Adoptees may be more accurately described as “society’s shameful open secret,” especially when leaders declare that “in recent decades the American family has come under virtual attack.” Donald Trump’s recent State of the Union address also perpetuated adoption misconceptions, firmly entrenching adoptees in a state of inertia.
Before you angrily push the “share” button and furiously type a non-flattering explanation of my site, I’ll clarify my position: I am not anti-adoption, nor am I happily bouncing my way into that “pro-” category.
Thanks to the Internet’s uniquely divisive nature, I need to proclaim my stance in the most neutral, succinct way. And here it goes:
I am “adopt transracially with extreme prejudice.”
- Doing legit research (not just blogs, reddit groups, or other online echochambers)
- Realistically evaluating your understanding of race and your attitudes toward it
- Reviewing the community in which you live and objectively assessing its ethnic-friendliness
- Reading perspectives from both sides of the adoption experience and anticipating potential issues
It also means really, truly sitting with your expectations for transracial adoption and really, truly, honestly appraising your ability to provide for the unique needs of a transracial child.
This may mean listening to anyone else but your family and friends and maybe hearing a transracial adoptee’s (TRAd) perspective, peppered with some honest-to-goodness academic research.
Since there are no hard and fast guidelines established yet for navigating these complexities, I’ll offer suggestions (not solutions) based on forty-plus years of research on the subject and leave you to determine what best works for your family. My hope is that you’ll find some common threads that pull it all together and pick out what works for you.
If you are considering transracial adoption, this site’s for you.
If you are a transracial adoptive parent (TRAp), this site’s for you.
If you are a TRAd, this site’s for you.
If you are simply interested in exploring racial complexities and how adoption isn’t the solution to ending racial problems, then I think you’ll want to sit and stay awhile.
Hey all! As if you couldn’t get enough of me, I’m publishing over at Medium in addition to maintaining blog posts here. Those articles are a bit different than on this site so I hope you enjoy them.
As always, feel free to share and comment. I always love your feedback.
Take a look at my first two pieces:
Five Potential Side Effects of Transracial Adoption
Because families aren’t born from rainbows and unicorn sh*t
Why I Can’t Pick a Side in the Adoption Debate (Right Now)
AKA Please Don’t Attack Me Yet
I am not a political person but recent events have forced my commentary on an astoundingly racist comment by – as I’m sure you know – President Donald Trump.
When I set out to write my book, I sought to uncover why an adoptive father with deeply prejudiced views would consider transracial adoption. I’m analyzing three distinct but intertwined histories: the American family, America’s anti-Asian sentiment, and, of course, the history of transracial adoption, all in an effort to explain otherwise inexplicable behavior.
But I never imagined that my country’s leader, a man describing predominantly poor and black nations as “shit holes,” would hasten my path to an answer.
And here it is:
Trump’s language is identical to my father’s, a man who’d use similar rhetoric to describe those same countries. And that superiority complex, I now realize, is what drives certain white men to determine who’s good enough to come to this country and live among their families, and who has to stay out.
Woeful bigots who transracially adopt might have complex motives rooted in what I continue to uncover, but never has an answer to a deeply complex question been presented to me with such appalling clarity. If racism trickles down from the top, then we have an even more complicated issue to address: How do we protect ourselves against forces so powerful and how can we prevent this from happening again?
For one, we cannot allow ignorant white men’s opinions to pit minorities against each other. It’s a vicious attempt to assign racial hierarchies among human beings. We need to view their commentary through a lens of insecurity and inferiority, the basic root of all immigrant-directed nativistic racism.
I hope that Trump’s comments unite people of all colors against such despicable language. I also hope that this event provokes immigrants to loudly tell their stories, so that we may continue documenting the struggles we encounter every single day.
Thanks, all of my readers, for letting me veer off the path a bit :). You mean the world to me!
Like many angsty teens, I wanted a chasm to open up and suck me in so I’d never have to face this cruel, cruel world anymore, but again, like many angsty teens, what I really wanted was as much attention as possible. I wanted someone to look at me and say “Yes, you are different and yes, you’re Asian. That’s cool. Now where’s that five dollars you owe me?”
What I received was the complete opposite. I heard “I see your face and it’s offensive and so freaking weird that it exists within your White family. Now let me ask you about it!” (These are called intrusive interactions and they’re as awkward as they sound.)
But something slightly disturbing happened whenever I’d complain about these unwanted behaviors; I’d be accused of imagining things, of being overly sensitive, of not humoring other people’s curiosity. Worse yet, I’d be told that it was something else about me, some indescribable flaw that made me a target. Evidently, “I’m going to kick your eyes straight!” and “Go back to your own country” have nothing to do with my appearance.
Eventually, my mother would tell me I dreamt these things up and that if they really were happening, I should just stop drawing so much attention to myself (leading me to pen a piece called Shut Up and Smile, in response to misplaced blame).
Her reaction – and society’s as a whole – to subtle forms of racism (aka racial microaggressions) is a quietly dangerous one, serving only to perpetuate the cycle of victim-blaming. The below video is an entertainingly informative few minutes of Derald Wing Sue’s definition of racial microaggressions, but the YouTube comments are perhaps the most telling status of America’s view of race.
I’ll save you the pain of reading through the comments; like everything on the internet, they’re filled with hate and racism and spew forth rage, accusing the professor of imagining things that aren’t really there, telling minorities to grow a thicker skin.
For the transracial adoptee, we need to be particularly sensitive to how racism is handled by both ourselves and our families. While finding racism where it doesn’t exist isn’t helpful for anyone, transracial families should accept that overt acts of hate, like shouting slurs or getting beat up, exist alongside more slippery ones that evade quantification.
But there’s a solution. All forms of racism, such as colorblindness and hopeless commentary like this:
need to be considered, addressed, and handled. Directly. Be the awesome White parent who acknowledges your child’s race without the dreaded whitewash.
Vagaries like “hate for hate’s sake is bad” can be more effective if discussions include specific topics like White privilege and the history of the child’s ethnic group in this country. Admit to the color gap between you and your child; this isn’t an act of mercy or sacrifice or guilt-tripping, but one of empowerment for the future adult you are raising. Doing so will firmly cement your child in a position of security, because her status as a person of color will not be denied.
Celebrating color is not enough – we must concede that White parents and their transracial children will live vastly different lives based solely on race; we must embrace this truth as a starting point for weaving our developing values together. By starting this journey at home, parents have tremendous potential to positively influence their child’s racial identity.
Today’s article is inspired by a Facebook post in one of my Korean adoptees’ groups, speaking closely to several topics in my work-in-progress. How do we measure Asian attractiveness; or, how do we measure any person of color’s attractiveness?
His post highlights an unfortunately prevalent beauty standard where White/Caucasian is the ring for which POC should reach. The article showed a bevy of gorgeous faces, Eastern in origin but with one key characteristic: They’re Asian, but not too Asian.
The Facebook user provided this (unedited) commentary:
You would never see a Chinese person on this list with a wide nose or a Filipino with dark skin. And if they do feature dark-skinned POC they always have to have thin AF noses and seafoam green eyes. They only praise us when we resemble the beauty of white people.
This is indeed why eyelid surgery and nose jobs are so popular in Asia and it’s exactly the reason I grew up hating my own appearance.
In my case, as I’m sure is the case in many other adoptees’ experiences, I grew up studying my family’s Whiteness, analyzing my mother’s blonde hair, large blue eyes, and her long, straight Caucasian nose. I clung hopelessly to my father and brother’s dark hair and dark eyes, convincing myself that we shared similar features and thus I could pass as them – White.
While the less enlightened of us (or more generously, the optimists) might counter with “You should love yourself the way you are!”, let’s examine that sentiment.
Loving your appearance requires that our internal and external expectations for our image must match; for example, I was raised in a very anti-POC community with White-dominant values. Anything else was ugly, scary, or unacceptable. My flat face and watermelon eyes became immediate targets for haters, offensive enough to provoke spiteful commentary by classmates. At some point, my parents even rejected interracial relationships (Black/White), while their Asian daughter dated only Whites.
The ultimate message: Asian is bad, your face is worse. For many years – and even up until this point – I despised having my photo taken in profile; it only enhanced my face’s flatness, drawing a thick line between myself and the pristine profile shots of White-girl models in glossy teen magazines. At one point, my mother suggested a nose job once I got older, informing me that I lack a bridge, a feature fixable via plastic surgery.
Later, the Internet led me to articles on ethnic plastic surgery, a medical phenomenon brought on by both a wealth of disposable income and a plethora of Western values. When I shared this tidbit with friends and family, they were rightly horrified but the depth of their reactions tempered by their lack of lived experience within a non-White body.
Through my research and my chats with others, I’ve inferred that being raised in an ethnically diverse community makes a significant difference, and I would agree only based on my current adult experience. No one bats an eye at my mixed family or son when we go to the Asian food market or walk the streets of Philadelphia; this isn’t saying that our appearances don’t raise eyebrows for some – I’m not naïve – but the likelihood of us eliciting some type of exotic wow response by the majority of acquaintances is much lower.
One of the most humiliating experiences I ever had – well, one of the top ten anyway – was when my mom took me to the make-up counter in our local mall. Keep in mind that I lived in a White non-diversified area, where Italian was considered foreign cuisine. She intended to get me a prom-makeover. The counter girl undoubtedly lacked experience applying eyeliner, eyeshadow, and foundation to an Asian palette; without double eyelids and with yellow-toned skin, I came away looking like I got punched in the eye and subsequently spent a week recovering in the hospital.
I finally understood how vastly my face differed from those around me and required care unique to my race – something that would have been taught to be if I’d been adopted in-race. Similarly, my hair confounded my mom’s (White) hairdressers. No matter how much they razored, sheared, and thinned my coarse hair, it just wouldn’t fall into the ’90s Jennifer Aniston layers of the day. I lived through two perms in an effort to achieve that turn-of-the-century crunchy-haired look (failing, obviously), again deluding myself that I was this close while most likely fooling no one around me.
I understand the complexities though. It’s become impossible to admire someone of color without being accused of fetishization or holding the non-White up on some strange exotic pedestal. In my experience, I remember being told by the last remnants of Korean War vets that we were all “beautiful, beautiful people,” making me wonder if even the ugly ones of us were beautiful, or if our strangeness made us attractive.
Perhaps it was also just my unfortunate experience, but I’ll relate this unflattering anecdote for educational purposes only:
I wanted to wear the thick-framed, black-rimmed hipster glasses for the same reason every other early twenty-something did; it was fashionable and obvi expressed my edginess, like come on. My mom was anti-dork glasses for whatever reason, but after pleading with me to get rid of them, she finally dropped this one: They make your face look flatter.
Not only did I not stop wearing them after that, but I filed her words away into the forefront of my mind, the place where painful memories swish around, reminding you to keep your defenses up. Using racialized facial features to discourage following a fashion trend is ineffective, small-minded, and racist. I’d presume it’s also an occurrence that POC regularly confront, adoptees possibly more.
For transracial adoptees especially, we need to find support – outside of our families – to help develop positive self-image and racial appreciation; no one wants their child to be a self-hating anything, so transracial parents require awareness of not just their child’s larger culture, but their child’s unique needs with regards to self-care and facial features. Transracial parents should be prepared to adjust trends according to their child’s needs; this isn’t racist, it’s prudent. Just as a White parent of a Black child would learn hair care and other nuances, parents of Asian children and others require similar education.
But I know there’s more to changing the beauty narrative than simply figuring out how to apply makeup or cut hair. It’s a larger issue that’s finally being addressed by increasing numbers of POC – particularly Asians – in mass media, which will help normalize their appearance and provide guidance that a parent cannot.
Transracial adoptees and their parents are in a powerful position: We live within the minority and majority, making us privy to subtletities others miss. We can use this knowledge to spur progress in so many ways, including that of beauty standards.
I acknowledge I’m writing from a purely Americanized viewpoint, but I welcome your thoughts on this topic and I’d love to hear your encounters with this unfortunate byproduct of Western society!
I’ll admit it: My work is an unapologetic retrospective dissection of transracial adoption’s history from the 1950s up until my 1980s debut, with a strong tendency toward dwelling on the past to justify the present. I recognize the danger in doing this; I may be stuck gazing into the looking-glass while real progress blows by, making my viewpoints obsolete and discrediting the industry’s great strides.
Today I’d like to spend some time discussing how my experiences – and many others – shaped transracial adoption’s current landscape. Although my history may have been traumatic, I know that they weren’t all for naught.
However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do. Younger generations of transracial adoptees (TRAds) and their parents (TRAps) may have access to more resources than their forebears (Facebook, Families with Children from China, etc., are awesome), but it’s crucial to acknowledge the rocky path that brought them together.
In one way, this new generation of TRAds enjoys the United States’ overall improved racial awareness. What was acceptable several decades ago (Long Duck Dong’s character in Sixteen Candles, for example) would never fly today.
They’re living during an era of same-sex marriages, same-sex parenting, single parenting, and stay-at-home dads (which aren’t without their own sets of controversies but are a huge improvement over the past). Thirty-plus years ago, none of this was openly discussed.
An adoptee’s inherent losses aren’t diminished, though; grief is adoption’s timeless quality. But the awareness of and the support for this grief marks the distinct contrast between TRAds now and TRAds then.
A conversation with a friend and TRAp of a South Korean boy reveals the differences between our experiences. Her adoption agency encouraged interactions with her son’s foster parents and even promoted writing a letter to the orphanage in case the birth family ever comes searching. This is in direct contrast to the proxy adoptions touted by the same agency in the eighties, when adopting didn’t require a country visit and were completely closed.
Also, homeland visits are encouraged by both agencies and parents and have become a right of passage for many adoptees. Since the overall income bracket of TRAds and TRAps has gone up since the eighties, such trips may be a reality – unlike for me, where it was described as a distant dream.
Based on my friend’s reports, modern TRAps realize the importance of emphasizing culture, versus back in my day when colorblindness was key. Again, this is a move in the right direction, but she pointed out that most of the activities are fairly superficial (as I proposed on ICAV’s site), like celebrating holidays or eating a child’s ethnic food. Still, this is more than what I received – I never even used chopsticks until I was a sophomore in college.
What’s important to remember – and from which I won’t waver – is that it wasn’t always this way. Early adoptees are struggling with the wounds left by a societal experiment gone awry; only now are we seeing the damage it inflicted. Not only that, but we must acknowledge that in transracial adoption, there will be a permanent racial gap between parents and adoptees, requiring a lifetime of sensitivity and compassion to keep from widening.
The beauty, though, is that we have the power to shape the system. We did an early tour of duty through a country that didn’t know how to handle us, yet we persisted; now we are qualified to speak about our experiences for the benefit of those who come after us.
So ironically, maybe those who called us lucky were right. We are lucky because our suffering has turned our lives into stories for change. Our loving but sometimes unprepared parents forced us to forge our own paths, to confront head-on the racism and disconnect we’d forever feel as outsiders; but we don’t have to dwell on this, to ruminate on it as the fate of our lives. We are the agents who can help rewrite society’s concept of family.
When I was twelve, my mother – who loved surprising me with books – brought me Black Like Me. Until then, she’d never shown any interest in racial studies.
Because of her unusual book choice, the story stuck with me. Although John Howard Griffin’s experiment gets the side eye today, at the time his work validated my struggle. Griffin felt the stares, got asked the probing personal questions, and experienced society’s subtle way of disenfranchising minorities. To me, he was the first White person who got it.
Of course, minorities can speak for themselves now, eliminating the need for a White male translator (though some still try). However, transracial adoptees occupy a unique space in racial conversations. Since we’ve lived as racial others within our families and communities, we know that sometimes it is what’s outside that counts.
But what does being Asian feel like? Or White? Does it feel like…anything? I believe the question should really be: What does not being White feel like?
Dr. Anna R. McPhatter, Dean of Social Work at Morgan State University, suggests that “[w]e are all burdened with the Eurocentric bias that is the foundation of our formal and informal education.” I’d also apply this to family structure: We assume that families in the United States are racially homogenous. Anything different still raises eyebrows.
Transracial adoptees, though, challenge that belief: We take on our White family’s identity despite our visual appearance.
Korean adoptees desire to perform a White identity, but these performances are disrupted when others initiate communication about their Asian identities. – Sarah Docan-Morgan
But identities are fragile. In 2010, Sara Docan-Morgan reported that adoptees often find their family status challenged. Questions like “Now who is this?” and “Is she really yours?” frustrate adoptees; as noted above, these remind us of the “exclusive conceptualization of families as biologically related and also [cause] confusion about how people could question the bonds between [the adoptee] and the only people [s/he] knew as family.”
Intrusive interactions, defined as “interpersonal encounters wherein people outside the immediate family question or comment on the adoptee and/or the adoptive members’ relationships with one another,” threaten an adoptee’s sense of security, as both a family member and an ethnic individual.
As McPhatter says: “People of color are adept at reading the slightest nuance or cue that carries even the most carefully concealed message of disapproval, discomfort, or nonacceptance because of one’s race, culture, or ethnicity.” Transracial adoptees are no different and in fact, may be slightly hypersensitive because of our constant racialization by others.
In any case, transracial adoptees spend their lives as outsiders, regardless of how well-accepted they were by their families. Our status as both immigrants and racial minorities makes us particularly vulnerable to how others perceive us.
I think this is an important start to a larger conversation that could truly benefit transracial adoptive parents. Many TRAps ask how they can support their children in racial identity development, so I’ll be continuing this topic in my next post!
All references can be found here.
I read an article from the 1990s that confirmed my long-standing suspicions: People in the eighties didn’t believe racism against Asians existed, thanks to the (now dissipating) model minority myth.
…[T]he erroneous belief that Asian Americans do not face discrimination cloud and mask the oppression of Asian Americans. We must tell our stories and our history again in order to shatter the myth and other mistaken beliefs about Asian America. – Robert S. Chang
Robert S. Chang, law professor, wrote an awesomely-angry-ish paper examining the role Asian Americans played in the legal system. Unsurprisingly, Asians were not major characters. Chang explains the hidden-in-plain-sight prejudices launched against Asians, starting from the laws written by our very own United States government.
For example, he raised my eyebrows more than once when he shared tidbits like, oh, the fact that the official quota on Chinese immigrants was lifted less than 25 years before my birth. And those same early immigrants faced harsh discriminatory laws that “[l]ater arrivals, trying to avoid this discrimination, distanced themselves from earlier arrivals….In essence, the discriminatory laws…not only hurt the Chinese…but, by encouraging each group to be more ‘western’ than the next, also prevented the building of coalitions among different Asian American groups.”
Following the natural progression of institutionalized racism, White government officials excluded Asians from minority representation almost entirely, believing Asians chose to only socialize with other Asians – despite laws forcing separation.
Chang drops another bomb: It wasn’t until 1992 that language diversity – a feature of many Asian American cultures – was introduced to voting ballots, effectively banning some Asians from political participation.
In my book, I argue that racial attitudes during and before my adoption explained my negative reception. Insular town notwithstanding, I suspected what Chang confirmed: Asians were harbingers of foreignness and the insults (“Go back to your own country!”) reflected the belief that Asians didn’t belong; not in the town and definitely not the United States.
Chang argues that it’s the “portrayal of Asian Americans as successful [that] permits the general public, government officials, and the judiciary to ignore or marginalize the contemporary needs of Asian Americans.” Then, “when we try to make our problems known, our complaints of discrimination…are seen as unwarranted and inappropriate.”
So that’s why no one cared when someone threatened to kick my eyes straight.
And that’s why action wasn’t taken when “chink” mysteriously appeared on my school poster.
And, most upsettingly, that’s why the so-called affirmative action officer in my middle school told me that the kid who tried to light my jacket on fire while I was wearing it “needed a friend,” and never addressed the racism.
So, what does this have to do with adoption? I share this (thank you Mr. Chang, if you ever read this, which you probably won’t) because a large section of my book argues that the rapid rate of Korean adoptions were proportionate to the growing anti-Asian sentiment in the US, and steps could have been taken to prevent the inevitable racism I – and many others – experienced. Knowing this would have also maybe helped prepare my parents and possibly led others to self-select out of the adoption process.
Surviving in a multiracial world is challenging, but parents who are unable or unwilling to help their transracial child navigate it are dangerous. It shouldn’t take this much work to prove racism is real.
When I was old enough to understand basic commands, my father trained me to perform a Mexican hat dance on cue. Another bizarre trick had me headbanging when he said “DONG!” This continued until I was around age three or four; I discovered humiliation and refused to put on any more shows for the video camera or family friends.
It was then that I, their little Korean refugee, was no longer considered “fun.”
Halloween was their chance to shine. Like a doll, mom forced me into a gifted Chinese dress (I’m Korean), caked on white facepaint, and squeezed my chubby toddler feet into pointy rubber Chinese shoes. The following year, I wore a hanbok; instead of a trick-or-treat bag, I carried a pillow with a South Korean flag pinned to it.
As I struggled toward adulthood, I remained their perpetual Korean orphan, an amusing participant for their parlor games. Through growth and distance, I bastardized their original presumption that Koreans were “quiet, trouble-free, responsible and achieving people”; in fact, I was regularly reminded that if I were still in my home country, I wouldn’t make it because I’m too loud, too demanding, too me.
The adoptee is caught between, spoken for, treated as a purpose, or a context, as a way to improve the adoptive parent or agency, as something to be learned from or ignored, as less an individual with her own agency and more a contribution to the agency of someone else. –Matthew Salesses
In the above quote, Salesses pointedly offers a nuanced view of an adoptee’s self-defined purpose. I agree with him, and would argue that it’s partially because the “general public still broadly understands Korean and other Asian adoptees as child foundlings who are lucky to have the opportunity to become American.” When transracial adoptees grow up, we no longer wish to be marionettes for families built on misconceptions, even though some of those illusions were enforced by our placing agencies. In fact, many adult Korean adoptees “describe a diminishing relationship to family during and after the expansion of their Korean adoptee identities.” It’s no surprise they’re staging a quiet rebellion.
I discuss this subject in my book, looking at how innocent-seeming heritage appreciation and assimilation attempts by White parents can quickly transform into racial microaggressions, or in other cases, outright aggression. South Korea’s recent apologies to adoptees haven’t helped; instead, they remind the public that we’re “pathetic and pitiable orphan[s] and…lucky transnational émigré.”
Though all this leads to tangled identity crises that I hope to unscramble, I don’t believe it was totally malicious. My parents did the best they could, espousing the then-celebrated and now-derided 1980’s colorblind theory, a societal failing that I’m working on dissembling. I seek to portray them – and other well-meaning White adoptive parents – as victims of misaimed marketing, cultural norms, and – in my parents’ cases – insular upbringings.
There. I said it. So now that we’ve taken care of that, let me explain.
Two unshakable fears follow me from word to sentence to paragraph as I continue through this project. One includes being accused of parental ingratitude, unable to just accept my situation and grow up. The other involves being on the receiving end of the Internet’s wrath. I can handle that one.
But let’s sit with that first fear for a bit.
To an adoptee, “gratitude” implies being blissfully happy with your life circumstances, taking the good with the bad and accepting it over whatever the alternatives may have been. But it’s a loaded expectation. It silences a person’s ability to question their own upbringing. It’s also a powerful denial (and sometimes a way to blame the adoptee) of any unfortunate experiences.
So why the silence?
First, there exists in the literature an implication of the American savior complex. When I was adopted more than three decades ago, there was a persisting post-war mentality that our neighbors to the East were backward, third-world, and in need of American intervention. This attitude pervaded the original marketing materials for Korean adoption and helped satisfy America’s growing nationalism – after all, what God-fearing American citizen didn’t want to offer their home to a “Korean waif”?
Second, because of this climate, transracial adoption as a concept was publically viewed as the Ultimate Good Deed. Opening your home to a “needy” child certainly cannot be a punishable offense. But this glowing picture overshadowed the growing controversy surrounding the original Korean orphan advocate, Harry Holt, who was criticized for his unconventional adoption practices.
Nevertheless, the picture of the Asian as a “quiet, trouble-free, responsible and achieving people” persisted – and then I arrived. These jumbled assumptions provided for one loaded welcome, with high expectations and an underlying presumption of an eternally happy child.
But that’s just the problem – that child grows up.
And here’s where I am today – just an ordinary person with thoughts and reflections on her life, coupled with the desire to help validate others’ experiences. I happen to be adopted, but that’s not how I define myself. And neither should any adoptee, since that’s a label assigned to us that wasn’t of our choosing.
So now it’s my turn to tell my story, to stave off a history of puzzled expressions and intrusive questions and forced explanations of my personal history. It’s a validation for anyone who was ever confronted with an outright rejection of their tentative criticisms of their parents, family, or racial identity crises – you are not alone, you are not wrong, and to some degree, our struggles were predicted by concerned researchers over fifty years ago.
I will explore many of the concepts in each post in more depth in my book, but I hope you enjoy my ongoing thoughts and contribute your own so we can have an insightful conversation. I love hearing different viewpoints and your feedback will help me develop a better final product that’s really made for you.