August 9, 2010

Have Courage to Ask, get over awkwardness

Throughout my life, whenever I am with my family, or people are meeting my parents for the first time there is often a look of confusion, or an awkward statement. My brother and I were both adopted from Colombia. It was just a known fact for me throughout my entire life. Growing up, I noticed sometimes people had strange ways of trying to approach the topic of adoption. Here are just a few of the many times this has happened to me. In fourth grade, that was the first time the topic of reproduction was introduced. To easy into this topic one of the activities was to fill out a blue paper that asked all the questions surrounding the day we were born. Some examples: what hospital were you born at, how long your mother was in labor, and what time were you born. Questions to that effect were listed down the entire page. I sat there and watched as my teacher passed this piece of paper to everyone in class but me. As she walked by my desk I asked, “Why don’t I get one?” Her response, “I have a special one for you.” She went to her desk and brought me a pink piece of paper that had questions only half way down the page. While to some this might not seem traumatic, it was for me. It was the first time I had publicly (well in my 4th grade classroom) been picked out for being adopted. While my teacher was not trying to hurt my feelings the way the situation unfolded was extremely hurtful to me. It was the first time anyone had made me “different” to the rest of my class. While my friends and fellow students knew I was adopted this wasn’t the topic anyone talked about on the playground. I was young and to be separate from my friends by the color of the paper was a major deal. I went home to fill out my paper and had the most amazing bonding experience with my mom. Some good did come out of this exercise, but it was also a very hurtful exercise for me. Throughout the rest of my public education I would see the teacher every once in a while, but never found the courage to tell her how hurt I felt that day.

Talking about adoption was something easy for me; it is not a taboo topic for me. During middle school some of my friends thought that talking about my adoption would be painful or a topic I wouldn’t talk about. One friend time and time again always would say this, “I really don’t want to offend you or get you upset, but …” Then she would process to ask me about being adopted. I found it super annoying how she approached the subject and I told her that. I understood she felt it was an extremely personal topic and did not want to push me on the issue. It is a very logical explanation and also seems like the “politically correct” way of asking this type of question. At the same time having the context in front of the question for me made it awkward. I am a very honest and upfront person; if something is too personal I will say “I’d rather not share,” but usually I will tell you anything. I hate awkwardness; I would rather not have awkwardness in my life. My point: ASK FROM THE HEART. My final example happened recently. This spring was the first time my parents attend my dance team nationals in Daytona Beach. They had been on campus twice for a few days before over these past three years at Stonehill, but had never really gotten to know any of my dance girls. In Daytona Beach the first night we went out to dinner as a team with everyone’s family. I sat with one of the other girl’s and her two parents. We had a nice conversation and I was extremely grateful that my parents were down with me. Later that night the girl informed me that her mother asked in private if I was adopted, because “She(as in me) looks exotic.” While I laughed off the comment it still irked me in way. I guess this girl’s mom wasn’t comfortable with asking my family this question. If she had asked this question at the dinner table it would have been another conversation at the dinner table, and not an awkward conversation. We’re in the 21 century and there are plenty of interracial, international families all over the place. I believe it never hurts to ask someone, like the say “you never know till you try.” Why not ask that question, if it bothers someone they will tell you. My point is people need to have courage to ask questions. When I say have courage to ask questions I am referring to asking me if I am adopted or why am I so tan compared to my fair skinned parents. I won’t be offended or hurt, I would be more happy to talk to you about being adopted, and how I identity myself. Let’s all just avoid awkward situations because there never fun to be in.