What CAN We Compare Adoption To?

NY Foundling Hospital Open House 1958


In my last post, Australia’s Adoption Apology, I was informed that comparing Adoption to the Holocaust was not in good taste or to quote: “offensive and overblown. Adoption is bad, and many were hurt. The Holocaust was the murder of 6 million men women and children for no reason other than that they were Jewish, or Gay or handicapped or Gypsies or some Slavs. The two things are just not on the same scale in any way. Such a comparison dishonors the dead.” 

**please note** this is not one of those I don’t like your comment so I am going to rip it apart posts. This is a “hmm, this discussion really got me thinking,so I am using your comment” post.

Adoption and the Holocaust: NO

Now for the records I actually wasn’t comparing the atrocities of the Holocaust to the atrocities of adoption.

My previous post which really WAS about the apology recommend by the Australian government and my surprising feelings and reactions to it, not about the Holocaust.

The question I posed was IF something is KNOWN to be HORRIBLE, can we say “It’s different now” and ignore the past because of how we perceive it NOW.

Yes, I used the Holocaust as an example of a horrible thing that happened in the past because it’s pretty much hands down one of the MOST horrible things that has happened in the past and I thought that clearly, all could agree that it was bad. (and for the record.. the death toll of Hitler’s extermination was the murder of 6 million Jews and another estimated 5 to 11 million who feel under the Nazi genocide machine for other reasons) I didn’t use the concentration camp pile of dead body images because I thought THAT would upset people and was too much just for shock value (And the post was not about the Holocaust!)

Adoption and Slavery? NO!

So I asked if we could use slavery as an example ( yes, I am quoting my own comment!)

I could have just as easily gone with any other known and established atrocity: Slavery, rape, murder, 911?  

Take your pick..really any situation that BEGAN as an act of violence, wrongness, etc will do. Want to do the slavery one ( though that one manages to piss people off too!)

Is slavery good NOW because President Obama is a African America? Did the Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks and MLK makes the past horrors of slavery disappear in a poof of smoke? No!

How about if I said “Racism is different now!” all brightly as if that made racism now OK because it’s not the same as the crime of slavery? It’s pretty damn stupid of me to say that isn’t it?

And again, I was told NO…”comparing adoption to slavery, rape, murder, or 9/11 is also offensive. Most people just turn off complaints about the real problems caused by adoption abuse when anyone makes those sorts of extreme comparisons. It does not lead to enlightenment or sympathy for the cause, but to distaste and rejection of adoption reform and those who promote it. It is counterproductive.

What’s it Not offensive to Compare Adoption to?

Now, before I go one step further with this. Let me just state: I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING about a cause getting so overblown that it turns people off (biting tongue …something about God’s will and contraception and the GOP ..Santorum!Santorum!). I have, however, studied the seemingly crazy looking statements and actions made by various groups such as right to life and baby safe haven because, well.. they often work. Yes, I have trouble going there, but observing and noting their tactics is wise in my opinion. Ah, but that is not what this post is about either.

What I want to know is.. what CAN we compare Adoption to? 

And I don’t mean that in a snarky or obnoxious way. I was repainting the living room last weekend and would check the comments between breaks and then think, as I brushed and rolled, Ok so WHAT would work?

What Adoption CANNOT be Compared to

I have my own list of what just will not do.

We cannot compare adoption to giving a “gift” because people are not gifts and that is offensive to adopted people.

Adoption is also not a contract. Contracts can be broken and those who enter the contract have legal recourse, where in adoption those relinquishing often really do not. Also, adoption cannot be a contract because minor consent to adoption of their offspring and contract law will not allow minors to sign contracts. It’s unethical for a minor to enter into a contract.

There are a few other things that I could loosely tie in, but I am saving them for another follow up that came from the Australia comments ( What Offends Me about Adoption.. expect a LONG list!). And then, I can go on an defend why we CAN compare adoption to all the previously horrible situations, but a list of similarities don’t seem like a good use of my time and just an exercise in my awesome research powers.

And to be honest, I painted all day and thought and thought.. and I just could not come up with one thing that really fit. So I ask you..

I keep on thinking of what I now consider “Suz’s Quote”

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”   Voltaire

Maybe it’s just the whole THOUGHT of Adoption that is just absurd, but I still want ONE good thing to compare adoption to that I can use. You know I love analogies. So I ask you, what CAN we compare adoption to? What one other thing  is kinda sort like adoption enough that it makes sense to talk about the two things together?

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

32 Comments on "What CAN We Compare Adoption To?"

  1. Well….I am an adoptee, and I was paid for- I was a healthy white infant- chattel to the adoption industry. My adoptive parents have a certificate of ownership called an amended birth certificate. My original identity, family, heritage, etc was to be wiped away clean and forgotten- just like a slave in colonial America. I am an adoptee, and I will compare adoption to whatever I wish. Was I beaten and forced to do slave labor? Not quite…but there are many adoptees who WERE and ARE treated this way. Oh, and there are price lists for infants. We’ve all seen the lists. Yeah…Im going to compare it to slavery.

  2. When we look for analogies we are looking for models of things that are universally understood to explain things that we do not understand, or to explain things to others using examples of things that they understand. The important thing to remember is that although models and analogies are useful, in the end all models are wrong.
    Adoption, as its practiced in the west, already is an analogy, and the analogy is parenthood, “as if born”. IMO this is why the analogy to slavery, while emotionally compelling, is not particularly useful, or for me, satisfying. Adoptive parents have no more or less right to treat their children like chattel than natural parents.

  3. Part of the problem is that for each person it is different. As a birthparent I always likened it to amputation. It hurt as much as if someone lopped my right arm off, to this day I feel as if I have been separated from a vital part of myself and there is always the feeling of “what would my life be like if I had never lost him in the first place”. And then there is the phantom pain that springs on you when you least expect it. It is trauma, pure and simple.

    For birthparents who have been betrayed by adoptive parents, coerced by trusted “pregnancy counselors”, pressured by their own family, the trauma is twofold.

    I cannot speak for adoptees or adoptive parents… but their experiences surely are different. Which is why analogy is so hard. There really is nothing to compare it to that fits us all.

  4. I can only speak for myself and how, as an adoptee, adoption has made me feel. I can definitely understand the comparison to slavery as my maternal granpdarents paid a boat load of money to Catholic Charities to house my mother in a maternity home in order to get rid of (sell) me; while my adoptive parents paid an equal amount of money to adopt (buy) me. When human beings are sold and bought, it brings to mind thoughts of the slave trade.

    In thinking it through, however, I would compare adoption in its current state to any other commerce-driven entity in the United States. Our original parents are the manufacturers, us adoptees are the product, agencies are the retail outlets, and adoptive parents are the consumers. I’m actually surprised that my husband did not study the adoption industry while working to complete his MBA. Adoption is a business. And that business is selling children to people who want them. Perhaps puppy mills and the pet industry would be a good comparison as puppies are living beings who are also sold and bought? And with puppy mills, the mothers are treated like nothing more than baby dog machines. Although, people seem to be much more worked up over the atrocities of puppy mills and the treatment of dog moms than they are about adoptees and vulnerable pregnant women.

    That said, I feel that I was sold and bought like a piece of human merchandise. My well-being and basic human rights were, and have never been, a consideration. In that sense, I was nothing more than another box of cereal up on the shelf or puppy in a cage at the pet store.

    Adoption is not some altruistic endeavor. It’s basically Wal Mart with humans as the rollback items.

  5. Eugenics? Forced sterilization of those not deemed worthy to reproduce…that was state sanctioned by law…doctor recommended…choice removed…lifelong sentence…started early last century and continued for decades…

  6. I do not see the need to compare adoption to anything. It is own thing, with its own particular problems and abuses. Honestly telling our stories as adoptees and natural mothers as often as possible to any who will listen, without comparisons, “just the facts, Ma’m” as Sergeant Friday used to say, is the best way to make others understand what was and continues to be wrong with adoption. Adoption in the US is not “like” a commercial enterprise; it IS a commercial enterprise, and a largely unregulated one. Mothers and adoptees have been exploited, used, and commodified. The truth without comparisons is compelling enough. Just keep telling it straight and clear without getting off on tangents about what adoption is like.

    • I don’t even want to own a pet anymore it creeps me out. They are not free to just be with their own little dog and cat families. They don’t come find us on their own we pluck them away from the teet and then refer to ourselves as their Mom’s and Dad’s creepy

  7. “Perhaps puppy mills and the pet industry would be a good comparison as puppies are living beings who are also sold and bought?”

    I was sort of thinking along similar lines – i.e. to me, it is similar to animal trafficking. That is, you have people wanting an animal and paying lots of money to procure that animal even though it means removing it from its natural habitat.

  8. I see adoption as, and in comparison to, the horrors of Human Trafficking that existed in the past and even now into current day.

    “Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transfering, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.”

  9. I think we need to be able to compare adoption to things that those who are not affected by adoption will understand. When someone calls me a “bastard” or as I was recently told ” you people only get one copy, you might commit fraud with that OBC” I liken those to racism and profiling.

    If I were a “person of color” being called the “N-word” would be taken as offensive from someone who is on the outside, they can reclaim it and others cannot. But people tell me to get over being called a bastard. The judgement of “you people” is profiling against adopted adults who were requesting copies of their original birth certificates, the idea of fraud is ridiculous because most of them have matching numbers. Is it any different than being profiled for a manner of dress or skin color? I don’t know but I know when I describe racial profiling people understand why it is problematic but so many do not understand the problems with adoption today and yesterday.

    There is hate speech, discrimination and crimes committed against mothers and adoptees and we don’t need to just be able to state that, we also need those not affected to understand it and have empathy as well.

  10. Write on, sister. Analogies are part of how we tell stories. Of course adoption is NOT SLAVERY, BUT it does have many commonalities. I will go on using the analogy until all the records are open.

  11. Lorraine, my point was that such analogies hinder rather than help the cause of open records and should not be used in political discourse with legislators that we are hoping to get on our side, nor to influence the general public to support our cause.

    Of course we can all use any analogy that works for us to describe our personal situations and personal feelings about adoption, and there are no word police to stop us. I would just like to offer an alternate view of the more extreme analogies and to ask people to stop and think about how we look to others not involved in adoption when we try to explain adoption this way. It has been my experience that these analogies go over like a lead balloon with most people, who then turn off our real arguments and complaints about adoption practice and law as just more hyperbole.

    Claud, I understand what you were trying to do with your comparison to Hitler and Germany, but have you ever heard of Godwin’s Law?
    Some food for thought before invoking Hitler as a comparison.

    Adoption is not the wonderful, problem-free fairytale rescue story that its proponents want everyone to believe, nor is it an unrelieved horror like the Holocaust or human sex trafficking, nor is it comparable to slavery except in the strictly legal sense of the injustice of sealed records. On the personal and individual level that analogy does not work and insults many adopted people and their parents. Adoptive parents are not “kind slave masters”, they are parents, some good, some bad, some horrid, just like biological parents.
    The slavery analogy gets us way off the track of justice for adoptees and mothers into endless discussions that are irrelevant and hurtful, not informative, and that turn the public against our cause rather than garnering support.

    Just my opinion of course, but something to look at and consider.

  12. Wrong, Maryanne. Slavery is the perfect analogy, because adoptees are not legally permitted to have access to the record of their personhood. There’s nothing “off track” about it, and it is not about adopters. This isn’t about “justice for Mothers”, this is about adoptees having the same rights as non-adoptees. People should be insulted that adoptees are treated by society and their government as property.

  13. I stand corrected and agree with you, it is not about justice for mothers but about adoptees access to their own birth certificates and not being treated as property. Injustices to mothers are another issue. Yes, the slavery analogy works when kept strictly to the access to records and withholding of identity. I fully agree that adoptees should have the same rights as non-adoptees.

    Where it does not work is when adoptive parents are brought into it and compared to slaveholders, which does happen when the subject comes up, or when adoptees in general are compared to slaves in an emotional rather than legal sense.

    My what a witty name you have come up with for yourself, anon. The feeling is mutual.

  14. Comparing any atrocity to any atrocity is a very difficult thing to do. It is hard to point out why something is wrong, my comparison to something else that is also wrong, and have people understand that you’re not saying the issues are the same. I identify with the struggle and with being misunderstood. There’s no easy way to talk about these issues or explain to people, who should already know but don’t, why adoption crimes were wrong and are still wrong.

    One thing I find benneficial about using comparisons (but not saying something is the same as another thing) is to identify similar issues within another cause or atrocity that may help people understand that how they feel about one thing ought to translate the same way into how they feel about another. It is done simply to ask people for congruency in their own values. For instance, it baffles me that there are feminists who are extremely transphobic and will exclude transwomen from feminism and feminist groups. Feminism (ought to) says that women are fully human and that being female is not a reason to treat someone unequally or inhumanely. But some feminists cannot translate this SAME concept into how they treat transwomen and do exactly to transwomen as feminsts say shouldn’t be done to cisgender women: discriminate against them for their gender/sex/gender identity. I’m not saying that the issues within the cisgender female community and the transgender community are identical or that they all face identical oppressions. But I will make the comparison to call fellow feminists out on their incongruency.

    Likewise, when it comes to adoption, I do not say that slavery or indentured servitude are identical to all things adoption. However, there are elements of adoption that are similar to slavery and it is because of how awful slavery is that we ought to be offended to no end that there are elements of adoption that share similarities. It is not OK for money to be exchanged for custody of a child. It is not OK to erase and seal the identity and history of a human being. It is not OK to talk about adopted children or any person like they are property that belongs to someone. Someone will say these things are wrong when it comes to slavery. Then in the next breath they’ll minimize the suffering of those who have been enslaved by viewing these very similar issues as “OK” when it comes to adoption.

  15. There are many things that happened in history that we do not say “all better now” simply because we’ve made advances and improved human rights in various areas. It should be no different for how we treat original mothers. Adoption should not get this “free pass” as glowing and wonderful and the women of the BSE ignored despite the crimes committed against them just because, for example, of how wonderful people think open adoption is. However, it’s a fact that adoption does get this free pass. When someone gives a free pass to adoption despite it’s horrendous history but does not provide a free pass on another issue because of it’s horrendous history, it is a clear inconsistency of ethics and values. That’s what I think Claud was trying to say.

    What I don’t like about making comparisons is that no issue is the same as another so they are always, always tricky to make. Every issue should be able to stand on its own and be called out for what it is on its own, no comparisons necessary. However, unfortunately, when people don’t see their own incongruency in ethics, they don’t see how something is wrong–what else can you say without pointing out the inconsistency? Then there’s when people issue critiques of a comparison, they often fall into the same dilemma that they are accusing the comparison-maker of: minimizing the pain of one group in order to say that the comparison to the other group was unwarranted. If one does not like that a comparison to or even the mentioning of the Holocaust, I understand that. However, disagreement with the comparison should not include minimizing the experiences and feelings of countless women who were traumatized beyond belief when having their babies taken from them. Discussions of suffering should not be made to be about who has suffered worse but an overall sense of urgency to help any victim, anywhere, no matter what the crime.

  16. “However, disagreement with the comparison should not include minimizing the experiences and feelings of countless women who were traumatized beyond belief when having their babies taken from them. Discussions of suffering should not be made to be about who has suffered worse but an overall sense of urgency to help any victim, anywhere, no matter what the crime”

    Nobody did that. Check out the comments on the first post. Blah blah blah. I feel linguistic dilatation volvulus coming on.

  17. Pandoria, Claud asked a question and I answered it with my perception. I did read the comments but thanks for your concern. If I felt one person in particular did what I described, I would have said who it was and addressed them specifically.

    If how I write doesn’t suit your tastes, do yourself a favor and avoid reading it. Do us both a favor and save your insults for someone who cares.

  18. I think you should pick wichever analogy suits you when you blog. You are comparing adoption pain to other horrible events. I don’t think you need to rationalize your comparisons. Should you compare adoption to the holocaust? Maybe or maybe not. It may have been your personal holocaust, the murder and destruction of your feelings, your relationships, and your dreams. Is it fair to make such a comparison of how you feel in relationship to the deeds others have done? I think so. I could actually understand that you did not literally mean the holocaust when you were using it as an analogy. Others may not.

    As for using slavery as an analogy. Funny thing about that. My DH calls my daughter’s adoptive name her “slave name”. So I don’t think you are the only one who uses this analogy.

    Just keep blogging as you think and feel. Adoption ripped my heart out and years later the adoptive parents stomped on it just to make sure it did not beat with love for my daughter. I blog about this all the time and make no apologies. I have the right to be offensive and anyone who reads it has the right to be offended. But I am not changing a thing to make it fair or to spare someone elses feelings. If I would do that then MY message would not be true. We need to stand true to who we are and not change to be more palatable to other people who choose to read our blogs.

  19. See this is why Homie don’t play that. A reasonable person reading your previous post would not have extrapolated to you comparing adoption to the Holocaust. You in fact did not. You extrapolated the candy-wrapping of one horrible event, which is easily recognizable through the use of one man’s image. Of course we know history is littered with horrific events http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic_disasters_by_death_toll, but that doesn’t even begin to be a complete list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tlatelolco_Massacre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989, or even our own horrific treatment of the Bonus Army in Hooverville. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Army. Those situations are not as easily as identifiable as the one image of Adolf.

    It was an effective visual shorthand. It gave an easily recognizable context which is a powerful to for the purpose of persuasion. You did not say that adoptive parents were like Hitler, you do not talk to legislators, and you do talk to legislators and say, OMG HITLER ADOPTORAPTOR! What an insulting and horribly naive suggestion.

    You have done a lot of hard work, you have delivered a polished and brief unemo package to legislators. Why engage with this buffoonery? There point was not to make your description more accurate, you have to talk with big brushes in this arena because we are talking about broad policy, not to the intricacies of individual’s personal lives. That is not what good policy is based on nor should it be.
    The purpose of those comments, ironically is what they inveigled themselves to accuse you of, they were to undermine your efforts and somehow make the commenters relevant. Along with giving the anons. who have a moral obligation to care for the very class of people they are degrading, something of a platform to insult and degrade the class of people they claim to want in their lives. Bored? Try going to a museum!
    For example look at Pandora’s Ocean Breeze comment to Amanda, gratuitous, garbled, did she get it from our favorite complaint generator? http://www.pakin.org/complaint/
    Sad really.

    If these anon.s really were invested, I will include Maryanne here with her friends, they would do something creative, powerful, and effective. Then I would hold their opinions in much higher esteem. As it is they try to make themselves relevant by attempting to eat their young.
    What I really want to tell them is Elizabeth Zimmermann http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Zimmermann revolutionized modern knitting with the reintroduction of the German method of knitting. They should check it out. Doing something productive will do wonders for their outlook on life. 🙂

  20. OMG! And Pandoria’s Ocean Breeze Anon-o-Care’s Comment to Amanda was so NOT garbled but I’m afraid *somebody’s* was. I feel embarrassed. Not for me.

  21. Lol, see?

    Feel important, yeah, I have so many problems convincing people, persuading them, lol. There is no I in Pandora just like there is no i in team or adoption. I am so inarticulate, oh that stings like a butterfly, floats like a bee.

    Yes, I struggle so much with getting clear ideas across, that is my burden to bear in life or is it, I don’t suffer fools gladly? Is there a little mouse running round your brain? I realize that you are not embarrassed for yourself, that you are smug and misguided. Must suck to live your life.

  22. I mean it is not like the 1% pay me well to persuade others, lol. I mean it is not like this is my very bread and butter. Pandor-i-a, you have wounded me. Don’t worry, I will recover. I have all that money to spend on therapy after all.

    Lord deliver us from the bondage of the stupid and cruel. In your name we ask this, Amen.

  23. I came across this via the CUB link on FB. I don’t feel as articulate as many of the other posters but I do want to reply, if only to support other birth-mothers who may be the only ones who know and understand what that experience is like. I wish I had an analogy but I don’t. The closest I can come to is that it must be something like losing a limb. Something was part of you and then suddenly it’s not. Truth is, you never really lose it in your mind and body and it often hurts to the point of agony. I’ve heard from amputees that this is true for them. I know it’s true for those of us who carried a life for 9 months and then had that life taken from us. It’s not like anything else I’ve known in my life and I’ve lived 64 years on this earth. I am lucky as I am reunited with the man who was once mine and he loves me. No, that doesn’t take one bit of the pain away, just as a prosthetic leg doesn’t make someone forget the loss of the limb. The wound is forever.

  24. CHILD ABUSE…that is what some forms of adoption may be contrasted with….We are all children of this earth and when our rights are violated as humans with care and emotion to satisify those in higher position… THAT IS CHILD ABUSE!

  25. Anonymous | April 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

    Personally I use to say adoption was human trafficking. I never much said that out loud but then one day I saw the writings of Karen Balcom, Ph.D. who authored The Traffic in Babies: Cross Border Adoption and Baby-Selling Between the United States and Canada, 1930-1972 (University of Toronto Press, 2011). Great I thought, then my speculation has been affirmed.
    Let us call it what it is! HUMAN TRAFFICKING!
    Lynn (adoptee)

  26. “Adoption” is a shade of lipstick on TRAUMA, particularly in the case of infant adoption. The damage done to an infant in separating him/her from his/her mother is immeasurable, though some damage has been named such as “Developmental Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.” Healthy brain development depends heavily on uniting, at birth, with the mother who carried you — and long enough to establish the sense of trust and safety that all human beings should be heir to. That is not the only factor, but it is integral.

    The damage done to a mother is also an atrocity, and a trauma, but neurobiologically far less so than for the infant. If we cannot get the world to muster empathy for these infants, there will be none for their mothers.

    I cannot imagine a worse atrocity in the history of mankind than to intentionally separate infants from their mothers, considering the lifelong damage done (particularly by ignoring that trauma). The accompanying assaults on the adoptee’s identity are abysmal and shameful, but nothing compared to the primal assault.

    In my opinion, there is simply nothing to compare it to — unless there is some other PRIMAL atrocity in history I’ve yet to hear about.

  27. Anonymous | April 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm |

    What screams in my head is that of a child who has “gone missing”. You do not know where they are. You do not know who they are with. You do not know how they are being treated. You do not know if they are in pain. You do not know if they are alive or dead. Period.

  28. Despite its attention-getting title, Karen Balcom’s “Traffic in Babies” does not claim that adoption is child trafficking. Balcom’s focus is specifically on illegal, illicit and black market adoptions.
    Recommended as a good read, as well as a meticulously researched and well argued contribution to adoption and social welfare history.

  29. I think we have felt the need to analogize because our individual and collective experiences were not validated by the culture, at large, on their own merit.

    When analogy has been necessary, to me it felt like a psychic molestation. People I’d been introduced to came to my hospital room hours post delivery (I’d asked them not to), made false promises, said sweet things, and so forth. It felt like a grooming, of sorts… both by the couple and the counselor. I was told I would be a “good” girl to comply and selfish not to.

    Years later, I would have nightmares where hands were reaching up my hospital gown … and worse that I won’t detail.

    I hope the day comes when I can simply state what happened … and that will be enough for the hearer to understand on some level.

  30. As someone who is currently working on a book basically making the adoption/slavery connection from a political and economic perspective, I would argue that this is the best analogy, especially since historically speaking adoption grew out of indentured servitude, and had nothing to do with family creation.

  31. Soul rape…in two words, it explains the feelings I have lived with for 30 years now..One of the women Dan Rather interviewed described it as such, and I 100% agree..

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