Yesterday I was at a kid's birthday party with 2.5-year-old daughter in Shanghai and I met a woman from Eastern Europe. A seemingly smart woman who has lived in Shanghai for five years, is married to a guy from a different country than her own, is mom to a one-year-old daughter, and will give birth to her second in September.
Pretty savvy, right?
So we were chatting. The normal expat chatter: "How long have you lived here? Whose job brought you here?" Yadda, yadda, yadda. A few kids raced past. The woman said, "Which one is yours?"
I pointed to Tully as she screeched to a halt in front of me. "That one."
The woman jolted upright. "That one?" she said, pointing at Tully as if there was no way in hell that one could be my daughter.
"Yep, this one," I said, once again indicating Tully who was by then wrapped around my legs.
Because I'm very familiar with the "big-crap-is-about-to-come-out-of-this-person's-mouth-about-adoption" tone of voice, I knew I should have scooped Tully up in my arms and headed home...or at least hightailed it to a different room.
But before I could move or speak, the woman tossed back her head and laughed. Then she said, "Who is her father?"
"Excuse me?" I said. But then somehow instead of punching this obviously-not-so-smart woman in the face (which is what I really want to do), I ended up explaining that my husband was from Ireland and that we had adopted Tully from Vietnam.
All while Tully was standing there, looking up at me, hugging my legs, and listening.
Then the woman said, "Oh, my god, how did you feel when they plopped a one-year-old in your arms?"
I wanted to say, "In love. Peaceful. The happiest I've ever been in my life. Glowy. Thankful. Totally overwhelmed. Frightened. Just like every other mom in the world--birth or adoptive," but instead I sat there fighting back the tears because all I could think was "Tully is listening to this nincompoop."
Of course, the woman couldn't leave well enough alone. She studied us for a few minutes, then said, "You know, she kind of resembles you. Thin. Long face. She could almost be your daughter."
"Uh, dumb-ass," I should have said, "she is."
But instead...I sat frozen in my seat, confounded by this woman's brazen insensitivity. My face flaming with anger and mortification.
To be fair, the woman's husband looked a little embarrassed as she spoke, and I believe he actually sensed my discomfort. Maybe his wife is a nincompoop all the time. Maybe she's just one of those people who, no matter what the circumstance, sticks her big foot in her mouth.
I'm pissed at myself...because I didn't handle the conversation better...because I haven't yet gotten down a smooth response to people like this...because I feel like I didn't protect Tully properly.
But don't worry. I'll be fine. My hubs and I have an ongoing conversation about how best to respond to intrusive questions/comments about our family. It's a process...like everything else in life.
___Photo by Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net