What Do I Hold Permanent Now?

On permanent, the word, and permanency.

My first experience with the word permanent was when my grandmother sat me in a kitchen chair and gave me a home-perm.

She used the whole word though. She gave me a permanent.

All three syllables — clap it out: Perm <clap>. A <clap>. Nent <clap>.

We all know them as perms. On some basal level, we must all know that term perm came from permanent, right?

She only put the permanent treatment on my bangs and wings (sides), but it was primarily a bang-thing. Mushroom cap curl on the bowl cut was the goal of grandmother administered home perms.

Other people had family members give them home perms as children, right?

I can’t be the only one.

The second experience with permanent was learning to use the word in situations that did not involve my super uncool hairdo. I Permanent, I knew from markers at home, meant like “forever”.

Except permanent doesn’t mean that, as my initial home perm experience showed me.

The bang perm my grandmother gave me didn’t last forever.

Made no sense to me.

Then I heard about people who had something called a “permanent record” — legal or otherwise. Permanent took on a new negative light.

A negative record of some sort that never went away ever? Weird. Scary.

That was the schoolyard definition, not the dictionary definition.

Alas, vocabulary being the sometimes fickle bitch that she is, permanent still meant “pretty much forever”as far as I was concerned.

When I turned eight years old I got my ears pierced. Afterwards, I freaked out. The fact that it was a permanent change to my body freaked me out. Badly. I cried a lot and felt conflicted about this permanent situation.

Permanent holes in my body felt heavy, but I did really want my floppy earlobes bedazzled. Conflict in my 8 year old brain. Little did my young ass know, that earring holes sure can and will close up, and usually when you don’t want them to.

Permanency wasn’t what I should have been worried about. My ears got mega infected and had to be pierced and repierced after many healing and grody abscessing situations, which thankfully were not permanent.

Circa 1995, I got my first tattoo — and that shit was permanent.

It’s a really stupid tattoo. It looks like the CBS network eye logo.

Or the hurricane symbol.

Either way — it’s neither.

It looks real dumb, and I give absolutley zero shits about it. It doesn’t bother me. It is permanent. (I’m not going into laser removal and skin grafts, ok?)

Then I got heterosexually married.

(God, I know. I know, ok?)

When you’re done having a deep chuckle about it and can catch your breath, stay with me for a second.

I thought that marriage was permanent. The most permanent of the all things everlasting and forever.

Then I came out of the closet. Whoopsie!

The heterosexual marriage was not permanent.

Coming out of the closet though, that is permanent.

Coming out of the closet though, that is permanent.

Then I got homosexually married — and wholeheartedly believed that this was the real permanent.

Somuchso, that I also got a half sleeve tattoo on my right arm commemorating our wedding.

(I know. Mistakes were made. You do not need to tell me your thoughts on this genius move and no, she did not get one — it was just my unrealistic and optimistic ass. Hey, I THOUGHT IT WAS PERMANENT ok?)

Photo by benjamin lehman on Unsplash

Yes and then?

Oh well thank you for asking:

Then we did what every absolutely batshit well meaning lesbian couple does, and we went ahead and adopted four kids.

Whoa that was a lot. I know.

Let’s take those in chronological order mmmkay?

  • The homo gay lesbo marriage was not permanent. The marriage itself lasted 8 years. 8 years is not forever, it’s not even really that lasting, in my mind.
  • The tattoo is permanent in its existence, though not permanently visible after being covered up.
  • Adoption is permanent. Caveats exist however. Because of course they do.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Permanent Adoption

In foster-adoption-land , I learned new things about the word permanent. I heard the word permanency for the first time. In adoption jargon, everyone’s favorite word is permanency.

Permanency is the GOAL of adoption. Permanency. Permanency.

Permanency. That word. Not super helpful on its own.

So we reflect back to permanent:

Let’s break this down.

Lasting. Lasting sounds like it’ll be a long while, but it’s vague. Lasting sounds like a while, but not a ‘forever’. Everlasting sounds forever.

Intended to (last or) remain unchanged. Sure. The word intended leaves a big wiggle room. Intended lets me know that while this is the hope set forth, it may not be the way it shakes out. Right?

Remain Unchanged. OK. That part sounds permanent.

Indefinitely. The word indefinitely suggests there may eventually be an end — we just don’t know when that will be. It’s not definite. That doesn’t mean it’s infinite. That doesn’t mean forever, necessarily. It supposes that there may be an end. Indefinite does not mean forever. It means maybe forever, also maybe not.

In foster adoption. Kids need stability. Safety. Predictability. Especially after trauma.

Permanency is what everyone is supposed to be working towards. Permanency in adoption can be hard fought, or never realized. Adoption is permanent.


Except adoptions can be reversed, sometimes.

Kids can be emancipated, sometimes.

Adoption is permanent — except under extenuating circumstances.

The permanence of adoption has outlasted the permanence of my perms (multiple, sadly), my marriages (also multiple, you can laugh, it’s funny now) and much else in this world.

The permanency of adoption has a staying power that hits different from all of the other things I’ve heard or learned are (supposed to be) permanent.

Let’s recap mmmmkay:

We’ve learned that perms are permanent, marriages are not permanent, permanent records aren’t even always permanent. The word expunged tags not so far behind whenever the phrase permament record is uttered.

(Also I can ONLY hear the phrase “permanent record” in the voice of the Violent Femmes… this will go down, on your permament record.)

So what do I hold permanent?




Body/Health — Illness/injury — Acute or chronic. Things that change a body forever without the reality of return, repair or resolution by healing.

I’m thinking, loss of limb (or function of a limb), loss of paired organ needed for sensation — vs loss of paired organ otherwise (like a kidney lost or donated is permanent), impedance to mobility or other essential or enjoyable life, injury, illness or accident.

Everything else can and probably will change.

PS and That’s OK.



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Emily Roawr

Emily Roawr

Career veterinarian pivoting. I write about animals, queers, adoption, alcohol free life, and art. Inquiries may be directed to emilyroawr@gmail.com