Memo to Arnold and the Media

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My adoptive parents told me I was “chosen,” but the kids at school told me I was a “bastard.”

The recent headlines about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infidelities and the son he fathered out of wedlock have stirred many old memories and emotions.

I was four years old when I learned I was adopted. It was just before my sister Maureen’s eighth birthday. I told her, “I know what you’re getting for your birthday.”

“Don’t spoil the secret,” she said. “If you tell me, I’m going to tell you a secret!”

Well, that was the wrong thing to say! I had to know what she was keeping from me! I said, “You’re getting a blue dress for your birthday.”

Maureen said, “And you were adopted.”

I ran off to find our mother, Jane Wyman, in the den. I asked her, “What does ‘adopted’ mean?”

Mom’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Where did you hear that word?” she asked.

After Mom finished dealing with Maureen, she sat me down and explained adoption to me. “You are a chosen child,” she said, “and that makes you special. We love you very much.”

I could tell that being “chosen” was a good thing. But I also realized for the first time that Mom wasn’t my “real” mother — that I had another mother who had mysteriously given me away.

One day, when I was in the second grade, I got into a playground argument with another boy. We took turns one-upping each other. “I’m better than you,” I said. “I’m special ’cause I was chosen! I was adopted!”

The other boy didn’t know how to answer that, but the next day he came back to school and laughed at me. “My parents told me what ‘adopted’ means,” he said. “You’re not special — you’re a bastard! Your real mother wasn’t married, so she gave you away — bastard!”

That’s when I realized there was something horribly wrong with me. I never again bragged about being “chosen,” and I never again felt “special.” But I did feel marked.

I wondered, “Why did my birth mother give me away? Was it because I’m a bastard?” I figured Mom couldn’t have known I was illegitimate or she wouldn’t have adopted me. And I didn’t want her to find out!

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  • Moshe

    Ya, that's just genius… And he was also supposed to own up to his real family… and expect them to remain with him? Give me a break.

    • asdf


      Arnold's first mistake was fathering a child out of wedlock. His second mistake was apparently to abandon his offspring.

      These are both selfish acts. You seem to have no problem with that. I pity you.

  • Michael

    This son is his real family. I hope and expect that he'll step up to the plate. Arnold's used to being liked and no one likes a deadbeat dad.

  • Lfox328

    This is personal with me – my grandmother's parents weren't married. Like you, she heard the scornful words, and they scarred her soul.

  • sodizzy

    Thanks for taking this up and making the plea for adopted children everywhere. May people remember to be kind.

  • Lisa Richards

    So true. No child is illegit. That makes children sound like mistakes by God. all children are special and a gift. Those who cannot have children do in fact consider their adopted child a special gift, because that's true. Parenting is about love and teaching and giving to the child what is needed to grow. It's not about how you were conceived or who you were born to, but, does the child receive the love all children should get no matter the circumstances.