Saturday, December 16, 2006

Where is she from?

AMH's (Of Hope and Hormones) Peanut has been attracting alot of attention, too. She writes of that "I'm down with that" kind of behavior that we've often experienced, followed by the worst (to me) of the rude questions -- Is she yours?!

"So our waitress was partaking the same over-the-top attention when she suddenly stops and asks "Is she yours?" I wasn't sure how to respond?? Mine as in biological? Mine as in my daughter? Mine as in my child but not my husbands? I did't get it. So I just mumbled a "Yes" and then she proceeded to ask how long we've had her? I responded with a "Since she was born."

I get asked about once every other day, "Is she yours?" and I generally clearly and sometimes wearily say "Yes." Enough with this question already. She is mine and I am hers -- ask her who I am and she calls me not just "Momma" but "My Momma." This is in no way intended to invalidate her first family in order to validate ours, or to deny her other belongingness to people who loved her with their lives.

My family has taken their cues from me, sharing little of her story with strangers who ask, not because it is secret or shameful but because it is private and her very own. Left to our own devices, we could probably all proudly share that she is OURS after much difficulty and many years through a process so improbable, in the way that part of me (us?) wanted to proclaim to people who complimented our infant son that he was the survivor of labor so early, delivery so traumatic that this child, that we, had defied death. But in either case of course we wouldn't.

So when my sister had Miss I. with her for a few moments at Disney World and another park guest approached and asked "Where's she from?" Sis answered "[Blooms]burg," as are we all -- factually correct and nonrevealing. Miss I is indeed from both [Blooms]burg and Ethiopia, and my son is "from" New York and [Blooms]burg. She is indeed mine (and I am hers) and she is her family's and they are hers and they are in her.

As it happened, this woman was in the process of adopting internationally, and so had real questions and because it was clear she was invested in adoption, I was happy to share some (that is, my) parts of the story.

I want Miss I to see me comfortable with a range of answers in a range of situations so she can decide to whom she'll say "Bloomsburg," to whom she'll say "Ethiopia" and to whom she'll say "Why ever do you ask?"

(Smacking myself on the head wondering why I didn't ask "why do you ask?" at the mall today, but knowing exactly why she did ask).

3 comments:

kim.kim said...

"she's very much mine thank you" "are you yours?"

I guess I'll just put that huge tip back in my purse then....

Nerine said...

Somehow I can just tell, when people ask me "Where are you from?" if they are friendly and curious, or if they have pre-conceived expectations. For the former, I'm happy to say Saint John, where I live, and may continue the discussion of my origins. But somehow, there are those who I just don't want to tell anything about my personal background, bc it feels like it's getting sorted into a cliche. On those occasions, I delight in responding to every muddled question truthfully and breaking up their stereotypes. It's a small thing to become irritated about (especially at 33 yrs of age), and I know that playing with people's expectations can be mean. At the same time, if their experiences about what is possible, and what is 'normal' regarding identity, language, nationality, ethnicity and culture don’t evolve, then they won't change their stereotypes. Sometimes I feel like a walking billboard.

Erin O' said...

As usual, good and thought-provoking post. Kim-kim, your response is great! How about "Whose are you?"


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