I’ll never forget the first time I was asked “The Question”. We were stopped at a gas station filling up when this woman approached me and simply asked, “Your son is beautiful! Where did you get him?” It took me a few moments to process the question, I didn’t quite understand what she meant at first. I replied very politely to her, “Oh, he’s mine!” But as if that wasn’t enough of an answer she asked yet again, “Oh I know he’s yours but where did you adopt him from?”
And that was my first encounter with the question.
I want to be clear, adoption is a really wonderful thing. Something I fully believe in and support, something I hope that my husband and I will be able to do one day ourselves. But Aden and Canaan are not adopted. They simply inherited their Chinese-Cambodian father’s looks: his almond shaped eyes, his golden complexion, his nose, his body-type. I, on the other hand, am pasty white and about all they got from me was my fine hair and some unruly cow-licks.
People do see me more often, out and about with my kids, more so than they see my husband. I guess it could be construed as a “natural question”. My children do look different than me, wouldn’t I wonder the same thing? Would I? If so, why does this question leave me feeling rubbed the wrong way?
What I have come to call The Question has been asked since, not just with Aden but with Canaan as well. Sometimes people are very direct, “Was he adopted from China?” Sometimes people try to be subtle “Is your husband a different ethnicity? Is he Asian?” Sometimes people joke with me and say “Oh he looks more Asian but that one looks more white.” Sometimes I can see people trying to put 2 and 2 together right in front of my eyes. It’s like they think Aden, Canaan and I are puzzle pieces that just don’t fit. I get anxious in anticipation of what will surely be asked.
I often wonder, if I find our racial differences difficult to explain, how will my kids understand it? I’m sure they will hear it throughout their lives, some variation on the same theme “where did you come from?” “what are you?” “were you adopted?”. If I can’t respond to these questions, how will they respond?
I don’t think much of it now but how will they identify themselves? Asian? Caucasian? Thank goodness you can mark more than one box for ethnicity on most questionnaires now. But this opens up a whole other conversation about culture and identity that I think is worth exploring on another day.
So how do I answer The Question? I needed to come up with something witty but not profane. Something true but not soft. This is what I’ve decided, go ahead ask, here is what I will tell you.
“Where did you get your sons?”
“From my uterus.” Simple, true, and able to stop the conversation before it starts. As my friend you have permission to ask me personal questions but not as a curious stranger. Ask me again.
“Where in Asia are your kids from?”
“They are from my uterus, you know right next to Cambodia.”
Does BVTMB have any multi-cultural families out there? Have you ever been asked The Question? Let’s open up this discussion, I’d love to hear from you.