I realized curious onlookers hear roughly 13% of the conversation after they ask “So, adoption huh?” The other 87% of the diaogue is in my head. Hammy, the mentally unstable hamster who runs my brain wheel, internally berates me for weeks after these exchanges. He scolds me for over-sharing, under-sharing, and my lack of boundaries. He also scolds me for my top bun penchant, but that’s another story.
Between sets tonight, my swim coach (who I adore) asked if I adopted my son, and how long he’s been home. Casual adoption questions translate to asking for a sound bite on the most impactful event of my life. Between swim sets during Masters practice. In the cereal aisle at Trader Joe’s. While waiting for a table at Islands. On the elevator at Days Inn. Ya know?
I feel Hammy’s beady black eyes glaring disappointment into my soul as soon as the curious onlooker scratches their nose and says “So, um…” The nose tickle is the onlooker’s body screaming what their brain knows: “It isn’t your right to know the answers! Live with the curiosity! It won’t kill you! Or Google! What about Google?!” The scratch pushes away the physical alert, and we’re off.
Curious Onlooker: “Is that your son? / Did you adopt your son? / When did you get him? / Etc. (so many openers)”
Cue Hammy’s glare of disgusted anticipation. He’s certain I’ll flub this.
Me: “(Uncomfortable reply, over-compensating attempt to hide my discomfort and hurt feelings.)”
Hammy: “Allison, you are a spineless waste of vocal chords.”
Curious Onlooker: “(Emboldened, increasingly intrusive line of questioning.)”
Hammy: “When are you going to draw the line and define some boundaries? No, I’m kidding. I know you’re a soggy chicken-nipple who’ll keep answering until this gaping hole of manners is done with you.”
Me: “(Humorous attempt to deflect and distract.)”
Hammy: “Oh, she’s got jokes! Isn’t she hilarious while she’s trying to be likable at the expense of her son’s privacy?!”
Curious Onlooker: “(Probing question about Luc’s birth family.)”
Me: “(Brief answer followed by watch glance, and comment about the late hour.)”
Hammy: “Allison. You have a funny way of pronouncing, ‘None of your damn business, Rust-Juice-For-Brains!'”
Curious Onlooker: “(Question with the term “Luc’s real mother.)”
Me: “(Shaky voice correction about who Luc’s ‘real mother’ is (hint: it’s me).)”
Hammy: “Poor Luc doesn’t realize he has sandwich spread for a mother.”
Eventually, I find a way out of the conversation. But for the rest of my life, Hammy finds precious moments to remind me of my mistakes. He’s convinced me the majority of Luc’s future need for therapy stems from my incompetence. And, the hardest part is he’s partially right. My friends hug me, and tell me it’s rubbish. But it isn’t.
I guess what I really want to say (Hammy: “And could have saved us all a lot of time by saying it earlier.”) is those questions are intrusive. It’s not easy to figure out the right time to ask or answer them. But it’s not hard to figure out the wrong time. And I’m clearly inept at answering in a healthy way–
Hammy: “You have the spinal cord of a jellyfish. Get to the point, Allison.”
I wish people would take a few seconds to think about how their questions will make Luc and me feel. And have they have earned enough trust in our relationship to ask them in the first place?
If the mystery is a distraction when people are around us, maybe the bigger question to answer is why.
Hammy: “That was excruciating.”