Have you ever been at the mall or the grocery store, or maybe a birthday party, and a total stranger and asks you an extremely personal, sometimes offensive or painful question? Parents of adopted children, adults who have chosen not to have children, single moms, by choice or not, and parents of two (or more) different races and ethnicities with children seem to be targeted disproportionately by those who lack boundaries in their inquiries. I decided to compile a list of questions and statements most likely to send me or my children into awkward silence or an explosive tantrum (respectively of course).
1. Is your daughter adopted?
This is a tough one. My son is a carbon copy of me (we look the same at age 5, except I was sporting a feminine bowl cut at the time, popular in the 70s). My daughter is not. While my Asian friends may disagree, her Vietnamese characteristics dominate. On one too many occasions, I have been asked if she is adopted, right in front of her. I’m not sure why people who don’t know you feel entitled to ask this question. If you are guilty of it, please stop NOW. If we don’t freely offer this information in small talk while pumping gas at the gas station, that means we don’t want to discuss it with you.
2. What language does your daughter speak?
Similar to the question above. Go ahead and ask her yourself if you are overwhelmed by your curiosity in the grocery store line. You will be sorry you did. If you catch her in the right mood, she might spend about 5 minutes telling you how she is going to roast you like a marshmallow and sandwich you between two graham crackers for breakfast. Or how she wants to screw your head off and poop in your eye. If anyone can translate those last two sentences into Vietnamese and post it in a comment, I will buy you a $10 gift card to a vendor of your choice as a token of my appreciation.
3. They don’t sell fleas at a flea market.
Last summer, my kids visited the flea market down the street for the first time. We spent a couple of hours there, bought and ate an obnoxious amount of bananas, purchased some local salsa and second-hand Hotwheels cars, and munched on kettle corn samples. It seemingly was a great afternoon. As we left, at some point in the parking lot, my son realized that we had not purchased any fleas. A hysterical tantrum ensued, “I want fleas! I want fleas!” I actually recorded this on my cell phone so I could show it to him at his high school graduation in 12 years. I deleted it recently because I felt so horrible that I was keeping record of such a low moment in his life. Otherwise I would have attached it here.
4. He must have his daddy’s hair.
Well, yes, that would be nice to know. I know that you might be giving his father a compliment, or maybe making a statement about my own hair. I’m not sure. But I don’t know what his daddy’s hair looks like. My donor was Indian (from India). So I’m making an educated guess that his hair is black and straight, which my son’s is not. But that involves more conversation and I’d rather not have that at Advance Auto Parts with a complete stranger. So I smile awkwardly and nod and push my daughter in front of me. We don’t speak English.
5. We are out of chocolate milk.
My children are frequent consumers of chocolate milk. Every morning and every evening, we have a ritualistic way of preparing for and making the chocolate milk. My daughter spoons Ovaltine into the cups and my son stirs, and vice versa. To be out of chocolate milk is a sad time for our household. Momma forgets to pick up more Ovaltine, or milk hasn’t been delivered for the week and we have to make an emergency run to 7-11. Either way, these words are not welcome and cause some anxiety.
There you have it. Some forbidden phrases. I know, I might be too uptight, I need to let this stuff roll off. Just some food for thought. Maybe next time we feel compelled to ask something personal while we are browsing through sales clothing racks at Target, we can just shrug it off and ask, “how is your day going?”