Meeting new people is always so interesting, uncomfortable and invasive or me. Of course most strangers don’t know that I am adopted, but confusion seems to arise when I answer their basic questions about myself and my family. Over the years, I began to notice that I was disclosing my adoption within the first few minutes of meeting someone, only to relieve their confusion about my answers and not for my own personal desire to want to share. There have been times where I chose to leave the conversation when they get that blank stare on their face just to avoid having to tell them the missing link in my story line. In those moments, I have to decide if my adoption is going to be part of my identity or a part of me that is really no ones fucking business.
A brief conversation I had with a kind woman at my weekly mediation group proves my point. Note: personal thoughts are told in parenthesis
Her: Hello, how are you? You are awfully quiet.
Me: Yes (well, we did just get done with a 40 minute meditation session)
Her: Is this your first time here?
Me: No, I began coming last fall, but had to stop due to my school schedule. I am now able to return because my Thursday evenings are now open.
Her: Great, what are you studying?
The conversation was lead to discussing my masters program and blah, blah, blah. Then it begins.
Her: Are you from Fiji?
Me: No, I am from India.
Her: Do you speak Indian?
Me: Do you mean Hindi? (For reals? You look to be at least 80 years old and you still think Indians speak Indian?)
Her: Oh yes, do you speak Hindi?
Me: No, I do not.
Her: Do your parents speak Hindi? (Oh shit, here we go)
Me: No, they only speak English
Her: Its amazing how families come over and lose their language, their culture, their heritage and everything that comes with being Indian. (Oh gawd, you’re right. It’s amazing and it kind of sucks)
This is when I tense up and get a reality check about my losses. I quickly analyze the situation before my next move. I seem to go through the same questions before responding. Do I feel safe? Do I want to disclose my adoption to this stranger? Who the fuck is she? Is she on a need to know basis? Is this a learning opportunity for her? Why do I feel like this? How do I get out of this? Should I just avoid her and nod my head in agreement? What do I do?
With a sunken feeling of sadness and shame, I chose to answer with some honesty.
Me: Well, that comes with adoption. I experienced all of those losses with being a trans-racial adoptee. (There it goes, I dropped the most personal bomb)
Her: Oohh, a trans-racial adoptee?
Me: Yes, I was adopted by a white family.
Her: Oh, interesting.
She begins to tell about a family friend’s child (8 years old) and his recent awareness that his skin is darker than his mothers due to his estranged father being black. I think this is something that is not very common in her social groups, but I respect her for trying to relate. I followed her story about the importance of having dialogue around racial identity during a child’s development and that its usually due to white privilege that white parents are not having these conversations with their children of color. I blatantly said that its doing a disservice to children and during their early years of development.
So, going back to my original point… this was the first time I met this woman and I felt obligated, pressured, and stuck to go deeper with a stranger than I ever intended to just to straighten out her assumptions. Yes, I didn’t have to, and yes, I could of politely excused myself from the conversation, which I have done before. My point is that this is not the first “casual” meet and greet conversation I have had that lead to me telling more than I want. Some other triggers that take the conversation to a deeper level of intimacy is when I get asked if my parents cook Indian food, if I have family/relatives in India, or if they are surprised that I don’t have an Indian accent. I can usually avoid saying too much and I have figured a way to dodge my adoption story, but it’s rare.
I guess this shit is what comes with being adopted. I’m just glad she didn’t mention how lucky I am because then I probably would have lost my shit which is not ideal after meditating. 🙂