse effect on the boy when he will be exposed to things that he may never have even known existed in his world? What were the chances of him being bullied for being different in Malawi? In Malawi he may not have had to be afflicted with big brother or peer pressure or having paparazzi rummaging through his bins. This child will now live a life of invasion by the press and his identity may never be more than as "Madonna's son".

On the reverse side, David Banda, has been saved from poverty. He's escaped a fate that many hundreds of thousands of children in his home country will suffer from through poverty, malnourishment and disease. But will he grow up with the culture, language and values of his forefathers?

Maybe Madonna is adopting this baby with all of the best intentions. But there has to be a part of it that is selfish. A part of her that is doing it for her own self-fulfilment so she can feel like a do-gooder. When she looks at her trillion figure bank account she can now say, "Well I've adopted an African baby, don't you know?"

Like Meg Ryan, Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie, Madonna appears to have fallen into the celebrity adoption shopping race. How many babies, from how many different countries and how much? But at what cost? Will it take the 'Brangelina' tribe to grow into an entire football team before these celebrities stop and think about the harm, rather than the good they may be causing these children?

In my opinion there is something very distasteful with this new trend of celebrity adoption. There is a feeling of a disproportionate power to responsibility ratio that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. As David Banda is carried off in his new mum's private jet, surrounded by body guards and with the world's press after his picture, something just doesn't quite fit.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The worst hour of the week

You may think 9 AM on a Monday morning is painful. Getting your head back into work mode as you open your inbox after a weekend of boosing and fun. You may hate midday on a Wednesday as the weekend still feels so far out of grasp.
However, there is a new hour of the week more painful and desperate than any other time. It is worse than midnight when the werewolves appear and worse than any back to work blues. This hour is between 3 and 4 on a Sunday afternoon. This is the hour when the trading laws kick in and the supermarkets close early.

"There is a new hour of the week more painful and desperate than any other time."

“Here we go again”, you think She’s off on a rant about supermarket etiquette. Well, yes I am actually and I shall tell you why……..
Supermarkets, the way in which you use them and the impact they have on our lives bores far deeper into the depths of the soul than you think.
Take for example, the way in which the Americans shop. Big trolleys, in big shops (where you can also buy guns) filled with big freezer food, to fit in the big three door, ice making fridge/freezer machines.
And the English way to shop, a little bit of food in a smaller trolley on an almost daily basis, in a shop where you cannot also buy a firearm. Now compare these two ways in which to shop with the stereotype of the people from each country.

Back to the dreaded hour. . . .

At 3.30 on Sunday I, like every other person in the whole of Surrey, decided to pop to sainsburys for last minute shop. My boyfriend and I had decided, with the help of Gordon Ramsey, to attempt a fish dish. This whole shopping trip could have taken 10 minutes with my stealth, pro-active shopping formation. This consists of me ordering my other half to advance towards the fresh herbs while I choose the vino. We can then meet back, around isle 12 for a
– “Check”,
– “Red wine”
– “2 bottles, Check” type of conversation
This procedure was unable to be put in place on Sunday. First of all there was the very moral row over parking in the disabled parking bay. While, admittedly there were 1000 free disabled parking spaces it still goes against my karma to park in them.
Then there was the battle with every Range Rover driving, blonde mother of 5, who you see a lot on the Surrey/Hampshire border. They were also trying the delegation technique with their shopping.
“Tarquin go and get mummy a large spaghetti squash”
“Verity sweetie run along and get mummy a copy of house and home, we are in it this week”. Etc etc.
So once we had battled furiously through these horrible types we made it to the fish counter. Which was shut. Me, my boyfriend (and I’m sure Gordon Ramsy) were very upset about this and demanded the fishy boy to go out the back and find us his best fish. He returned with some trout which we accepted gracefully. The same thing happened at the newspaper stand. I had to ask the young reprobate, who looked as if he’d rather mug me than serve me to find me a Sunday newspaper, on Sunday. Not a chance in hell.

The end of the journey, and it really was a journey - far into my mental stability, was by far the worst.
The queue.
English people can queue. They do it everywhere. They are as good at queuing as the germans are at playing bagsi with the sun loungers or the Americans are at mixing buying arms with couscous.
Not today. People could not queue today. Immediately world war three broke out. It was the “under ten items” vs the “trolley dolleys” from the boarder. It was the “fast trackers” with their beeping fast track bar code guns against people like myself the “we don’t need a basket I’ll carry everything in my hands”.

"Immediately world war three broke out."

The war got tactical. I saw a young girl tell her younger sister to run outside to get a fast track gun while waiting in the trolley dolly queue. They beeped, scanned and did a stunning last minute manoeuvre switching to the opposition.
We stood between to queues hoping for another till to open. It did, and, amid scowells from fellow shoppers we moved to the front.
After the Spanish inquisition, “Nectar card?”, “Computers for school”, “Help with packing?” etc…….

We were out.
Now can you see why 3 until 4 on a Sunday is the worst hour of the week?