The Checkout Line Makes People Ask Dumb Adoption Questions

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Remember when your teacher told you, “The only dumb question is one you don’t ask.” That is not always true. This is a true story about dumb questions.

The checkout line is part of everyday life for most of us. I guess there are some snooty-falooty people out there that have “staff” to run their errands. For the rest of us peasants, standing in line at the store is a reality.

Aside from the “un-fun” factor of waiting in line when you have better things to do, the checkout line is a weird no man’s land of a place where you’re sandwiched between people you don’t know at close range. Make eye contact or no? Meaningless, awkward small talk? All part of the experience.

Lately, I’ve become pretty slick at avoiding that eye contact. I am a fairly social creature, but often that initial eye contact results in small talk that results in The Questions. The Questions run the gamut between truly offensive and “I’m just tired of answering that.”

Most people easily figure out that my adorable Chinese boys did not come out of my… you know. People are quick like that. I have red hair and blue eyes and I’ve never been mistaken for anything other than a white girl.

Some people seem to need to take the extra step and ask if my husband is Asian, just to make sure. I have so far been pretty good-natured about this, but I can’t imagine questioning a stranger about their spouse’s ethnicity or even assuming there was a spouse in the first place.

I accept that people are curious about my family and that curiosity comes in varying degrees. I can almost hear the wheels turning in those checkout line people’s heads. If I make that eye contact or smile (hey, I’m a friendly person), then I’m potentially opening the door to conversation and The Questions.

On some level, I don’t mind The Questions. If I can clear up a misconception about adoption, I’m usually happy to do that. If I can give someone interested in adoption info to get them started, even better. But sometimes, I just want to be a shopper. Just a mom. Just an “average Jill” pushing a shopping cart.

I didn’t sign up to be the poster girl for international adoption. Why am I expected to stop what I’m doing and answer questions about my life? Because some strange person who happens to be in the same store as me is “just curious”?

The Checkout Line Makes People Ask Dumb Adoption Questions
Credit: carbonnyc.

There is a window between eye contact and The Questions. I can almost smell it. I wish I could give a knowing nod to those checkout line people before “say, can I ask you a question” tumbles out of their mouths. I wish I could say “I gotcha covered” and whisk a “FAQ” document out of my bag. In my daydreams I sweetly tell these people “it’s all in there.” Then I zone out, play Angry Birds on my phone, or try to stop my kids from ripping open boxes of Kraft mac & cheese with their teeth.

If I had such a “FAQ” document in my mommy bag, it would go something like this.

Answers to Dumb Adoption FAQs by Jill:

My boys are adopted from China.

Yes, they know. (We’ve actually had people ask if we plan to tell them they’re adopted. Here’s your sign, honey. They don’t understand everything but they know they were born in China and that their dad and I rode a big airplane to China to bring them home. They know their Chinese names. We’ll say more as they get older but I think that covers things for now).

Yes, I am sure they are Chinese. (I have been told they look Korean, Japanese, and Mexican).

My husband is a white guy from Michigan, but the mailman might be Asian. We didn’t exchange a lot of information. It’s hard for me to talk about. (Makes you wonder, huh?)

Yes, they are brothers. Real brothers. I know what you meant. They are REAL BROTHERS.

Do I have any real kids or normal kids? All of my kids are real. If you pinch them, they will make a noise. (Don’t actually touch my kids, ok?) Normal is up for discussion. You should meet the rest of my family first.


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