Monday, August 16, 2010

Potentially annoying questions...

Older Brother, Me, Younger sister

As I read people's experiences through NYTimes articles, blogs and other sources, I can always find a "rant". Here's mine: annoying questions.

For me, my annoying questions relate to my adoption. However, I'm noticing others who rant about these questions, particularly when people don't "match." It is not necessarily limited to race or skin colors, but can also happen between family members who do not resemble each other physically (eyes, nose, etc.).

For example, when I introduce someone to my sister, occasionally, we are on the receiving end of what I have termed "The Tennis Match Gaze." The person first looks at me, then at my sister, then back to me...as if it were a Serena Williams/Maria Sharapova volley at the U.S. Open, incredulous that we are actually sisters in the same family. If we have pity on the person, I will quickly explain "I'm adopted"...but not always. If I wait long enough, the annoying question will inevitably come: "That's your sister?" Why can't we be taken at face value (no pun intended)? Just because our hair colors, eye colors and skin tones don't "match," it doesn't mean we're NOT family. I mean, don't we live in the 21st Century? Why do we cling to an old-fashioned view of what it means to be family?

I'm not trying to be mean and nasty here. Most people are genuinely curious and just don't seem to know how to phrase their question. But I think as the recipient of these questions over a period of thirty to forty years, they can tend to wear you down...and sometimes make me want to shut down.

So, here are some of common questions, potentially annoying. If you're interested, click on the linked questions to read articles/blogs that speak to these questions:

Is that your baby/child? a.k.a. Are you the nanny?
Are those your kids?
What are you? (for those who have an unusual "ethnic" look)
Is that your mother/sister/brother?
Where did you come from?
Any history of (insert medical condition here) in your family? - this one is particularly annoying for me if I have to keep repeating it to the SAME physician each time I visit. Can you keep the fact that I'm adopted and have no access to this information on record, please? Thanks.


Readers, what are questions that annoy you? Please share.

8 comments:

SKKhan said...

how about..."your English is so good"...thanks for excellent post...

Margaret S. said...

I'm a big fan of "Are they real brother and sister?" about my two children. My annoyed response: "Of course they're 'real'; you should hear them bicker!"

JBH said...

@ SKKhan: Good one! I think my skin is too light (and my name not "international" enough) for me to get that statement:-)

@Margaret S.: I like your response! And if bickering is a litmus test for "real" family, can I include my mother during my teenage years?

Third Mom said...

I think you're incredibly generous, because when I read this ...

"Most people are genuinely curious and just don't seem to know how to phrase their question."

... I wanted to say "heck no, most people are just plan nosy!!!"

JBH said...

@Third Mom: True. I'm probably being generous because I have a lot of friends who I love and they ARE good-intentioned people...and they read my blog posts:-). Also, after living in Japan as a "foreigner", I've become a lot more tolerant to the "nosy neighbor." In Japan, nothing was sacred - Japanese people asked me ALL kinds of personal questions (including age and weight). My personal boundaries are probably skewed permanently...

Third Mom said...

You make a good point about nosiness tolerance. That threshold is personal, and may waver from one end of the spectrum to another given one's mood and willingness to entertain questions.

There's definitely a cultural component, too. My son is coming back from almost a month in Japan, and it'll be interesting to hear if he was questioned about the combination of his Asian face and non-Asian name.

JBH said...

@Third Mom: I'd be interested to hear your son's experience...if they mentioned anything at all. Be sure to send me an email. I had lots of Asian-American friends in Japan who were confronted in Japanese, but could not speak a word. It can be awkward...

When I was on the main Japanese island (Honshu), I did not strike ANYONE as being Japanese. A lot of my European features came out as I grew up. The exception was in Okinawa - where people knew I was both Japanese and "American".

Pixie said...

I can't figure out why people think these questions are appropriate! Thanks for an excellent post, and the links were great! Adding you to my blog list!