Saturday, September 19, 2009

Too Much Information

My friend Lila wrote a great post this morning that got me thinking on this subject. I've written this post out in my mind before, but never found the time to post. Thanks for the reminder, Lila :)

Once upon a time, our society valued discretion and respected privacy. People's personal affairs were kept personal, and while gossip certainly always ensued, there was always an unspoken rule about what you could ask somebody and what was just off limits.

Now, people are nosy nearly to the point of assualt. 24/7 news, tabloids, talk shows, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter...all have dulled our senses and deadened our society's ability to recognize the need for discretion and privacy.

Americans generally feel we have the right to know everything about everyone. It's been my experience that when they feel denied of that, they generally go on the attack. People want to know intimate details about marriages, love lives, family histories, work human resource situations, etc. And they are ego-centric enough to think that they are certainly entitled to the information.

There are genuine people in this world who are interested in building a family through adoption and are genuinely interested. Their genuine nature usually shines through, and I have no issue answering questions about the adoption process, our homestudy agency, our orphanage and post-placement services.

But we are a mixed family, and a rather unusually mixed one here in our little upper Midwest portion of the world. An Asian dad, white mom, one white kid, two mixed kids (one who looks hispanic, one who looks asian) and two black kids.

For a huge segment of our I-have-the-right-to-know society, they take one look at our family and begin drooling for every juicy morsel of our family's existence.

Everyday, I am asked about our boys' birth families. Sometimes by loose acquaintances. And a lot by complete strangers. No place is sacred; I'm asked this intrusively personal question at church, at my children's school, at the playground, in the checkout line at Target.

My thought is always the same: Excuse me? What could that possibly have to do with anything about anything relevant to your life? is what I would like to answer.

Instead, I usually give some generic answer, like, "children are given up for a host of reasons in Haiti, just as they are in America, from death to abuse to a parent's decision to not raise their child for personal reasons."

Now, you would think that most people would let it drop after that. Maybe 50% of them do not, which is always shocking to me. Instead of leaving it at that, they push the issue, wanting to know about Miles and Keenan specifically.

"Well, now, that's their personal history, and I'm not in the position to discuss that on their behalf," is what I usually say.

And you know what most people do? They seem offended with me because I 1) didn't give them the information they wanted and 2) seemed "uncalled for" in my curt response. Even though they were the ones who pushed the issue.


The other thing which never ceases to amaze me is that people always want to know if and how our boys are related outside of adoption. I have tried to look at this from many angles to see if my edginess is uncalled for in any way, but I always come back to the answer that people just want to know out of sheer nosiness.

Often I wonder if I am just going through a phase in my post-adoption adjustment. Will I ever stop feeling irritated by these Nosy Nellies? I'm assuming that the questioning won't ever cease, so I guess the answer lies in me. And only time will tell.


Lisa said...

Very well said and ALL so true! I love your line about not being willing to answer on their behalf concerning their personal history, I'll remember and use that one myself!

ManyBlessings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ManyBlessings said...

Had to delete my other comment because I'm anal about spelling. Lol!

No, people will never stop being nosy.

Just FYI.


geralyn said...

I haven't done it yet, but it's always on the tip of my tongue...which I shred beween clenched teeth. But I would love to ask people who are MUCH too nosy about my family and relationships to one another if all their children have the same father since none of them look alike or seem very smart.

My time in the trenches dealing with this has left me with a sense of anger and hoplessness since I just don't know if people wil ever get "it."

Families come in all shapes and sizes and colors, so what difference does it make that my kids don't look like me. Moron's seem programmed to have an inability to learn social etiquette and pleasantness. I usually just laugh at them and walk away. I figure they were a lost cause in my book anyway, so Im not really burning any bridges.

Whew...and I'm PMS like crazy right now, so I am not quite as nice as I would normally be. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH. Just remember these are our kids, and we have to stand up for them and be their biggest advocates, even if it means being less than courteous (not rude or argumentitive) but just dishing it back to establish limits.

mama bear said...

I get questions like this all the time. At first, I answered them because most were asked by seemingly well meaning people from church or social events. Now my answers have gotten shorter and more blunt. "Are they related?" Is now usually answered by "Yes" or "by adoption". A few weeks ago I got asked "Where did you get them?" by a guy at the park. He had a dog on a leash, to which I asked, "Is that a poodle? Where did you get it?"

small town girl said...

I get lots and lots of looks, I can assure you. I live in a racially mixed area, so I get it from all sides. We just go about our business. The ones that ask questions or make commens have to penetrate my business like wall, so at that point I feel they are genuinely interested. Like the first grader in their day care. The first day she asked me if I was their mother and I said yes. The second time she asked me 'how can you be their mother because you are white and they are black' (she is black too) I said "I adopted them" The lightbulb went on for her. The biggest question I get from adults is "are they biological sisters?" and then the affirmative answer seems to give them permission to approve the entire thing. Being a single parent also adds to the 'stigma'. I could give a rat's @ss, but I try to hang with non-judgemental and supportive people just for my long term mental health.

small town girl said...

Also, if I talk to someone about it, I usually do say they are from Haiti. It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant most people are about Haiti. Although admittedly, I was ignorant too before I started this. So I can only hope that I pique someone's interest enough to look at Haiti or look outside our firt world bubble, or maybe consider breaking the 'rules' and consider adoption, whether it's international or domestic.

bbbunch said...

Don't you think that people are rude and intrusive even if it ISN'T about adoption? If I had a dime for every time someone asked me if any of my kids were "oops" babies or "mistakes"(seriously!?!?!) "Is this IT for you then" or "you ARE going to be done after this, aren't you?" (because it's socially acceptable to birth 4 children only?) How many times have people inquired about my situation because my kids are 9/7/2 "are they from a different father? accident? decided to have another one to keep the little one company?" Being called a "baby factory," "crazy," you can only imagine. Now, as I am (exactly) one week from my due date...perfect strangers are asking me if I've tried having sex or tweaking my nipples (sorry for being so graffic) to induce labor. Are you kidding me? When did this EVER become socially acceptable? Personally Sarah...I always liked your line about not getting a good look at the dad :)


Aves @ Call of the Phoebe said...

You have awared the Kreativ Award - check it out!!


Maggie Mae said...

I understand your issue with it, but did you truly expect it to be any different? ...especially in the area we live in? I'm not saying it's right, but realize that people aren't necessarily out to offend you by asking questions. I think many of us aren't used to seeing mixed families, and most are probably genuinely interested. Realize that God gave you these unique gifts, and all that comes with it. You are blessed in every way Sarah. Take it for that. By the way, please let us know when you are ready for us to meet the boys. I'm standing back, with the realization that there's a process. With that being said, please don't forget about us when the time comes to intermingle. Until then, you are all in our prayers!