One interesting topic among the MANY great ones suggested by my friend Laura (hi, Laura!) is strange things people say to me about adoption. Laura is an adoptive mom herself, so I'm sure she has her own fun examples.
Now, I want to preface any mocking I do with a humanistic caveat: I've been on the job for over four years now, and I haven't heard NEARLY the number and variety of whacked-out comments I was promised when I accepted the position. I mean, where are my "How much did she costs?" and "Where are her real parents?" (Well, I did get the latter--once, before Jarrah was home. I showed a photo of her to a co-worker, and that was her first response. I have to admit, it did sting.) Fact is, people are just not that stupid, or maybe just not that curious.
The other caveat is that *I* have changed during my tenure, and I'm no longer as skittish and sensitive as I once was. And I think if I was those things to start, it was just rookie nerves. I was so sure that people were suspicious of my mom credentials that I jumped to conclusions a lot. Fact is, people default to questions and speculations when they actually mean to show kindness. They want to express interest in me, and in my child. There's nothing malicious about that--it's how connections are made, and how the world goes 'round. I appreciate that now, so much more than I ever imagined I could.
With those important distinctions aside, let's dig in, shall we?
There's the perennial, "Is your husband Asian?" Which is weird, since David doesn't look Chinese at all. Just kidding. I only get that one when Jarrah and I are alone. I think people are curious in that instance because they know that China adoption is (or at least was) very popular. I kinda want to just say "Nope!" and leave it at that, but I usually do the polite thing and explain.
A variation on that one which does spur my sauciness is "Wow, she's tall! Is her father tall?" I like to glance sideways at them (often on the playground, or at the supermarket) and murmur "I expect he is." That stops any further inquiries, believe you me. A politer, if slightly less truthful, answer I've used is "Yes. He's 6'2." (Which is how tall David is.)
One time we were waiting for a table at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank when an older lady showed interest in Jarrah. Lots of interest. Relentless interest. She never mentioned adoption, but since David and I were both sitting there, I assume she could deduce. Suddenly, she said, "How many ounces did she weigh at birth?" and I snapped, "I have no @#$%&* clue." Well, I might not have said exactly that, but I know David was embarrassed.
Recently, I was at a reunion and wanted to point out Jarrah, who was in the pool at the time, to an old friend. My friend knew Jarrah was Chinese, and there was only one Chinese girl in the pool, but she was still baffled. "Oh, her! She's so...brown." "Yes," I laughed. "I need to put more sunscreen on her." "Is she from the part of China where they're very brown?" she continued. Um, which part of China is that?
When Jarrah was a little baby (as little as I ever knew her, which was 27 lbs. at 13 months) people asked me ALL THE TIME if she spoke Chinese. "Um, babies don't really speak?" I would suggest. "So, I don't think so?" Various people also asked me if her non-stop babbling was actually perfectly intelligible Mandarin. Again, I would gently remind them that she was unlikely to have mastered Mandarin in 13 months.
Last year, a friend of my sister's was having dinner with us and said "Can I ask you a question?" I froze. I never like that question. It always means something adoption-related is coming, and increases the likelihood that whatever it is will annoy me. "Yeeees?" I asked, with a forkful of salad. "Did you know in advance what country Jarrah would come from?" No, I hadn't the foggiest idea. I just sent a letter to the North Pole asking Santa for a baby, and China was what he had in stock.
Now that I think about it, I have gotten a lot of variations on the theme "She is so lucky!" But it's instinct now to respond "Actually, we're the lucky ones," so it doesn't even chafe me when I do. But I can still get my knickers in a twist when people suggest that we adopted because we're altruistic and want to save the world, one baby at a time. Maybe some people featured in those back pages of People magazine that I never read, but not me. Nope. Raising my hand over here for the Totally Selfish, Just Wanted A Baby Of My Own club. You know the one that just about every parent in the world belongs to? Yeah, that one.
One time at a party, a friend's father (he was actually the grandfather of the baby whose birthday we were celebrating) burst out unctuously "It's so wonderful there are people like you in the world." I have to give credit to David, who came up with what I should have said but couldn't think of in my shock: "You mean infertile people?" Yeah, we are wonderful. You should see us tap-dance, too. We're quite the prodigies.
See, a little blip of bitterness squeezes out every now and again. I don't deny it. But I do try to be gentle with myself, and in doing so, I've become gentle with others, for the most part. The fact is, there are always going to be people fascinated--for whatever reason--when they see David and I holding hands with a little Chinese girl. And that isn't as amazing to me as it once was. After all, we are pretty awesome.