Saturday 20 August 2011

Thirty Three Short Thoughts About Being Conspicuous

This is my contribution to the topic of CONSPICUOUS. Have you linked to yours yet? LINK! And okay, this one doesn't get a cup-of-tea warning, it gets an entire kettle-of-tea warning. This topic was more complicated than I expected. Sorry. 

I never used to be conspicuous
My appearance is almost aggressively average. White skin, mid-length brown hair, brown eyes, medium build. No piercings. When I'm on my own, people's eyes always slide right over me, and that's absolutely fine. That's the way I like it. And until I was thirty, I lived my life in a pleasant, safe bubble of anonymity. Being anonymous meant I could go back to the same shop twelve times in a week to stroke their handbags or try on clothes I couldn't afford or order complicated coffees and nobody would care because nobody would remember me. It was awesome. It was easy. And then we adopted Pink and Blue.

Suddenly I became very conspicuous
For realz. 

What I mean, of course, is that we all became conspicuous
But I can only talk with any authority about what it means for me. I have all kinds of theories about what it might mean for my children as they grow up, and of course this is issue that cramps up my heart the most. But this is pretty much all going to be about me because that's what I'm qualified to talk about. 

I probably don't need to say
That your mileage may vary. You don't live where I live (otherwise, I wouldn't be so conspicuous. Ha). You're not introverted me. You may not have two kids. You may have some white kids, too. Thousands of things will different about your life and mine. But this is the way it is for me.

It's not about them, it's about us
We do not live in Whitesville, and I'm really glad of it. In our town, we have a lot of Black British and African immigrant families. If my kids had black parents, people would still gasp at their beauty (she said modestly) but I don't think they would remember  them the way they do now. My children are not the only dark-skinned, curly-haired twins in town. But they are the only dark-skinned, curly-haired twins with a white mother and that means we get a lot of attention. This is especially true because we walk everywhere, so we are exposed. I rarely drive because our house is so central, so we don't have a car-bubble to keep the adoring public away.

The attention we face is because people wonder how we got together; they don't wonder why my dark-skinned children are here at all.  This distinction feels important to me. 

It's not all in my head
I'm definitely not imagining the attention. I know that people love to talk to women with children, and I can't calibrate my current experience against any other version of motherhood. But I go out with friends - white mothers with white babies - and strangers approach us and only talk to me and my kids, blanking everyone else in a way that defies all the normal rules of politeness. There's one coffee shop I go to regularly with my friend H and her little boy and the waitress always, always tells us how much she loves my twins and how BIG they are getting. I'm glad she loves them, and yes they are getting big, but little Oswald (not his real name! Fortunately!) is sitting right there and she just ignores him. Every time. It makes me squirm with embarrassment.   And that kind of differentiated attention is the rule, not the exception.

It seems to me that
Being conspicuous turns any town into a small town. I have never wanted to live in a small town.

Overall, I find it draining
For me, the hardest thing about being conspicuous is that I can't switch it off. There are no days off from being That Family. Every time I am out with my children, we are noticeable. Not just when I'm in a good mood and the sun is shining and they are happily waving Hurrow! and Buh-bye! to everyone they meet, but also when we're running late and one of them is screaming and I want to sink into a deep, dark hole and never resurface.  On those days, I do not want to have to interact with strangers who think that they know me because they have seen me around. Some days, being conspicuous is exhausting.

Sometimes when I'm out on my own without the children, I get an unexpected rush when the blood flows away from my muscles and I suddenly, unconsciously relax because I realise that nobody is looking at me.  Most of the time I don't think about being on show, but my subconscious is aware of it even when it's not really on my mind.

Yes, I realise
That my children are going to have the same experience. One day they are going to wake up and realise that they will have an easier day if they go out without their white parents.

Sometimes nice things happen
The only person we have ever had come up to us out of the blue and speak Amharic to the children was a white guy.  He politely greeted them in Amharic, told us that he used to live in Ethiopia , and then he was gone.   The whole interaction was very quick, and absolutely pitch-perfect on his part. Not a word about adoption or luck or famine or families or anything. It was one of my two favourite stranger experiences.

My other favourite was just as quick. I was pushing the too-heavy stroller up the small hill to the park in the middle of town, feeling cranky and tired and muddled and worn out. In the opposite direction came a black guy in about his mid-twenties, carrying a briefcase and wearing a pin-striped suit and looking sharp and professional and together and everything that  I wasn't.  Suddenly he flashed me a grin and said you have got two VERY good-looking children and before I could think I grinned back and said I know. And suddenly,  I did know. I knew it because he said it and it made my day. And he never would have said it if he hadn't noticed us, if we weren't so blindingly conspicuous.

And sometimes weird things happen
Like the time a very loud (probably deaf) woman approached me in the library and shouted SO! ARE YOU MARRIED TO A BLACK MAN? in the middle of all the quiet. She wasn't having a go at me, she was just curious, and maybe a tiny bit insane. So I shouted back NO! MY HUSBAND IS WHITE! And then felt compelled to add BUT IT WOULD TOTALLY BE FINE IF HE WAS NOT! and then yes, I pretty much wanted the ground to swallow me up. Good work, mama.

Yeah, or the woman who thought that the child in the ergo (I had one in the stroller, too) was actually a doll. A life-sized doll. That I was carrying in an ergo. She didn't want to accept that it was a real child. Extremely freaky.

Generally, though, I would say 99% of our interactions with strangers are netural-to-positive
I don't find it easy being the centre of attention but I need to make it clear that at least 99% of our interactions are positive. People smile when they see us. They say kind things to us. They regularly tell me how beautiful my children are. I was really prepared for some overt hostility, for the need to justify who we are, but it just hasn't come. I suspect this may largely be a function of where we live. I am beginning to realise that I can acknowledge being conspicuous is difficult without having to think that these interactions are sinister. It truly is exhausting to be the celebrities around town, but that doesn't mean the people who are noticing us are doing anything wrong.

Despite all the positivity, or perhaps because of it:
Sometimes, after the fiftieth white person has told me 'your kids are so beautiful!' I get a bit prickly and think 'I wish people would stop objectifying my children and treating them like exotic pets!' But then someone who shares their brown skin and spirally hair tells me exactly the same thing - 'your kids are so beautiful!' and I think 'what a nice lady!' Which is incredibly inconsistent of me. I've also realised that I cut black strangers a LOT of slack for saying crazy adoption-related stuff that would offend me hugely if it came from a white stranger. I assume the best. Which is good, but I need to extend that benefit of the doubt to the crazy white people too, surely? Why the distinction? Sometimes I suspect that I feel a need to be finding covert racism in every interaction – or at least a fair number of them – in order to be approve of myself as a good transracial mother. This is a terrible attitude and I need to sort myself out about it.

(On the other hand
I have come to realise that there is no relationship – none at all – between how much people adore my children's 'beautiful brown skin' and how willing they are to really grapple with issues of race in society. This shouldn't surprise me, but it does. Some of the people who are most enamoured of my children's beautiful skin – and they aren't faking it, I'm certain – are the least willing to examine what it will mean for these kids to go through life wearing it).

Hardly any strangers have tried to touch my children's hair.

Not surprisingly
We are much more conspicuous if our whole family goes out together. When only one parent is there, there are lots of reasons why one of us might have brown kids. When we are both there, people are much more confused. I'd say we get more attention, but fewer people approach us.

As I write this paragraph, I'm in a coffee shop on my own. Sitting in the bay window on a pair of coffee sacks are a mother and teenage daughter (I think) who are brown and white, like my daughter and me. I keep sneaking glances at them while they read their books, but I'm trying to stop myself because I don't want to become the story that they go home and tell, you know? The crazy racist staring lady. It makes me wonder how many people who look at me have a reason for doing it. Maybe they are looking into their own future like I am right now; maybe they are looking at their past.

My favourite part about being conspicuous
I love being acknowledged by older black women around town. I have lost count of the number of times an older woman, passing us, has given me the eye-contact-head-dip-slight-smile that feels like it's saying keep up the good work. The presence of these older women around me is my main motivator for paying attention to my children's hair.

The attention is definitely tapering
Lately I've noticed that people look at us a lot less than they did when the twins were tiny. There's some strange magnetic force that babies exert over people's attention that is dwindling a little as they become toddlers. People still tell us how utterly adorable they are, all the time. But when they were really little, people would actually stop and stare. Once I went through the train station with J, and he went on ahead to the platform while I stopped to buy tickets from the machine. This meant I was about 50 metres behind him, and as I walked towards him I heard the people he had passed all saying to each other 'did you see those twins?' I was half-horrified, half-proud. It was intense. Things are definitely less intense now. For which I am extremely grateful. I'm glad Pink and Blue won't remember being the object of that much attention.

But there's still quite a lot of it
Even though people are mostly well meaning and positive, we do get asked a lot of questions, and sometimes this wears me down. I get frustrated that I've gently educated on the same topic again and again and again and that makes me impatient with the next person who asks. But this new person hasn't actually asked me before, and there's very little transracial adoption in this country so it's likely we're the first transracial adoptive family they've met. And why should people know about adoption stuff, why should they be educated about a topic that they haven't had any prior exposure to? Nothing is really a dumb question if you're starting from zero. Even when the question itself isn't appropriate, I've been really impressed by how graciously individuals tend to back off when I've explained this. Being aggressive about it, or getting offended doesn't really do anybody any good. Not me, not the stranger, not my kids. Once upon a time, I didn't know those questions were intrusive, and people took the trouble to educate me. I'm sure I wasn't the first person they educated; I'm sure I wasn't the last. And now it's my turn.

After all, there is no such person as The Public. Telling one person doesn't make a blind bit of difference to the next. The public only find things out one person at a time. That's slow and frustrating for me, but that's just the way it works. Expecting the guy I meet today to know something because I talked to someone else about it yesterday? Unreasonable. I might have been educating people for two years, but this particular guy has been learning for about ten seconds.  

That doesn't mean that I don't think some people are crazy
They are; there's no getting around it. And conspicuous people attract a lot more crazy because we attract a lot more of everything. Working out who is okay-crazy and who is run-away-quickly crazy can be a finely balanced thing. There should be some kind of warning device you can buy, but there's not.

Probably a lot of this seems obvious
But if I've learned one thing out of my experience of being conspicuous, it's that people feel a compulsion to comment on the very, very obvious - telling my six foot four husband that he's tall, as if he hadn't noticed - and people forget that the most obvious thing about the person they are talking to, whatever it is that they noticed first about that person, is also the most obvious thing to everyone else that person has ever met. That person has undoubtedly talked ad nauseam about whatever that is and probably doesn't need someone else to say Sooooo..... you're very tall / I see that you're wearing a pirate hat / I can't help noticing that you have a birthmark on your arm in the exact shape of a llama.   Although if it is the one about the pirate hat, I suppose the person brought it upon themselves.

And it seems to me that people treat transracial adoption somewhere in between a pirate hat and a visible disability. Everyone notices it, most people want to talk about it, but people don't want to be the one to bring it up; they aren't quite sure if the topic is taboo.  I've had very few strangers launch straight in with the so... where are they from? that I hear other adopters complaining about. Maybe it's a British thing, maybe we're all repressed.  Here, in my experience, I have a lot of people asking me tangential questions that I think are aimed at leading me towards talking about adoption, towards sharing our story, but don't ask the question directly.

And of course I realise
That during all of these conversations, my children are sitting, watching, listening. That's what makes it so hard, of course. I tell myself that's why it makes me feel uncomfortable. It's not much fun thinking about how this kind of thing is going to affect our children, but I know that I have to be honest with myself and admit that when the weird things happen, not all my discomfort is because of the children. Its hard, but important, I think, to be excruciatingly honest here (as everywhere) and separate out what really is mama-bear defensiveness of my cubs, and what is pain that comes from my own past, my own stuff, my own junk. Being constantly reminded how different my family is has the tendency to stir up a mixture of feelings that isn't always easy. To be blunt - prospective adoptive parents -  I think that if you would not be comfortable walking around with a placard that says 'please make assumptions about my fertility', you will probably personally struggle with the conspicuousness that comes from being a transracial family, and it's tempting to project all of that onto your kids. Even if you feel like that page has been turned, and you aren't struggling with significant grief about fertility stuff any more, that doesn't mean it's easy to talk about. When you're mother to kids who don't 'match', all the painful things that you never wanted to talk about are suddenly on show to the entire world, all the time.

(Oh, and that reminds me:
Those of you who did NOT have any struggles with fertility need to think very hard about how you will respond when people assume that you did. Please do it graciously and I beg you, don't be smug about your awesome lady parts. For the rest of us. Okay?)

I think where I'm going with that earlier point is here:
Honestly - I think a lot of the ire that comes out when people complain about the crazy things that people say  to their families is really about us as parents, not our kids. If I feel insecure or have unresolved grief about not having biological kids, when people notice us and say crazy stuff to us it can sound like people are telling me that after everything we've been through, all the years of difficulty, I'm still not really a mother. And if that's what I'm hearing, then yeah, that's painful. For me. But it's not really about my kids, although making it sound like it's about my kids gives me a great excuse to get angry about it.  You know that old saw about how adoption does not cure infertility? True dat. And when adoption makes your infertility conspicuous, it can sort of do the reverse. It's personally humiliating for me when people I've never met before want to tell me how I'll get pregnant next time, or say other things that stir up difficult and painful parts of my own life when all I wanted to do was take my kids for a walk. I think it can make us angry when people notice us, not because it's necessarily doing any actual harm to our kids, but because it's hard for us to be reminded that we are different. It's all jumbled up together, of course, but I think this is a risk worth being aware of. If I'm going to teach my kids anything about how to be comfortable with conspicuousness, I need to be honest enough to work through my own feelings about how it affects me.

Because after all
Who should we really be angry at, if we are angry? Who put our kids in this situation? We did. Let me say it again: WE DID. We chose this life for them. They didn't choose it, of course, but neither did the people at the supermarket. We chose this life for them, and then people notice us. Why shouldn't they? After all:

People are not stupid. People know how babies are made.
People know how babies are made. And when they look at two white parents with a brown baby, of course they know we didn't make that baby. I think that as adopters it's very easy to normalise adoption, to forget that it's actually a very strange thing that we're doing. It is not the norm for a child to have skin that is a different colour from both his parents, and no amount of positive adoption language will make that fact disappear.  I don't think we do our kids any favours when we pretend that our unusual family structures is not unusual, or that people who notice it are necessarily ignorant or mean. Normal isn't the same as real. Seeing that we're not normal doesn't mean my family isn't real. And we are not normal. And I need to come to terms with that before I can help my children to do so.

(Unusual isn't the same as bad
Obviously. Normal would be nice, certainly, but I remain convinced that our family was the best of the available options for my kids).

But while I'm saying uncomfortable things, I might as well lob this one in:
I found that, especially when our children were newly home, I didn't want to go to very many mother-and-baby groups, or very much of anywhere. This was partly sleep deprivation and partly twin-shock, but it was at least slightly because it's exhausting meeting a group of strangers when you know everyone is going to be interested in your story. One of the ironies here is that the more uncomfortable you feel being conspicuous, the more likely you are to stay entrenched in a small circle of old friends who already know you and your kids and your story; where you won't have to explain yourself. If you're like me, this is probably a small circle of white friends.  In this way, being a transracial, conspicuous family can actually make it less likely that you will get out there and make diverse group of new friends after your child is home, no matter what you told the social worker during the homestudy. Another risk that I hadn't thought about. I would encourage my fellow white mamas to be aware of it.

Speaking of fellow white mamas
It has crossed my mind that one day, Blue might marry someone with skin like mine. If that happens, and they have kids, I will have a daughter-in-law who has to do her own coming to terms with changing from an anonymous white girl to a conspicuous mother of a brown baby. That is a weird thought. If that happens, I hope that many fewer heads will turn than is the case today.

But when all is said and done
I may not ever like being conspicuous but I've got to be at peace with it if I'm going to be any kind of a good mother to these kids.

And a thousand times over
I would rather be conspicuous with my children than anonymous without them.


  1. And THIS is why I love you. I have so many thoughts, but am in the middle of writing a paper. My happening upon this right this very moment was much needed- and provided me with a kettle of tea time break.
    Again, love this. Love you.

  2. In a lot of ways, I feel like I could have written much of this post. It can be really hard to be the conspicuous family, and sometimes I get so tired of it. At the same time, I can't imagine life without my girls...

  3. Great post Claudia!

    As a waiting single mom to be, I worry about this a bit because I am a true blue introvert and am not used to be conspicuous. As I have been telling people about my plans, I have also become very aware that my interpretation of their reactions has much more to do with my acceptance of different aspects of adoption than of their feelings about my adoption or transracial families. Of course, there are some people who say strange things, but in general, if I feel a twinge at something, I am now starting to interpret it as "you need to work on that Melissa".

    So many things to think about . . . thank you!

  4. So beautifully written, and wonderful insight. It's because you're so point blank honest that you're one of my favorite blogs to read! I have shared this post with our homestudy and placing agency so that they can pass it along to prospective adoptive parents. It so nicely brings to light what I think it's hard to actually wrap your head around unless you live it. (which by the way, we don't) Thanks for another wonderful post!

  5. Perfect timing Claudia. I have been writing and was due for a break and looking for something to read while I ate a late lunch. I had just opened the NY Times website and then your post popped into my inbox. Hurrah! Infinitely more interesting than anything in the NYT.

    And got me through 8 crackers with tomato and a can of Coke.

    Seriously though, your posts on being a white mum of brown kids are always useful for me. I know that I haven't fully engaged with this issue yet, at least in part because TT's beautiful brown skin is just this side of conspicuously brown, brown enough for people to go Hmmm when they look at us together. I suspect that as she gets older this issue will be much more front and centre for us.

    On the topic of cutting a bit of slack for strangers who ask intrusive questions or make offensive comments ... I think this is so important. I get the huff when people think TT's a boy cos I've dressed her in blue and green and red. I get the huff when people assume she has a Dad. I get the huff when people assume all sorts of things. But I try very very hard not to let people know that I've taken the huff because really, it's not their fault. They are just making pleasant conversation or making essentially harmless assumptions. If I see a baby dressed up in a pink frilly dress with a pink headband on I think she's a girl. I do. Am I a sexist monster? I hope not.

    I have friends who are foster/adoptive parents and who get very cross when people say things like "it takes a special person" etc. I can see that this would be grating. I can. And I know I'm not really qualified to comment because I'm not a foster/adoptive mum (yet). But really I just think people are using the best words they can find to say something fundamental which is "I'm so happy this child has found a safe and happy home with you". That's what they mean when they say you're special. I reckon anyway.

    I'm glad you managed to pull these thoughts together.

  6. Claudia- this is a great post.
    Thanks for touching on being prepared to have people make assumptions about your fertility. It had never even crossed my mind that people would assume anything about my ability to have more children.

  7. Great post!

    Two things:

    your second favourite stranger moment sounds EXACTLY what my friend Craig would do (and the description is him!) - I actually reread it to make sure it wasn't him but he's just turned 43 and has been in Ireland for the last 4 years :) Before that he did stay in a town in the UK though.

    And on The Public - this is what we were taught about customer service. Yes, it could be the millionth time you have to explain the same thing, but it's the first time that client's asking you the question :)

    SA'ns are also very polite and conservative and would not ask outright about very much!

    Your kids are SUPER gorgeous - I don't think you're ever going to not be conspicuous with them :)

    Very strange this but I didn't want to be different by the infertility (yet I do like standing out in a positive way). Of course the twins made me instantly conspicuous and I must say, I love it. I love the 'how do you do it?' because it is Hard Work.

    Should I write something and link up?

  8. I love attention. And, as you know, every time you chide 'the fertile ones' I feel a twinge of guilt.
    But, as usual, you opened my eyes to some new ideas.
    And, I LOVE the last line.

  9. Love the last line.

    And the reminder to cut "the public" some slack. It's not the same public you educated yesterday, and they need new grace.

    And thanks for the reminder about bragging about my lady parts. I confess I'd never thought of that before. I will definitely be more aware. Thank you

  10. Oh no, SFM, no chiding intended, I promise you! I did have a longer thought on that topic but deleted it because honestly, I wrote enough on this dang topic and I didn't want too many people to fall asleep in the middle. But since a few people have mentioned it I'll try to remember what prompted me to say it:

    I remember reading a (fertile) woman talking about taking her adopted kid to the park and how someone, in conversation, made the assumption that she had adopted because she had fertility difficulties. And this woman was SO OFFENDED. She was mega-angry that someone had the audacity to think that SHE might have had difficulty conceiving. Because she was NOT THAT KIND OF PERSON, and how dare this other person think that she was. Basically, she experienced about 30 seconds of infertility stigma and couldn't take it, and rather than saying 'hmmmmm, this should give me more compassion for people who DID come to adoption that way' she got in a huff because this person couldn't see that she was BETTER than those needy fertility-challenged women.

    That's not what I mean by a gracious response :)

    I would hate you (any of you) to think that I'm having a go at those of you whose lady parts ARE awesome. I'm really not -sorry if it came across that way.

  11. Claudia, I totally felt you on the sections that started "it's not all in my head" which is so much about what I wrote on, obviously, and was nodding my head while reading the
    "despite the positivity" and "on the other hand." snippets. YES YES YES YES. Thanks for inspiring us all!

  12. I have 3 bio kids very close in age. I'm sure people are much more likely to assume I have responsibility issues rather than fertility issues. But, it is always something I have probably spoken about flippantly, taken for granted, and perhaps often forgot that I never know what my hearer has been through on that head. And so, even though I am appalled at the example you gave and can't imagine doing something that horrible, your thoughts have certainly given me more sensitivity to the topic I likely lacked before. So, thank you!

  13. Love this post, love you! :)
    I assume it will be similar for us and maybe even harder. My soceity in my little country is not used to people with dark skin and I assume it will be shoking to everyone that my family is transracial. I am nervous about it because I am like you - don`t wanna be in the center of attention. Sigh...But we will do our best to deal with it because this is something our hearts feel is the right thing for us!

  14. I could related to much of what your write, Claudia...only you express it about a thousand times better...and I don't have twins!

    I'm actually going to go back and re-read your post because there's so much there. Thanks for taking the time to think through it and write it down! You so often give me new things to think about.

    Oh, and I love (and completely agree with) your last line!



  15. Wonderful as always, and the last line nails it perfectly. I just got back from vacation, but I'm hoping I have time to link up!

  16. Claudia, what an incredibly thoughtful post, especially in how you broke down the conspicuous issue into discrete parts. Thank you for your honesty.

    When you said "maybe they are looking at their future or looking at their past" - it put a lump in my throat for reasons I can't exactly articulate.

    As to the infertility insecurity/grief resolution discussion: Because it helps all of us to have this discussion to the extent that it broadens our horizons when we can understand others experiences / feelings... (and this may be something I could add in my participating conspicuous post)... I am someone who didn't struggle with infertility, so it would be ignorant of me to assume what that's like on any level. But for what it's worth to you, I also feel a fair bit of defensiveness when we are disproportionately approached and subjected to questions/stares/attention as a family, although not for all of the same reasons obviously. Except that I can say, upon inspection, I do attribute a lot of it to motherhood insecurity - which is the same although it might not be necessarily derived from the same source or at least there might be difference sources, not all of which are the same (the fertility issue I don't share). I'll be the first to admit that I have been extremely challenged to peacefully and confidently accept motherhood for its full array of hard experiences and emotions and I constantly tell people I'm a less-than-awesome mother (depending on the day, sometimes I say I'm a shitty Mom), because I usually feel like one (that is not to say I don't have other moments of heightened glee/clarity where I realize that I'm really not the worst Mom in the world, esp as when compared to lots of other Moms). I need to stop being so self-critical but my point is that it is indicative of insecurity, and that insecurity, and the defensiveness it induces, is exacerbated when we are out in public subjected to more than average family attention.

    Also, as someone who adopted a child without having struggled with infertility I have battled the nagging temptation to assume, or project upon (let's call it what it might really be) people, that people would think our adoption is legitimate to a lesser degree than if I were someone who HAD struggled with infertility. In other words, if people assume I had struggled with infertility that might explain everything nicely and neatly. But instead, if I ever have to explain WHY we adopted, I'd have to launch into all these ideological worldview, lofty, mostly totally misunderstandable to other people, not to mention my very pesonal fear and lack of desire to get pregnant, types of explanations, which they might find confusing, ridiculous, full of hubris, nonsensical, or whatever misperception or mischaracterization is incongruous with what I feel like was the motivating force behind our decision to adopt. I say this in large part to convey that I do not feel somehow superior that our just-as-conspicuous-and-challenging family ultimately materialized through a motivation the root of which did not also include a fertility struggle.

  17. What she said!
    Thank you for this. So glad to have found you through Kristen and Mindy.

  18. my, my, my Claudia. You have outdone yourself once again. This is brilliant. Indeed it should be mandatory reading for every white AP. I'm going to write something on this but it will look quite paltry now. Love this. Love you more.

  19. Your "not surprisingly" thought is exactly why I think I get off easier than couples when it comes to comments/assumptions/etc - it is not necessarily obvious how Sport & I became a family. We're still conspicuous, but it's different. I have had very, very few comments or conversations with strangers. (Well, there was the elderly Ethiopian man in a restaurant who after asking a few questions and establishing that I had adopted Sport, then turned to him and said, "So, your parents DIED THEN HUH?")

    Then again, apparently I give off a very strong 'don't talk to me' vibe, according to a friend, so maybe it's that. Heh.

  20. a wonderful post, claudia!

    a wonderful, articulate, honest, profound post.

    as always... THANK YOU!

  21. Just came to your blog via Rage Against the Minivan. I love this post so much. It resonated with me in so many ways.

  22. I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on the subject! I sometimes catch myself not wanting to even make a quick stop at the grocery, because the attention exhausts me. I need to get over it!

  23. Delurking to say that I LOVE this post. You write so beautifully. Am going to do one too and link up.

  24. This was a breath of fresh air for me! Thank you for all of the time and energy you put into writing this post. I feel like someone out there UNDERSTANDS!!

  25. Enjoyed this post on so many levels. I should have made a pot of tea - not because I needed it to make through this post, but because I felt like I was in that coffee shop with you (I wish!), enjoying great conversation about our kids. You make me laugh and cry in this post. What is it going to take to get you over the pond?

  26. OK, just read the last line to Bill and teared up! Lovely, lovely ending.

  27. I love the last sentence of this post! I posted my link. Thanks for heading up this project.

  28. Awesome! Just so good on so many levels. I am glad you mentioned our own double standards. I am becoming painfully conscious of my own. I do a full head turn when I see a transracial family now. I stare at Ethiopian women I see in public. I guess it's human nature to notice what's different. And I notice all kinds of different all the time. There is no use pretending our family is normal. Our family is unusual but that doesn't mean our family isn't real. Wow, I love this! I will say this line again some day to my son. I am still laughing out loud at the library story. Totally hit my funny bone. Thanks for articulating some complicated stuff.

  29. Like everyone has said before- GREAT POST!!!
    I laughed at the "your tall" comment and hoped I was not one of those people that said that!;-) I would love to answer the "are they twins?" comments with nope I just like dressing my daughter and friends daughter the same and push around a double stroller for fun! Haha!
    Thankful we are less conspicuous here in F. Which was a HUGE surprise! Adoption is just more common here, then in..... (you know ;-)) though have had a couple people stop to talk but for some reason they were speaking another language!:-)
    Love to you all!!! Come visit!!!! though I don't think we would be conspicuous together in public. :-)

  30. I purposefully didn’t read the other posts until I’d written my own. And now I’m struck by how parallel so many of the experiences and perceptions are – at least as we’re writing at this early stage of transracial parenthood. Would love to see one of those blog word cloud thingies capturing the overlapping language. Each post also gave me a new angle to think about and yours was the infertility assumption. Hadn’t considered it from your perspective. I definitely related to parents getting their own stuff mixed in: I could replace each mention of in/fertility with “being single” and have the issue that I need to remain mindful about. That includes the begging of folks not to be too smug about their awesome spouses/partners ;)

  31. Great post! It resonates with me, I'm a trans-racial adoptee (now in my 20s). Also great to read a fellow British adoption blogger!
    - Kate

  32. Thank you so much for this. I can SO relate.
    Thanks especially for your blunt honesty. The sections on Because after all and People are not stupid are ones I particularly needed to read.

  33. WE've experienced all you have but with our son. He was 3/2 yrs when we became a family and you don't see many transracial families in Italy.

    The two comments from complete strangers that bothered me most was: how much did he cost...said in front of my son!!! Luckily, his Italian wasn't strong enough to capt what had been said. The other took place on a bus where an elderly man asked if my husband was negro and when I said no, He asked why is he brown (in front of my son). I replied: he's adopted. To which the ignoramus replied...wheren't there any white kids? I said no, in Ethiopia they are all brown and I wanted a brown kid. To which another elderly man replied, once people immigrtae to Italy, they are all Italian! Yay 2nd elderly man, I could've kissed him!

    Anna from Turin


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