With Mary

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nature Versus Nurture: Zelig

"Sociology in Film," a class I took at the University of Georgia, examined the Woody Allen movie, Zelig. The main character, Leonard Zelig, is an enigma who transforms his actions and appearance, emulating famous people in an effort to be well-liked.  Midway through screening the movie, I recall- twenty five years ago- feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious.  Why?

Subconsciously, I believe I have spent my whole life in preparation of meeting my birth mom.  Having no idea of what she would be like, I became interested in a wide variety of activities and people.  I became good at many things, but not great at any one thing.  Depending on my current circle of friends (or boyfriend), my interests would change.   One year, I might learn to paint. Another year, I might really love hiking.  One year, I finally learned to play guitar.  While I viewed my Zelig experience as positive, after all, I learned so many new things, Woody Allen seemed to make fun of Leonard Zelig, the human chameleon.  Suddenly I questioned my core personality.  Who I am, really?

As an adoptee, "who am I" is a BIG question with no clear answer.  Before reuniting with my birth mom, my genetic life was a complete mystery.  Living with this mystery was not necessarily a negative one.  When home life became tense, I could live in my fantasy world where I imagined my birth mom like a fairy princess with long flowing hair, a radiant smile, and endless patience. Even as a small child, I wanted her to like and approve of me... to love me. Could it be that becoming Zelig in childhood was my strategy to ensure a successful reunion as an adult?  We have had a successful reunion and do share many common interests.  Nature versus nurture?  Hard to say, but fascinating to ponder.