As an adoptee with a mixed-race background, I am constantly asked questions about where I come from, what my parents look like, and why I look the way I do. And while these seem like simple everyday questions to most, questions like these make me a little nervous about sharing the truth – that I don’t look like my parents because I was adopted.
Adoption: Skirting The Questions
Growing up, the fact that I was adopted was something that I felt awkward sharing with people. Because I have a unique look, people would constantly ask me: “what are you?” or “where are your parents from?” or even “which one of your parents is black?”. My heart would race, and I would either respond with a lie (I didn’t know specifically where my dark skin and kinky hair came from at the time so I would just mutter some ethnicities under my breath), or I would awkwardly redirect the conversation to another topic.
Since reuniting with my biological father a few years ago, I have learned more about my biological roots and where my looks come from (on his side at least). I can now respond with confidence that I’m Macedonian and Irish on my father’s side, but the inherited ethnicities from my other side are still a bit of a mystery. My biological mother was adopted as well, and all that we really know is that her biological parents were a very dark-skinned man, and a German woman with blue eyes and blond hair. It’s a strange thing – not knowing where your looks come from. Not knowing the details of your family tree, or who your children look like on your side of the family.
While I shied away from being honest about the answers to the prodding questions that arose around my appearance throughout my childhood, I feel a bit more confident now when asked about my familial background. But while I have more answers than I did back then, I still get flutters in my stomach when questions like these are asked.
Reactions To The “A” Word
The funny thing about bringing up adoption in a conversation, is that simply the mention of the word “adoption” can elicit a wide range of reactions. Sometimes I feel like I’ve just told someone that I’ve lost a loved one, or undergone a majorly traumatic life experience. They look at me with sorrow in their eyes, as if telling them that I was adopted means that I’ve lived a troubled life like Little Orphan Annie or Oliver Twist. Sometimes people will quickly react with an, “oh I have a friend who was adopted” or “my friends have been thinking about adopting”, as if finding a mutual connection related to adoption will make the topic more comfortable for everyone. Other times people will stumble on their words, visibly curious to learn more, but unsure if I will feel comfortable or not if they ask more questions about my family history.
The truth is though, I’m completely comfortable with talking about it once I’ve brought it up. While I used to avoid questions about my background when I was younger (likely to avoid discussing the topic altogether), I bring it up now because I’ve grown to feel comfortable with my past and to discuss it with others without feeling awkward. If I’m in a situation where I don’t feel comfortable or don’t feel as though it’s appropriate to share intimate details about my past, I will simply answer without mentioning that I was adopted. Once I get over the nerves of telling people that I was adopted and the anticipation of how people will react when I do, I’m happy to discuss it at length and answer any questions they may have.
Are you an adoptee who feels uncomfortable with sharing the details of your adoption? I’d love to hear your perspective.
Want to read more about my experiences as an adoptee? Check out these posts: