adults in the guise of children
Tuesday, September 24 2019
My biggest workplace accomplishment in the last year has been a system for importing data supplied in a cranky old file-based data format into a Microsoft SQL database. For the past few days, I've been implementing a new parser in this system to accept data in the form of an excel spreadsheet. By the end of the day, I'd realized that the new parser was highly-modular, and it would be a fairly simple task to add new ones should the need arise. I even made it so that, based on the presence of class files matching certain characteristics, I could automatically provide a dropdown list, allowing different parsers to be chosen by the operator.
In between work on that I learned (via Gizmodo.com) of the bizarre story of a couple in Indiana being prosecuted for child abandonment after setting up their adopted "child" in a rental. The parents are claiming that the supposedly six year old girl from Ukraine was actually a full-grown adult with a form of proportional dwarfism that made her resemble a pre-teen child. That's creepy, but it apparently wasn't the deal-breaker. The adoptee also had severe psychological issues and attempted on various occasions to kill or injure her adopted parents. I'm not sure why the authorities in Indiana are still pursuing the case given that the latest medical reports had placed the adoptee's age at about 23. Also, she'd vanished and, according to evidence, had been adopted (yet again in the guise of a child by unsuspecting parents) to continue her preferred lifestyle. I'm not sure what advantage there is to someone living through a series of childhoods with different parents. Is the goal to steal things from parents and sell them on eBay? Or is the goal to kill each set of parents and accrue a series of estates? I don't know what it was about this story, but I found it incredibly compelling. I'm fascinated by the ability of the adoptee to exploit the system in our society for adopting and raising children. An adult posing as such a child could theoretically exploit the wealth transfer inherent in such a relationship. (It wouldn't've worked so well, say, in my family, but in the family of desperate childless parents eager to adopt, who knows?)
I hadn't had enough of the story even after reading the long (and somewhat confused) article at the Daily Mail. So I downloaded and began to watch Orphan, a 2009 movie with a nearly-identical premise. Reality seems to have shamelessly plagerized this fictional prior art. Orphan's sweet-smiling villain, Esther, is adopted by a well-meaning (and wealthy) Connecticut family who are told she is nine years old. Something is off, though, because Esther paints with an ease and precision that no actual child exhibits. And she has her own style, which seems to harken back to decades ago in some land far away. Then bad things start happening to anyone who rubs Esther wrong. Before the big reveal that I've already spoiled, we're given one of the creepiest scenes I've ever seen involving a child actress. Esther modifies a lacy black slip into something she can convincing wear, puts on lipstick, and makes the moves on her conveniently-drunk adopted father. At that point it hasn't yet been revealed that Ester is a dangerous thirty-three year old escaped mental patient, so the scene really pushes the sashes of the Overton Window of American cinema. Orphan is a great movie despite all the cheap horror-movie crap (the musical cues that make you think something bad is about to happen that then fails to materialize, or a goofy camera perspective from a non-existent assailant). Orphan haunted me after I watched it in a way that few movies do. I'm a sucker for any media that subverts our simplistic, patronizing expectations regarding children (or, in this case, adults passing themselves off as children). (I was similarly haunted by The Girl With All The Gifts, going so far as listening to the Cristobal Tapia de Veer soundtrack on repeat.)
My movie watching was interrupted by a social call in Woodstock. Our friend Alana was celebrating her 48th birthday at a new bar called Early Terrible (just up the hill from Catskill Mountain Pizza). Gretchen made cupcakes, as always, and I took a painting off the stack and wrapped it in aluminum foil. It was the one of a jellyfish swimming against a black background.
Early Terrible is next door to a new coffee shop called The Mud Club, and Gretchen says they're both owned by the same guy. He supposedly operates the Mud Club all day, then closes it down and walks over to Early Terrible to boot it up for the evening. It's in a cozy lodge-like building whose insides have been paneled with rough-hewn boards that are then overlain with collections of old objects. On one part of one wall those objects are old crosscut saws. In another, they're pieces of driftwood. In another, there are six or seven cow skulls. There's a nice nearly-circular bar with convenient barlike areas running nearby along both the east and west walls, and there's a cozy hang-out area with couches around a coffee table, and on that coffee table is an old typewriter that doesn't work. The bartender was a woman who looked a little too hip, young, and attractive for the Woodstock scene, but she wasn't as bitchy as she looked. Later in the evening when we were the only ones left, she gave us all a round of lemon shots with gin. Other than that, I was drinking a very good IPA, the only one they had on tap.
I didn't really feel like I was being much of a part of anyone's conversation. I was content to listen as Alana told some unknown friends of hers about another friend who had suffered heatstroke. All I did was pay close attention and ask one clarifying question. But I wasn't feeling uncomfortable at all; I'd drunk a fair amount of kratom tea this afternoon.
I wasn't especially clever or witty tonight, though a new expression magically occurred to me that seemed topical given the day: "Thanks, Alana!"
Just when I thought we were getting ready to leave, Peter showed up, so we had to stay long enough for Gretchen to tell him all the same things she'd just been telling Jeff. By then, I was itching to head back home to see the rest of Orphan.
When I climbed into bed tonight, I told Gretchen that adults posing as children for adoption was my new obsession, displacing multilevel marketing.
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